Germany, among other EU countries, is currently facing the problem of quickly finding adequate housing for refugees and asylum seekers that it has let across its borders. The modular houses, designed for this purpose by Architect and builder Werner Sobek, are a great example of the fact that refugee housing can be modern, affordable and comfortable. The units are called Aktivhaus, and a whole development of them has recently been completed in Winnenden, which is a town about 20 kilometers northeast of Stuttgart. It can accommodate 200 asylum seekers and functions just like real homes.
The development is comprised of 22 units, which were built with quality and durability in mind. The modules used to build these homes are prefabricated off-site, and arrive to the build site ready to be assembled. They’re made from larch wood, and the company claims they have a lifespan of 50 years. They are manufactured by the company AH-Aktiv-Haus.
These units will be used to house refugees, but that is not their sole purpose. The German region of Baden-Württemberg is in dire need of additional housing, and they estimate that they will need 40,000 apartments per year for the next few years. About 30,000 apartments will be needed by those granted asylum.
Each Aktivhaus is built according to the so-called Triple Zero sustainable building standard, which was developed by Werner Sobek. In a nutshell, a Triple Zero building is one which consumes no more energy than it generates from renewable sources (Zero Energy Building). Such a building also produces zero carbon emissions, or other harmful substances, which also makes it a Zero Emission Building. Furthermore, such a building can be completely reintegrated into the cycle of materials, making it a Zero Waste Building. In addition to that, it can also be connected into a network of other self-sufficient buildings, power generators, energy storage systems and energy consumers.
This is certainly a great example of eco-friendly building, and the result is a home that is modern, spacious and would be a pleasure to live in.
The Chinese firm People’s Architecture Office (PAO) has created yet another ingenious home design, which proves yet again that houses don’t need to be hard to build, and that it doesn’t need to take a long time to construct them. The so-called Plugin Tower pictured above would be delivered to the build site it a kit made up of modular parts that the future inhabitant just needs to put together. The homes are easy to construct, and easy to take apart and move to a new location if needed.
The Plugin Tower has a prefab steel frame, which is versatile and can be adapted to different home locations. There is also no need for a foundation. Once the frame is in place, the home is then finished using PAO’s special system of composite panels. These panels already have all the spaces for electrical wires and plumbing in place. They also come fully insulated with the finishes already done. The home can thus be built in only a few hours by unskilled individuals, using only a hex wrench.
People in China face the problem of all the land being government owned or overseen by collective economic organizations (CEOs). Also, only the very wealthy can own homes in China. Such as system makes it very hard to build your own home, and the Plugin Tower system aims to tackle this problem as well. According to PAO, they designed this home with the ordinary people in mind, aiming to help minimize the risk of losing the land on which their homes are built. Since the Plugin Tower is designed to be easy to disassemble, it also makes it easy to relocate. It can also be expanded easily by simply adding more modules into the frame.
The Plugin Tower is currently just an experimental concept, though they already built a prototype, which is on display at the offices of real estate developer Vanke in Shenzhen. Hopefully, it will move out of the concept stage soon.
The Holland-based firm Fiction Factory have recently unveiled a modular home, which is built out of layered cardboard. While the latter is not quite the top choice of building material, the architects claim that the home will last for up to 100 years, which is quite a bold statement. The home is called Wikkelhouse (which translates to “wrapper house”) and due to the modular way of construction, it can be built in virtually any size the owner wants.
Each Wikkelhouse is built out of several modules, which are made of corrugated cardboard glued together by an eco-friendly adhesive. Each module is about 4 ft thick (1.2 m) and provides 54 square feet (5 sq m) of living space, with a ceiling height of 11.5 feet (3.5 m). The cardboard layer is wrapped around each of these modules 24 times. This is done with the aid of a large rotating machine, and the process ensures a strong and sturdy structure, which is also very well insulated.
The cardboard layer is wrapped in a waterproof, breathable film called Miotex and then the exterior is cladded with pine slats. The Miotex layer needs to be replaced every 30 years. Each module weights about 1,100 lbs (500 kg) and they can be disassembled and moved easily, and are more or less fully recyclable.
The modules are designed in a way that makes it easy to use them to build larger homes, while their low weight means that the home does not need a monolithic foundation. The resulting home has a very flexible layout, which can easily be customized to suit any tastes. Plywood is used for the interior paneling, which gives the home a warm and minimalistic aesthetic.
The home can be assembled on site in as little as a day, and windows can be added to the home practically anywhere the owner wants them. The home can also be equipped with a kitchen, and a bathroom with a shower. These facilities are made possible by the use of the so-called “smart home-segments”.
The modules cost $4,500 each, so a 500 square foot (46 sq m) Wikkelhouse would cost around $42,000, which is very affordable. This design is also a great example of how cardboard can make for a great building material.
AVAVA Systems from California has recently unveiled Britespace, a high-end, prefab home that comes in a flat pack and is extremely easy to assemble. It’s also made of sustainable materials and has impressive seismic strength. It comes in three sizes, namely 264, 352 and 480 sq ft, and offers a great choice to those wishing to downsize, as well as anyone building their first home
The home features AVAVA’s special framing system that is very easy to assemble as well as being very sturdy. It only takes a couple of weeks to assemble a Britespace home, as opposed to a few months as is the case with other prefab homes. This framing system differs a lot from the traditional one used by builders everywhere, and features the bare minimum of components. Therefore a Britespace home is assembled using just 16 bolts and no adhesives or nails. The framing system also enables the building of open plan areas and window walls without the need for costly steel assemblies.
The framing system features engineered wood I-joists, which are held together by connectors called Joist-Locks to which AVADA holds the patent. The frames created in this way can withstand great winds and seismic loads, while the need for plywood shear walls and steel moment resisting frames is also eliminated. These special I-joist space frames also make it easy to install the roof, floor and walls of the home, which are simply fitted into the provided spaces. The homes can also easily be taken apart and reassembled elsewhere.
The home features structural insulated panels (SIPs), Marvin windows, Jet Board and IPE siding. The interior has real oak flooring and LED lighting throughout. All the building materials used are formaldehyde-free and have low-VOC. Very little construction waste is produced in the building process, while the home requires 50 percent less concrete for the foundation as compared to a traditionally built home.
Given the quality of the materials used, the price for this home is pretty steep. The basic version of the 264 sq ft one costs about $60,000, which quickly rises to $90,000 if a kitchen and bathroom are added. However, the company is sure that these prices will be pushed down once production is scaled up.
The Portuguese design firm Appleton & Domingos recently designed the so-called Treehouse Riga, which is a modular home that can be easily adapted to the owner’s needs. The designs were created for the modular homebuilder Jular. Given that it’s a prefab home, there’s less construction waste as compared to traditional building methods, and expanding it to accommodate a growing family, for example, is a breeze.
The basic version of Treehouse Riga measures 474 sq ft (44 sq m) and features two bedrooms. It’s made of just two modules. Each module measures 236 sq ft (22 sq m) and they are joined together in an offset way, which creates exterior spaces that slightly are different from each other. Presumably, more modules can simply be attached to the home, to create additional spaces such as extra rooms, a studio, a second bathroom and so on.
The kitchen and living area are located in one of the modules, while the two bedrooms and the bathroom are house in the other. The two areas of the home are separated off by a sliding door, which is made of birch wood, to offer privacy when needed. In this way, one of the bedrooms can actually be completely opened up when the sliding wall is pulled away, so it can be used as a living room, sitting area or a home office, as well as a guest bedroom. The home also features copious amounts of glazing, which allow lots of natural light into the interior spaces.
The home has ventilated facades made of ThermoWood, which is a very durable thermally modified wood. These offer privacy, and cozy indoor/outdoor areas. For the walls they used Kerto micro-laminated veneer lumber, which makes a strong and stable structure. All the wood used has a PEFC (chain of custody) certification.
Given that this home is made primarily from wood, and that it doesn’t seem to require a concrete foundation, definitely makes it one of the more sustainable modular homes.