Using Innovative Tools, Exploring his Experiments and Simply Transforming Architecture- Nick Gelpi’s Hybrid Home is the First in North America


Written By: Melissa Cancio

Who knew the melaleuca, an invasive tree species in the everglades, would become one the most innovative materials in a home design? Nick Gelpi transformed and experimented on his Miami Beach home. He formed a project, as he says, “to explore the potential applications of a wood-based concrete that a man in Belgium, Paul Portier, invented.”

Nick Gelpi is an Architecture professor at Florida International University. He wanted to include his students in his research and transformation of a new hybrid home for him and his family. He utilized the 3D printers at FIU Miami Beach Urban Studios to create models and portray what the home would could be. Gelpi was awarded a grant for being “the first person in North America to test a new wood-based concrete.”

In the process of using melaleuca, the trees were chipped, mineralized and mixed with the cement, thus creating a hybrid-based material, similar to a light concrete. Each panel was formed and individually hung on the structure with precast clips. The material and the pattern were beneficial for thermal properties, recycled materials, and insulation, especially since the house is near the ocean.

Gelpi and his family “wanted to save” the original house and transform it to an eco-friendly home that challenges traditional building norms. He mentioned, “with every experiment, my goal is to arrive at some pushback, the point at which the material becomes a sort of sparring partner.” It was a whole new world of innovation and creativity.

The photo above is from his feature on Dwell magazine. Check out the article here:

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