Dübendorf, Switzerland is something of hallowed ground for architectural technologists. There, on the shared academic campus of the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology and the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology, public university ETH Zurich has conducted nearly a decade of engineering and construction experimentation at the ever-evolving NEST research building. In August, ETH Zürich unveiled its latest extension of the building, HiLo (short for high performance-low emissions)—a two-story modular addition to the chameleon structure that harnesses medieval building principles and contemporary digital methods to raise the bar for more sustainable applications of concrete.
Modular & Prefabricated: The Latest Architecture and News
The first wooden housing modules of Juf Nienke, a new circular prefabricated timber housing project by SeARCH, RAU, and DS landscape architects, has been installed in Amsterdam. The project will feature 61 rental homes made entirely of wood, and will sit at the entrance of Centrumeiland, a newly raised piece of land on Lake IJmeer that features 1500 housing units. It is set to be one of the most sustainable apartment buildings in the Netherlands, incorporating an innovative cross-laminated timber construction and utilizing recycled materials.
It is difficult to find someone who never played LEGO as a child. What if, like LEGO's, we thought of buildings as great assembling games? U-Build is a modular wooden construction system developed by Studio Bark to be easy to build, pleasant to inhabit, and simple to deconstruct at the end of its useful life. The system removes many of the difficulties associated with traditional construction, enabling individuals and communities to build their own homes and buildings. The system uses precision CNC machining to create a kit of parts, allowing the structure of the building to be assembled by people with limited skills and experience, using only simple hand tools.
Briefly, structural masonry is a construction system in which the walls of the building perform a structural function, using masonry units arranged in a way that is self-supporting and load-bearing. The walls will evenly distribute the load to the foundation and later into the ground.
Stacked in layers, the bricks, blocks, or stones may or may not be connected by a binder (mortar) and steel reinforcements that heavily influence the mechanical properties of the wall, dimensioned to resist active forces.
Industrial architecture usually requires fast installation, low-maintenance components, and flexible spaces that can be used for different purposes. Therefore, modular solutions are very common in this type of construction, also adding a powerful visual language to the building.
As we are entering 2021 after a year of anxiety and uncertainties, what are your expectation for our future? The UN75 survey reports that most people around the world hold greater optimism for the future: “Globally, many more respondents believe people will be better off in 2045 than today (49%) compared to those who believe people will be worse off (32%).”
Despite all the news of re-openings, lifted restrictions, al fresco options dining, and a return to something more closely resembling “normal,” COVID-19 is still very much with us. And despite the defeatist/downplayed/nothing to see here stance embraced by the current presidential administration, the United States is still in the midst of an unprecedented public health crisis. In some states, both new reported cases and hospitalizations have now reached record highs.
This being said, the need for accessible, easy to fabricate, and quick-to-deploy testing facility solutions are still in great need, particularly in dense urban areas, at large institutions and workplaces, and in underserved communities where coronavirus testing might come as a luxury, not a basic necessity. In terms of testing availability, all bases need to and must be covered.
Prefabricated residential design and construction company Plant Prefab has unveiled three new LivingHome designs. The new designs, which range from a farmhouse-style structure to a modernist townhouse designed for The Los Angeles CIty Small Lot Ordinance (SLO) zoning, are all created by Plant Prefab’s in-house design team, the Plant Design Studio.
DMDmodular is manufacturing modules for the world's tallest modular hotel, in the Big Apple. The modular elements of the 26-story AC Marriott New York NoMad, designed by Danny Forster & Architecture, are produced in Skawina, Poland and shipped to the United States.
Advancing into the 21st century as architects enables us to explore and deliver an increasing number of sustainable approaches to architecture and the building industry. Whilst previously, concrete and steel have been predominately used throughout the construction industry, architects are now beginning to realise the importance of new technologies, such as timber, and use them for efficient construction, sustainability and cost effective purposes.
In a recent international competition, architects Gilles Retsin and Stephan Markus Albrecht, were selected among 20 finalists for the extension of the Meistersingerhalle, located in Nuremberg, Germany. The architects collaborated with Bollinger-Grohmann engineers, Transsolar climate engineers and acoustic specialists such as Theatre Projects, to design what is to be the world’s first concert hall building constructed using cross laminated timber (CLT).
With the concept of downsizing in mind, Danish architectural company Njordrum is elaborating innovative concepts for housing. Basing their modular design on Scandinavian aesthetics, the office hopes to bring together architecture, nature, light, and people.
A modular wooden school by architects von Gerkan, Marg and Partners (gmp) has topped out in Frankfurt, Germany. Designed for the Miquelallee school center, the project is made using prefabricated wood modules as a temporary structure for two schools. With a steadily growing population, the need for new school buildings has risen sharply in Frankfurt am Main. The design concept was made so that the modular building can be dismantled and rebuilt at another location as needed.
Some assembly required for this vision of future urban living. Known for simple, well-designed, flat-pack furniture, IKEA is proposing expanding their DIY-model to a much larger scale: entire city centers. Democratic Design Days is an annual event where IKEA introduces its upcoming brands and collaborations, this year featuring The Urban Village Project, a collaboration between SPACE10 and EFFEKT Architects. After two years of research, SPACE10 (IKEA’s global research and design lab) is releasing their vision to the public for a new way to design, build, and share our homes, neighborhoods, and cities.
This article was originally published in Autodesk's Redshift publication as "How Building Modular Homes can Help Fill the Affordable Housing Gap."
“Modular” isn’t a construction product; it’s a construction process. This is according to Tom Hardiman, executive director of the Modular Building Institute (MBI), whose members include more than 350 companies involved in the manufacturing and distribution of modular buildings, including multifamily homes.
Solutions from the past can often provide practical answers for the problems of the future; as the London-based design and research firm, Space Popular demonstrate with their "Timber Hearth" concept. It is a building system that uses prefabrication to help DIY home-builders construct their own dwellings without needing to rely on professional or specialized labor. Presented as part of the ongoing 2018 Venice Biennale exhibition “Plots Prints Projections,” the concept takes inspiration from the ancient "hearth" tradition to explain how a system designed around a factory-built core can create new opportunities for the future of home construction.