Forget proptech, Project Etopia wants to lead an “eci-tech” revolution to manufacture carbon-positive homes built around smart-home technology that places as much weight on energy storage and generation as they do on being functional and looking great. Could Joseph Daniels become the Elon Musk of housing?

Joseph Daniels

Joseph Daniels, CEO of Project Etopia

Despite pretending to read lots of high-brow books and history documentaries, many of us have simply spent lockdown binge-watching Netflix and completing the Marvel movies in order. In Iron Man, Robert Downey Jr. famously creates a suit of armour that defends Earth. Like the actor, when you meet Joseph Daniels - someone feverishly bright; bubbling with rocket-fuelled intensity; and driven by a genuine sense of passion for creating eco-friendly housing that can actually help save the planet - the Etopia founder has a similar inimitable charm. 

The 27-year-old entrepreneur spoke honestly about tough beginnings, becoming a self-taught engineer and why he believes the world needs to press reset on the way it builds homes.

In the most technology-focused episode of our MMC podcasts, Daniels explained his company’s ‘eci-tech’ (energy, construction and information technology) vision - seeking to go beyond construction, with a trio of ventures encompassing manufacturing, energy and smart-home technology. His questions are all on the money: what can’t we have one smart home hub that controls everything, regardless of whether it’s made by Google, Amazon or Apple?

You can listen to today’s podcast via Apple Podcasts or Spotify or SoundCloud or through the player below.

Project Etopia could well become to homes what Tesla is to cars - not simply a chassis - but a new approach to long-standing, universal challenges. He told Property Week that household appliances and electronics in its zero-carbon homes will now be capable of communicating via a central hub. And not only that, it will be made out of recycled plastic that has been left in the ocean.

“No house builder cares how you use your kettle. No house builder cares how you turn on and off your lights,” Daniels said. His factory-manufactured homes however will come with a voice controlled central hub called E-Smart that will monitor and control a home’s temperature, humidity, power, energy and ventilation, as well as controlling electrical goods or household items such as blinds, making Project Etopia the “Intel Core chip” of housing.

This, according to the entrepreneur, will allow the home “to live around the consumer” and drastically reduce the amount of energy each home consumes. The superior energy-efficiency of Project Etopia’s factory-built homes - driven by their material technology - means that each home has the ability to generate electricity back to the grid.

Joseph Daniels Project Etopia at Corby house

Joseph Daniels Project Etopia at Corby house

Effectively, different components of the home communicate with each other to minimise energy consumption. “If the home is getting too cold it will recognise that” and adjust the heating accordingly, Daniels said.

This technology, he claimed, can be retrofitted into a home in just 20 minutes and is being installed in partnership with a “top five technology company in the world” with “billions and billions of dollars” in revenue, though Daniels refuses to state who.

Homes like this will, as Daniels put it, “give consumers net-zero bills and not kill the planet.”

Daniels, who was homeless at 15, founded Project Etopia at the age of 23, with his tough beginnings and suicide attempt inspiring him to create homes that focused on the consumer. He taught himself thermodynamics, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, and architecture, and travelled to China to learn manufacturing techniques before establishing Etopia.

Living in “sub-par accommodations” and running out of gas and electricity influenced the construction, energy and technology innovation behind Project Etopia, a company that last year received a £19m investment from billionaire property tycoons the Rueben Brothers.

The government has set a target to bring all greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050 in the UK. At present, buildings and construction account for more than a third of the world’s energy use, according to the United Nations.

Homes that generate electricity, rather than consume it, will be crucial to achieving the country’s net-zero ambitions.

Technology is central to the innovation behind Project Etopia and the wider offsite manufacturing sector, with companies such as ilke Homes and TopHat using digital design and robotic engineering to manufacture their homes.

Project Etopia has two factories in the UK, its larger, Cheshire-based factory is capable of producing 2,000 eco-homes a year. It uses a panelised system, which has helped the company rapidly expand into new markets, including Namibia, and Daniels hopes to soon enter the US market.

Joseph Daniels is CEO of Project Etopia

You can listen to today’s podcast via Apple Podcasts or Spotify or SoundCloud through the player above. This podcast was produced by Blackstock Consulting founder Andrew Teacher and you can Tweet your views @andrewjteacher

Join the debate and hear more at the RESI Convention organised by Property Week.