Lukas Petrash is an American architectural entrepreneur most known for his work in ultra-affordable ecological housing. He is the founder of the Adia Company which produces and ships eco-friendly architectural homes around the world. Some of his most notable works are "The $12,000 Green Dream Home" (MCDhouse, 2006), "The 48 S.F. Transportable Bedroom" (JKP sleeper, 2004), and the 30,000€ internationally prefabricated adiaHouse (2010).

Youth & Influences

From his youth, Lukas always dreamed of being able to design better homes for people of average means. Growing up in small houses with no TV, Lukas learned to love nature and spent most of his time outdoors. If you ask him who his favorite architect is, you’ll get a surprising response. Sure, he likes the work of Mies, Wright, Foster, Ban, Meier, Pei, and many architects. But what architect's work can match God's work? What building can ever match the beauty and brilliance of a tree?

Though the trend in building over the past 100 years has been to separate humans from nature (i.e., “the elements”) and create artificial environments, Lukas leads his life and practice with the conviction that our designs should complement and frame nature, not fight it. Synergy and symbiosis with nature make the greatest buildings; harmony with nature makes people happy and healthy.

As a child Lukas was extremely shy. Being too shy to speak in public, rather than raise his hand when he had a question at school, he learned to find answers for himself in encyclopedias and textbooks. Too shy to work in a group, he learned to do everything himself. He learned a lot about the world by listening to others’ experiences, and spent a lot of time considering the values of contrary viewpoints rather than arguing with them.

Growing up with a father who often created gadgets and inventions around the house from everyday materials, Lukas learned to make neat things from “nothings.” He developed a machine-like stubbornness, and the conviction that anything is possible with enough knowledge, creativity, and will power. He studied constantly, believing that every random thing he learned would improve his ability to one day tackle “impossible” problems.

Unable to choose between his interests in Math, History, Law, Physics, Computers, and Design, Lukas chose to study Architecture. He felt that Architecture embodied a little bit of everything and allowed plenty of room for creativity. It was also a step toward his childhood dream of designing better homes for average people.


Lukas holds a professional architectural degree (B.Arch) from the University of Southern California and a master’s degree in Housing and Urbanization (MDesS) from Harvard University. His work and research over the last decade has focused on one goal: to make elegant, eco-friendly homes available to everyone—regardless of social strata or location across the globe.

At the University of Southern California (located in Los Angeles), Lukas had the opportunity to experience many great architects’ works firsthand, and understand the context in which they were built. Amidst an international faculty and student body, he learned alternatives to the American ways of building, living, and thinking. He learned to design natural buildings that take advantage of local climates and rely on the sun and wind for heating, cooling, and lighting.

Despite the tendency in architectural education to emphasize grand/magnificent architectural works, Lukas was increasingly captivated by smallness and simplicity, focusing on works by indigenous peoples instead of great conquering civilizations. In an era of increasing environmental concern and astronomical housing costs, he saw smallness as a way to:

1) reduce building costs, both in construction and operation (heating, cooling, cleaning, maintenance), and to reduce our negative impact on the earth and overall consumption of materials and energy;

2) discourage urban sprawl and encourage “life in the city” by allowing for affordable housing within city limits and increased density to support modern public transportation;

3) encourage innovative means of housing production, in the sense that small units can be easily and affordably transported (in whole or in part), allowing the potential for high-tech factory production—better homes at better prices, built fast.

Lukas completed a thesis examining the richness in seeming simplicity of Native American architecture and arguing for a change in the mentality of architectural education which promotes "grand" design above "good" design.

Part of Lukas’s fascination with smallness stems from his belief that even the greatest architecture cannot compete with the beauty of the outdoors, and that the most sustainable type of building is not building. He traveled throughout Western Europe studying some of the most renowned outdoor public spaces in the world in an attempt to better understand the architecture of the “un-built” space. Outdoor space is something so critical to the life of a city yet so often forgotten in architectural practice. He compiled his findings in a series of unpublished journals (available for download on this website; see Books & Papers).

At 22, Lukas had the opportunity to put everything he had learned and believed in his life to the test. He risked failing out of college and losing scholarships to accept a commission to design and build “the ultimate eco-friendly house”: a house which anyone could afford, which had no net impact on the earth and used only natural means for heating, cooling, and ventilation. (For more information, see MCDhouse)

Written Work

One thing Lukas loves almost as much as outdoor space is a good library—not only for its architectural value but for the storehouse of knowledge and human history libraries contain. While at Harvard—with access to almost every library in the world—Lukas gathered more than 1,000 sources on the topic of innovative affordable housing solutions from the 16th century to today. Books, articles, dissertations, historic documents and symposia, Congressional hearings, hundred-year-old drawings and designs: these were treasures to Lukas. Realizing that housing involves many complex political, social, and financial considerations in addition to architectural ones—and that even America's most powerful companies and brilliant designers/inventors had tried and failed—Lukas read the equivalent of an entire set of encyclopedias on the subject to better understand the complex industry and improve his chance of revolutionizing it.

The truth about American housing is sobering, even shocking. So many brilliant ideas and innovations over the last 200 years have been doomed not because of design or market failure, but because of politics. The reason we spend 30 years paying for homes instead of half the time is not related to actual construction costs, but to the corruption of an extremely lucrative industry called housing.

Realizing that no innovator or company can singlehandedly revolutionize such an entrenched and powerful industry, Lukas is working to complete an easy-to-read executive summary of his findings in a book: America’s Housing Contradiction: Why Technology Can’t Tame the Trillion-Dollar Housing Industry. (View Table of Contents) The book provides a brief historical overview of the hundreds of attempts to industrialize housing in America, beginning with the British importation of modern prefabricated homes in the 16th century. It then discusses the rise and fall of the greatest attempt to industrialize housing in the past century. Finally, the body of the work exposes 30 recurring reasons for failure over the past 250 years.

Lukas hopes that exposing the truth across America will create demand for change, and that uncovering lessons learned from history will protect the innovators of tomorrow from making the same mistakes.

Who knew that Henry Ford tried to do to the American house what he did to the automobile? Who knew that U.S. Steel, General Electric, Alcoa, and scores of other powerful companies have all tried the same and met the same fate? You won't find it in most history books or on the Internet. It's buried deep and well-concealed.

Lukas has considered releasing his annotated bibliography of sources—the largest ever compiled on the topic—as a reference guide for scholars. The problem facing researchers today is that many of the best sources are old, extremely rare, and require access to private libraries. Even with access, many sources are un-cataloged in any electronic database or titled in such a way to exclude them from queries and make them all but impossible to find. It is clear from the research conducted in the past 30 years that most never saw past the surface of the problem, and hence have repeated history's mistakes time and time again.

Samples and Table of Contents for each book are available on this website (see Books & Papers), along with several academic articles and the journals documenting Lukas's research on outdoor public space.

Areas of Interest

It's difficult to find a field or topic that doesn't interest Lukas in some way. Professionally, his architectural interests include:

Housing: Politics, Prefabrication, and Designing for Affordability

Sustainability: How Environmental Design Can Add Value

Transportable & Ephemeral Architecture

Adaptive Reuse: Giving New Life & New Purpose to Old Buildings

Structures: Synergy of Art and Science

Urban Spacemaking: Architecture of the Outdoors

Though many architects believe that art (i.e., design) is for architects and that science (e.g., engineering, construction, finance, etc.) is consultants’ work, Lukas has always believed that great architecture is a synergy of art and science and requires seeing the big picture oneself and understanding all the forces involved. To better understand the big picture, Lukas has taken every opportunity to immerse himself in related fields.

As an architecture student, Lukas helped teach structures as a TA for three years, knowing that by teaching it he would learn it better himself and would remember it. During the summers he helped build homes for needy families to gain construction experience, and traveled to Europe to study urban spacemaking. Realizing that there was still so much to learn, he went to Harvard to study real estate, finance, development law, public policy, and product design, seeking to better understand the building process from concept to completion.

If it weren’t for wanting to apply all that he’s learned, Lukas would live in school, balancing his time between lectures, libraries, and conversations with students from every discipline and every region of the earth.

As it is, he balances his time between design, research, writing, and dreaming.


Lukas currently resides in Texas, though he spends most of his time in other states and abroad. Over the years he’s lived in Dallas, Taipei, Anaheim, Huntsville, Los Angeles, Boston, and Milan. Wherever he is, he can often be found in a library or wandering around a university campus talking with students and enjoying the outdoor spaces.

Lukas is still shy and avoids cameras at all costs. He loves thought-provoking conversations, meeting new people, and studying human reactions to things.

Though trained in architecture, Lukas considers himself an entrepreneur and creative problem solver, not an architect. He feels his work is not to create buildings, but to solve problems and create ideas—whether with words or bricks or politics. Making physical monuments is not what matters to him. Making peoples’ lives around the world a little better…that’s what counts.