Company Spotlight: Life Cube (published in September of 2010 in the SB News Press)

There are so many innovative local companies that some are often overlooked.  I first heard about Life Cube more than a year ago at an investor conference, and was amazed at the unique design of their emergency shelter, and the many applications of their products.  Fast-forward to today, and Life Cube is now emerging as the apparent leader in emergency shelter innovation and design, and they are headquartered right here in Santa Barbara!  This is National Preparedness Month, so this is a great time to recognize a company that is dedicated to providing the tools necessary to be prepared for disasters.

Life Cube, located at 402 East Gutierrez, in the Santa Barbara Business and Technology Center, was founded by the inventor of the Life Cube Shelter, Mike Conner.  In 2005, after Hurricane Katrina and a massive earthquake in Pakistan, life-long builder and inventor, Michael Conner, noticed that an adequate portable design for shelters still did not exist.  His idea was to synthesize the cost/logistical advantages of the standard canvas tent and the ruggedness and utility of a trailer, with the speed and expandability of breakthrough inflatable technology. His answer was the Life Cube.  Conner developed the name Life Cube because he says it is exactly that; “…a cube for survival.”
The Life Cube shelter is made from durable, high-grade materials, and is designed to protect its occupants from the toughest elements while still maintaining a pleasing form. It can be maneuvered in place and erected within minutes by two or three untrained persons and can be pre-stocked with vital, end-user-specific supplies. Most important of all, the Life Cube is cost-effective. Relative to the competition, it costs less per square-foot while providing better utility. Its modular shape solves many problems associated with storage and shipping, simplifying logistics and shortening response times. 
The shipping container is made of durable plastic pallets that serve a dual purpose by unfolding to create a sturdy platform raised six inches off the ground. The Life Cube is the only tent system with an integrated, hard-surface floor made from the delivery system. This not only enhances interior insulation, it also serves as an anchor during moderate winds so that tie-downs are not necessary.  Life Cubes can withstand sustained winds up to 50 miles-per-hour, keeping occupants safe and comfortable.

 

The shipping container also comes with integrated steel hoops that unfold from the floor to allow easy maneuverability over most terrain, and can be repositioned back into the floor when not in use. 
According to the Life Cube website, the inflatable canopy is manufactured by the Patten Company, which has been making Navy life-rafts for over 50 years, using a military grade, Siemens polyester fabric that is tear-proof and fire-retardant. Built to survive in the harshest conditions, it is designed with four independent chambers with cross-over beams that allow single inflation. 

To suit any sized sheltering need, the canopy is designed with three door ways to allow units to be lined-up and zipped together creating multiple-room live, work, and entertainment space with independent access.  Life Cube can also customer their shelters for specific uses, including commercial applications.

 


In addition to the canopy, the interior of the cube has enough room to store end-user-specific contents prior to deployment.  This allows the shelters to be pre-loaded with all necessary survival materials, including food, water, heat, lighting, bedding, a 12-volt solar power system, communications, and first aid supplies, just to name a few.

 


The Life Cube is so versatile, with its ease of transportation, speed of set-up and break-down, durability in the elements, and inclusion of necessary supplies, that it can be used for everything from emergency response to first-aid stations, to the farmer’s market, to corporate trade shows, and more.  Not only does the Life Cube set-up in five minutes, require no tie-downs in moderate winds, and attachable one-to-the-other, its sleek design and unique air-beam technology makes it an instant hit at any event.

 

Notwithstanding its many applications, emergency shelter was the primary reason Conner invented the Life Cube.  Emergency Response is about arriving quickly and having the equipment you need on hand. The Life Cube was designed to be transported through the roughest terrain in the harshest environments, a feat impossible for most trailers. Time and resources spent erecting a traditional tent are time and resources lost on saving lives. Life Cube units can be pre-positioned in disaster-prone areas and with critical first responders with basic life-saving equipment pre-stocked.  The Life Cube is a complete, self-contained shelter with everything five people need to sustain themselves for at least 5 full days. 
Conner is quick to credit Inventors Workshop International (IWI) and Green2Gold with helping him develop Life Cube into a viable business model.  Alan Tratner, who runs Green2Gold and IWI works hand-in-hand with developing companies, his so-called incubees, (because he he refers to his efforts as a business incubator), to assist them in getting the resources they need to bring their ideas to market. 
Life Cube is working with large organizations, such as the Red Cross, looking to provide Life Cubes for disaster relief and for disaster preparedness, so that shelters are already staged in those areas where they are most likely to be needed.  The durability, flexibility, and convenience of the Life Cube make it ideal for all kinds of corporate applications as well, from seminars and events to trade shows, and even construction sites.  The military could use them for rapid deployment, or for temporary barracks, and prisons could use them in some states, where overcrowding is a problem.  The list of possibly applications is long, and impressive, and Life Cube is certainly actively pursuing each and every opportunity. 
Conner is still perfecting his design and the myriad options available with the Life Cube structure.  He is also still seeking funding to continue the development of the company, so that he can take advantage of the many opportunities to supply Life Cubes for these many applications.  Life Cube was a national finalist in the Clean Tech Open competition, was featured in WIRED magazine recently, and has projects that include interest in deployments in Africa, including a mobile MASH-type (Mobile Army Surgical Hospital) installation.  They also has a pending partnership or licensing opportunity with a design version of their Life Cube in the construction industry, and are in talks with FEMA for deployment during national disasters.  Life cube is also exploring the possibility of manufacturing and selling their cubes in other countries. 
To learn more about Life Cube, or to help equip Santa Barbara first responders with the gear they need, please attend the Fundraiser for a Safer Santa Barbara, hosted by Mr. Santa Barbara, Larry Crandell, at Moby Dick’s Restaurant, on Wednesday, September 22nd, from 7 to 8:30 a.m.  For more information, please email: [email protected]
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