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Prototyping an eco-spa one shipping container at a time.

Prototyping an eco-spa one shipping container at a time. Read More
pledged of $240,000 goal
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Funding Unsuccessful

This project's funding goal was not reached on January 1, 2014.

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About this project

If you've ever been to a day spa and thought it wasn't for you, we want to introduce you to SOAK, an ecological bathhouse that tells a different side of the wellness story. Sometimes we call it The Anti-Spa. Because at SOAK, there are no silence gongs. It's a place to soak, unwind, detox, and relax all without cucumber eye pads.

Our goal is to reclaim everyday wellness and put it squarely back in the hands of Healthy Hedonists. ( More on that below.)

SOAK will  fundamentally rewrite the future of day spas by developing a model that works without  heavy consumption of resources. Your Contribution Changes The Future Of Spa Design And Kicks Off the Urban Bathhouse Movement.

If you look closely, you'll see two cold plunge buckets, a shower tucked into that white cylinder, and photovoltaic cells on the top right quadrant. On the top left is a solarium.

Energy Efficient and Still Sleek

SOAK is designed to be less opulent than its predecessors (Sutro Baths for example, and Ancient Roman Balneas.) The framework for our modern idea is repurposed shipping containers designed to have solar panels on top, a rainwater catchment and filtration system, and a graywater garden on our back patio, all without sacrificing style. The corrugated exterior of the containers means a sleek urban aesthetic, and the back patio means that on sunny days the bathhouse is not limited to an indoor experience.

Detail demonstrating energy savings in each category. 

Origin Story

SOAK was dreamed up and created by native New Yorker Nell Watersa wellness industry veteran and the owner of an award winning studio called Whole Body Tonic, in San Francisco. Nell wanted to tell a different story about wellness. 

Her love of European bathing culture, and the wish to reinvent the day spa inspired her to develop a creative and resourceful take on the traditional bathhouse experience, and along the way a movement about healthy hedonism.

Sustainability Meets Sociability 

Part of our vision was of a social space, one where being social is integral to being healthy. Of equal consideration was that the site and space consumed fewer resources than a luxury day spa.   

At SOAK, there are no silence gongs. There's no green tea, and there's no new age music. Our goal is to change the conversation about wellness. Think of it as the Anti-Spa.

In 2011, Nell began talking with friends and experts at the San Francisco based design group Rebar - famous for introducing most of the world to PARK(ing) Day and many of us to the parklets that dot many cities' landscapes - about turning her idea into a practical model.  

You're looking at the result of detailed research on average rainfall, intensity of plug loads at an eco-spa, and the overall experience for those coming to soak. When it's built and open for business, SOAK will be an iconic destination that restores an ancient ritual, guilt-free. 

Cargotecture in the City

The decision to build into shipping containers was as much about limiting our reliance on heavy infrastructure as about having a durable and good looking  aesthetic. In most urban enclaves shipping containers are synonymous with creative pop-up businesses. Quick to retrofit, easy to move, and inexpensive to occupy, they are less like food trucks, moving all the time, and more like medium-term projects lasting between two to five years at one location. Cargotecture like this - much like DeKalb market in Brooklyn and Proxy in San Francisco - is making neighborhoods come to life! 

What's Happened Already

Engineers at ARUP have analyzed our designs and tell us that we can get every watt of energy we need from the sun thanks to heat exchangers and super efficient equipment that squeezes every last drop of solar energy to heat and power our tubs and sauna.


Sankey Diagrams show energy flow


With the help of early adopters, friends and family, a small group of founding members got behind the SOAK idea early in 2012. That support enabled us to produce the architectural renderings and research presented here. 


We wanted to name the ideal person most suited for SOAK. Turns out there are a lot of us who make an effort to be healthy but don't want to be dogmatic or ideological about it. Healthy Hedonists enjoy what comes after the challenge - sleeping in, bourbon, espresso - as much as the run, ride, hike itself. And we know there are a lot of you out there! 


Early on we met with structural engineers, people in the mayor's office, Parks & Rec advisors, and urban planners to source ideas about where to locate SOAK and how it can best fit with the needs of an urban landscape. A lot of what you see now is the result of more than a year's worth of conversations and brainstorming on mobility, water storage, our environmental impact, and the urban experience. Our large network of advisors extends from engineers at the global firm Arup, architects at ReBar, and private developers. 

SOAK's  innovative design was led by one of the principals and co-founders at Rebar, Blaine Merker, who has experience working with the city of San Francisco, and knows how to bring sustainability projects to life in really exciting ways. 


A project like this doesn't happen by itself. The people listed here have been supportive, smart, and really helpful in getting us to where we are. Matthew Purdon, Product Leader, Marketing Services, Chegg.Com; Wendy Norris, Principal, Norris Communications; John Bela, Founder and Principal, Rebar Art and Design Studio; Kristin Saunders, Associate Designer, Rebar Art and Design Studio; Stephanie Versin, Associate Director, Individual gifts, California Academy of Sciences; Dana Clark, Executive Coach, Love Your Life; Rob Delamater, Owner, Lost Art Salon; Barbara Franzoia, Principal, Barbara Franzoia Consults; Michael Yarne, Principal, Build Inc., Executive Director, UP Urban; Doniece Sandoval, Founder, Lava Mae; Helen Waters, Mom; John Waters, Professor, SCAD

Our Promise To You, Our Kickstarter Community

Whether you pledge $25 for a one-of-a-kind coffee mug that says "Healthy Hedonist", $125 for an exclusive preview to SOAK, or $10,000 for an entire day of Healthy Hedonism curated for you and three friends, we promise to follow through if our goal of $240,000 is reached. We chose Kickstarter as a way of  promising you - our backers - that we would only accept your donations if we can reach our total goal. It's a two way channel. No money will be deducted from your account unless we are successful. 

We want to prototype SOAK to prove our concept, and bring the eco-spa to scale. 

If we're successful with our Kickstarter campaign we'll be able to determine the structural criteria for seismic bracing of the containers, assess water use throughout the project, and establish performance criteria for all our energy management systems. The engineers at Arup have made themselves familiar with this project and they will be working with us on this part. 

Next we'll begin fabrication of two shipping containers to roll out in 2014. Money raised from this campaign will go toward many of the systems seen in our renderings and equipment unique to our design, such as the solar panels, gray water filtration plan, interior fixtures, and our sauna and hot pools. We want to iron out the kinks and prove this concept, ideally letting us build SOAK to scale. 

Thanks Everyone!!  SOAK has lined up its home, in part of the light industrial developments in San Francisco on the east side of the city. Once we're open, locals in San Francisco plus visitors from anywhere in the world can come take a dip in the tub, soak, and hang out in our solarium.

What If We Exceed Our Goal: The amount we raise through this campaign is for a 2-box  prototype. If we exceed our goal of $240,000 we will continue to build out to our original specs. Each next phase of design and fabrication is ready to kickoff as soon as we give the Go sign.

SOAK in Sister Cities

Once we prove our concept in San Francisco we would like to see SOAK have a home in Brooklyn, and Portland too. We think SOAK has the ability to provide more than just Bay Area folks with the urban bathhouse experience.

Portland, OR
Portland, OR

 If you want to visit the ecological urban bathhouse when it opens, please pledge. 

We've gotten some great press:

Designing a Day Spa That Isn't Terrible For The Environment
Designing a Day Spa That Isn't Terrible For The Environment

Inhabitat says: SOAK Pop-Up Shipping Container Spa Promotes Health & Sustainability in San Francisco


Architect's Newspaper says: The energy comes from heat exchangers and efficient equipment to heat and power the “healthy hedonist” experience called SOAK.

This year Nell was chosen by 7x7 Magazine as one of their Hot 20 Picks.

For more information on why healthy hedonists are winning, visit our website. :) 


Our FIRST SOAK pass will be sent to everyone able to pledge $50 and up. This get you access to SOAK during an exclusive preview week devoted to our Kickstarter community, before we open to the general public.

Our signature healthy hedonist coffee mugs. Who wouldn't want to wake up and have their tea or coffee from this stylish vessel? 

The official SOAK hoodie! Need we say more? 

Risks and challenges

There is always the risk with a new prototype that permitting will delay opening and potentially incur additional costs. We are fortunate to have people on our team with lots of experience working with the city on interim-use projects and as a result have already begun having the necessary conversations with the right people.

We have seen a detailed estimate of all our build out requirements and by the time we begin fabrication we will be provided with another set of cost estimates that refer to our energy systems. Still, there is the risk that there are additional blind costs. So while we push forward with our Kickstarter campaign we are also seeking out strategic partners who can support us and keep us on track to follow through.

Timing and execution is important to this project. We have already identified the developers in San Francisco who we want to work with and met with them to discuss their timeline for growth at their respective sites. This means an active collaboration for the future of those planned developments and fewer barriers once SOAK chooses where to build.

Learn about accountability on Kickstarter


  • If we're successful with our goal we will be able to produce a set of construction drawings from our world class engineers that detail our performance criteria and establish the structural and mechanical safety of SOAK's engineering , including seismic bracing. Once we have that we will begin fabrication on two containers that include implementing the energy systems specific to SOAK such as the solar panels and graywater filtration, as well as the super efficient heat exchangers.

    We wanted to raise enough money in this campaign to actually produce something that you, our backers, can take part in, use, and make better through experience. We chose Kickstarter over some other crowdfunding platforms that allow you to take all the money regardless of reaching your total because it seemed the most fair. It's our way of saying we won't take your money unless we can deliver. While $125,000 might be nice and certainly it's no small chunk of change, it would only get us half way there. And half way there is not what we wanted. We've calculated $240,000 based on extensive cost analysis of the parts we need and the services attached.

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Support this project

  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $25 or more About $25 USD

    HEALTHY HEDONIST MUG We'll add you to our growing list of SOAK fans and invite you to our launch party. We'll also post a thank you note to your timeline page on Facebook (we'd rather save the paper) and give you a shout out for your support of the first ever ecological mobile spa. For everyone pledging at this level you will also get your very own white porcelain coffee mug with the words Healthy Hedonist printed in orange lettering. Perfect for your morning caffeine.

    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Only United States
    41 backers
  2. Select this reward

    Pledge $50 or more About $50 USD

    We'll send you the very special Healthy Hedonist coffee mug and post a thank you note to your timeline page on Facebook (we'd rather save the paper) and give you a shout out for your support. And when we have our launch party, your name will be on the guest list. You'll also get a pass to FIRST SOAK, a Special Preview week available only to our Kickstarter community, just before we open to the general public. Your FIRST SOAK pass means you're amongst the first crew of healthy hedonists to visit the mobile spa!

    Estimated delivery
    31 backers
  3. Select this reward

    Pledge $125 or more About $125 USD

    FIRST SOAK(s) We'll add your name to a special page on the urban bathhouse website devoted to our SOAK backers. Thanks for saying yes to the eco-spa! More importantly you will be the first to receive two passes to FIRST SOAK, our Exclusive Preview week before we open to the general public. We'll also send you a set of 2 amazing Healthy Hedonist coffee mugs, and when we host our launch party in San Francisco we'll include your name + one, on our guest list. Thank you!

    Estimated delivery
    51 backers
  4. Select this reward

    Pledge $250 or more About $250 USD

    EAST COAST & BEYOND This is for all you healthy hedonists who may not live in San Francisco but want to show your support. We'll send you our very special disco-athletic "healthy hedonist" cotton tank top (royal blue with orange lettering in lowercase - pics coming soon!), and a Klean Kanteen brushed steel water bottle, with the word SOAK wrapped around it. And a set of 2 Healthy Hedonist mugs. We'll also add your name to the special page on our website as a SOAK backer, and be forever thankful that urbanites who don't live in San Francisco want to see the first ecological bathhouse built! And just in case you're actually bi-coastal, we'll reserve two FIRST SOAK (+1) passes with your name on it, for the Special Preview week before we open to the general public. And if you're in town when we have our opening party, your name will definitely be on the guest list. (Also good for SF locals!)

    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Only United States
    5 backers
  5. Select this reward

    Pledge $500 or more About $500 USD

    Want to see how SOAK works? You'll get a special opportunity to take a tour with founder Nell Waters for an up close look at the design and sustainability systems. People to pledge at this amount will also be added to a special page on our website devoted to SOAK backers, we'll send you two FIRST SOAK (+ one) passes, each good for two people, at our Special Preview week before we open to the general public, and your very own signature SOAK hoodie, black with robin's egg-blue lettering. (Pics will be posted soon!). We'll naturally add you to our guest list (+1) for our opening party. Email to discuss details.

    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Only United States
    7 backers
  6. Select this reward

    Pledge $1,000 or more About $1,000 USD

    PRIVATE PREVIEW One Day will be reserved for you and the other 19 supporters to pledge at this amount, during our Exclusive Preview week before we open to the general public. Think of it as a VIP preview and a chance to meet your fellow healthy hedonists. We'll set aside a Private Preview card with your name on it and contact you with plenty of advance notice to make sure there are scheduling options. You'll also get to choose from our signature black cotton SOAK hoodie *OR* a healthy hedonist tank top & SOAK water bottle combo, and we'll add your name to our website's special page for Kickstarter backers. Plus, you'll get an invitation for 2 to our opening party and a FIRST SOAK pass good for the Exclusive Preview week before opening to the general public, as a Thank You for believing in us!

    Estimated delivery
    Limited 4 backers
  7. Select this reward

    Pledge $2,500 or more About $2,500 USD

    Maybe you just love quality design. We'll send you (2) SOAK hoodies, (2) porcelain healthy hedonist mugs, the HH tank-top and the Klean Kanteen SOAK water bottle. But we will also send you a certificate with your name on it, beautiful to frame, listing you as a SOAK Founding Member, and reserve for you special access to SOAK. Your name will no doubt be added to our special page for backers at, and we'll announce you as a SOAK sponsor at our opening party. You'll also get four FIRST SOAK passes, for our Exclusive Preview week for our Kickstarter backers only, just before we open to the general public. Email for further details.

    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Only United States
    Limited 1 backer
  8. Select this reward

    Pledge $5,000 or more About $5,000 USD

    Have a 2.5 hour brainstorming session with SOAK's founder Nell Waters and design lead Blaine Merker of Rebar, about your next project, tactical urbanism or the adaptive metropolis. You will also get a chance to tour the SOAK facility in construction, and see up close the sustainability systems employed.

    In addition we'll send you five FIRST SOAK passes for our Exclusive Preview week before we open to the general public. We'll add your name and a photo of your best selfie ( if you want) to our special page on the SOAK website devoted to our backers and when we host our launch party we'll name you as a SOAK Founding Member. As a Founding Member we will mail you a certificate with your name on it that clearly reserves space for you at SOAK. We'll also send you a set of four Healthy Hedonist coffee mugs and one of our signature SOAK hoodies!

    This reward arrives as soon as April 2014 (minus the FIRST SOAK passes which will arrive later).

    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Only United States
    Limited 0 backers
  9. Select this reward

    Pledge $10,000 About $10,000 USD

    CURATED HEALTHY HEDONISM Nell will craft an entire healthy hedonist day for you and three friends. Cost of services are not included. You'll get a chance to meet with Nell for a detailed description of your needs and have her plan your day of stops, outings, curiosities. For the adventurous and fun-seekers amongst you, this is pretty incredible. Email to discuss details. We will also cite you as a SOAK sponsor on the invitation to our opening party and send you a four-cup set of the Healthy Hedonist mugs, our signature SOAK hoodie, the tank top, and our Klean Kanteen water bottle. When we post your name to our website we'll actually write a brief paragraph on how wonderful you are and if you want, include your best selfie-pic. In addition, we'll set up a private tour with you and a guest to meet our founder Nell Waters and take a look at how the ecological bathhouse works and the sustainability systems that make it so unique. We'll also set aside five FIRST SOAK (+1) passes with your name on each so that you have major access to our Exclusive Preview week before we open to the general public.

    Estimated delivery
    Limited 0 backers

Funding period

- (36 days)