Posts Tagged ‘Modern methods of construction’

The realities of living in a PassivHaus


Thermal image of a PassiveHouse (Young Germany)

Once the scaffolding is down and the blower door test has been passed, what is it actually like to live in a PassivHaus? How does it feel to occupy a house that is kept warm using only your own body heat; a house that is completely airtight and needs no conventional heating system? How does it change your behaviour, needs and habits?

PassiveHouse as a concept

The concept of the passive house (or PassivHaus for the internationalists amongst us) is becoming increasingly well known amongst British architects, contractors, developers and clients. It has moved from being yet another forward-thinking construction method that is adopted in mainland Europe but largely ignored in this country, to being championed by a number of UK built environment professionals.

Information abounds when it comes to PassivHaus certification requirements, test results, design detailing, building physics and heat capacities. The Passipedia website is a good resource in this respect. It also gives an interesting historical review of  passive houses from the past. Did you know, for example, that Fridtjof Nansen’s 1883 polar exploration ship Fram functioned like a PassivHaus? Nansen wrote:



Wise living: BoKlok, the IKEA house


The IKEA way of life?

For some people, a weekend trip to IKEA is like a descent into the innermost circles of hell. The success of the outing is measured in how many times you have fallen out with your partner, shouted at your parents, or lost your kids amongst the soft toys and sofa beds. More than five = the norm. Less than five = a miracle.

Strangely (and somewhat pathetically?) I actually love going to IKEA. Perhaps it feels like a temporary dip into my Scandinavian gene-pool. Or maybe it’s the smug satisfaction of actually understanding, and being able to pronounce correctly, the peculiar names of the furniture pieces. Or it might just be the pull of the Swedish meatballs and Kopparberg pear cider…

Either way, did you know you can buy not only flat-pack furniture at IKEA, but an actual house to put your Billy Bookcases in?

Each unit has a balcony or patio

The BoKlok website explains the concept behind what IKEA is aiming for: affordable, comfortable and energy-efficient housing.

BoKlok is a groundbreaking concept to housing that involves providing space-saving, functional and high quality housing at a price that enables as many people as possible to afford a stylish and comfortable home.

As with other products from the Swedish furniture behemoth, the housing is kept at affordable levels through the use of standard, straight-forward designs and large-volume manufacturing. A lot of the production is done off-site, for cost-effectiveness and quality control.

Narrow street frontage for efficient land use

Apartment blocks and terraced houses are available; originally developed for the Swedish market, but now also built in Norway, Finland, Denmark, and Great Britain. The concept is also being launched in Germany (where off-site-manufactured and energy-efficient housing is not exactly a new idea).

Some of the design features are typically Scandinavian: timber construction and cladding, enclosed courtyards, open-plan living spaces, high ceilings and large windows. Perhaps surprisingly, the terraced housing features living areas downstairs and bedrooms upstairs – the opposite of many Nordic homes, where architects make the most of rising heat to keep bedrooms cool on the ground floor and living-rooms warm on the first floor. (Here, looks at the potential financial benefits of “upside-down” living.)

I want my Werther's Originals back

All BoKlok schemes are sold through special sales events in IKEA stores, but before you rush out to buy one, a note of caution: the BoKlok group is awaiting the recovery of the UK housing market before it invests further over here.

Originally in partnership with the Home Group, IKEA/BoKlok AB has only completed one development in this country so far; the St James Village in Gateshead. The BoKlok/Home Group partnership is no longer active, with the Home Group having relinquished their national licence to use the BoKlok concept.

In a statement from January this year, BoKlok says they have no plans to withdraw from the UK market, though:

We believe that the BoKlok concept has a good market potential in the UK. There is an increasing need for good affordable homes and BoKlok can provide many people with better homes.

Industrialised, Integrated and Intelligent Construction: I3CON


Industrialised, Integrated and Intelligent Construction (I3CON) is an industry-led, collaborative research project part-sponsored by the EU, involving 14 member states. The goal of the project is to develop innovations that will help deliver ultra high-performance buildings.

Pierre Bédat on Flickr

I3CON, which opened in 2006 and completes in September 2010, has involved large and small organisations, academic institutions and commercial firms from across Europe. With a total project cost exceeding 17 million euro, the hope is that the project will provide competitive advantages for designers, contractors and manufacturers.

The project aims to contribute to the creation of a sustainable European construction industry, by

delivering technologies for a smart building services system using distributed control systems with embedded sensors, wireless connections, ambient user interfaces and autonomous controllers.

The I3CON Handbook – a comprehensive document detailing performance measurement metrics, architectural concepts, services, processes, systems, modelling, demonstration and training – can be downloaded for free.

The project is certainly not lacking in ambition:

a new approach for industrialised production of building components with integrated services and intelligence will be created. These building components will be multifunctional, efficient, sustainable, reusable, interoperable and user friendly. The underlying new business model will shift current working practices from custom-designed and craft-made delivery to industrial production. … Ultra high-performance buildings will be delivered 50% faster and 25% cheaper, with lifecycle cost reductions >40% and savings in repair and maintenance in excess of 70%, together with enhanced comfort and security.

UK’s own BSRIA is involved in the project, and is hosting a ‘Community of interest‘ event on the 28th April at their HQ in Berkshire.

April Sanders on Flickr

Meanwhile, recognising the ever-increasing role of sustainability in building services engineering, CIBSE offers a Sustainability Toolkit via their online bookshop. They describe their Guide L: Sustainability as “one of the most important and far-reaching guides ever to be released by the Institution”.

Sustainable off-site construction based on Welsh timber

Ty Unnos

Ty Unnos - Design Research Unit Wales

Ty Unnos is a research project funded by various bodies, including the Welsh School of Architecture and the Wales Forest Business Partnership, which has developed an modular building system that uses Welsh timber.

‘Utilising the standard timber sizes produced by local sawmills, Sitka spruce box beams could be prefabricated, off-site, to form a structural portal frame as a complete assembly or in individual components, and infill, pre-insulated panels to form both external and internal walls, floors and roofs.

These frames and panels have been designed to create a series modular rooms varying in sizes from 1.2m x 3m to 4.8m x 3m, or from entrance lobby to small bedroom to kitchen to living room. This would enable a variety of house types to be generated on different sites, in different layouts and different sizes, always with the potential to add on modules as the requirements of the house evolve over time.’

It has been widely recognised for its design, innovation and sustainability:
• UK Technology Strategy Board research and development funding award
• Cardiff University 2009 Innovation Prize
• Chartered Institute of Building’s International Design and Architecture Award
• Timber Research and Development Association’s 75th Anniversary Award
• Interbuild Award for innovation in off-site construction

ESI references:

Green modular construction

Michelle Kaufmanns siteplan for Aria

Michelle Kaufmann's siteplan for Aria

Kaid Benfield reports on a mixed development scheme in Denver, Colorado that overtly places environmental, social and economic responsibility at the heart of the project. He also notes the scheme’s use of modular off-site construction methods to reduce costs.

ESI references: