Life-saving LifeArk snaps together like LEGO to provide emergency off-grid housing

August 28, 2017 by  
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Architect Charles Wee didn’t have grand plans to save the world—but that’s exactly what his incredible LifeArk could do. Designed for disaster relief, LifeArk is a prefabricated, modular building system for quickly deployable and affordable housing that can operate 100% off the grid . These self-sustainable life-saving homes, which can be scaled up into communities, can pop up virtually anywhere to float on water or be anchored on land. Thanks to its innovative HDPE materials and production methods, LifeArk clicks together like LEGOs in just a few hours and slashes the total design and construction time for prefabricated architecture in half. LifeArk was recently honored as a 2017 BFI Fuller Challenge Semifinalist . Charles Wee’s architectural career spans a start at AECOM to the founding of international firm GDS Architects . In recent years, however, he began thinking about changing his focus in architecture. “I was sick of conventional architecture,” Wee told Inhabitat in an interview. “Then I had a conversation with a family member that became a light bulb moment. Twelve years ago, my cousin moved to Santa Rosa Island in a part of the Amazon River near the borders of Brazil and Peru to work as a missionary. It’s an area of extreme poverty. I didn’t know much about his work until 2013, when my cousin came out to California and we talked about the way the community lives.” “Their entire existence revolves around fighting flooding. It can flood up to 8 meters high—that’s like 3 stories tall. For 8 months out of the year they must live above water in stilt houses but most of the time the water will come way above that. I saw that in person and understood it as a design and engineering problem. I began to think of floating architecture and buoyant solutions—trying to solve this problem is really what started LifeArk.” His meeting and visit with the people of Santa Rosa opened the doors for Wee to see the worldwide need for floating prefabricated housing. “I couldn’t believe the number,” he said. “There are hundreds of millions of people along floodplains around the world who live under threat.” Wee then assembled a team of experts and engineers to create a sustainable modular solution that could be mass-produced, easily deployable, and assembled. Their solution became LifeArk. The LifeArk components are prefabricated using rotational molding technology; their California factory is expected to stamp out 10 modules a day with around 20 components each. The 60-square-meter modules would then be sent to a second factory to be fitted with the fixed features, such as a kitchenette and off-grid elements like solar panels, before the components are packed into a shipping container for transit. Once onsite, each module can be quickly assembled using unskilled labor and standard tools in as little as 2 hours. Approximately 20 to 24 modules would be needed to construct a house, and the modular buildings can be scaled up and infinitely configured to form a community. Related: Peru plans to dam Amazon River’s main source and displace thousands “They’re like LEGOs,” explained Wee. “You just ‘click, click, click’ and you can bolt the parts together. They all fit together in a shipping container and can be transported to site. While manufacturing is being done we would prep the site, and then it’ll be say to bolt the module on top. All the machinery will be inside already so the only skilled labor needed on site is connections to sewers. But there’s also the option for 100% off-grid capability.” After four years of research and development, the LifeArk team is about ready to deploy their first prototype in March 2018. Three or four buildings will be prefabricated in California and installed on a lake near Dallas, Texas, along with an attached hydroponics farm. Wee also plans to sell LifeArk buildings to cities and organizations looking for affordable homeless housing . Profits will fund the construction and deployment of LifeArk buildings across the world for refugee housing, disaster relief, and other humanitarian purposes. LifeArk was selected as one of 17 proposals to advance in the semifinals for the 2017 Buckminster Fuller Challenge , an annual honor known as “socially responsible design’s highest award.” + LifeArk

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Life-saving LifeArk snaps together like LEGO to provide emergency off-grid housing

Trees to grow on the balconies of Pendas timber high-rise in Toronto

August 3, 2017 by  
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A new kind of “vertical forest” has been envisioned for Toronto where trees would grow on every balcony. Architecture firm Penda teamed up with Canadian company Timber to design the Toronto Tree Tower, an 18-story mixed-use tower covered in greenery and built of cross-laminated timber. The large and modular balconies are staggered to look like branches of a tree and to optimize views for every resident. Designed to appear as a giant tree in the city, the Toronto Tree Tower is covered in plants and greenery and clad in wooden facade panels. The tower’s modular cross-laminated timber units would be prefabricated and assembled off-site, and then transported and stacked around the building’s trunk-like central core. The building would comprise 4,500 square meters of apartments as well as a cafe, children’s daycare center, and community workshops. Related: China’s first vertical forest is rising in Nanjing “Our cities are a assembly of steel, concrete and glass,” said Penda partner Chris Precht, according to Dezeen . “If you walk through the city and suddenly see a tower made of wood and plants, it will create an interesting contrast. The warm, natural appearance of wood and the plants growing on its facade bring the building to life and that could be a model for environmental friendly developments and sustainable extensions of our urban landscape.” + Penda Via Dezeen

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Trees to grow on the balconies of Pendas timber high-rise in Toronto

New light-filled learning center celebrates the food history in one of Denmarks oldest towns

August 3, 2017 by  
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Reiulf Ramstad Arkitekter just won a competition to design a new cultural center for one of the oldest settlements in Denmark . The winning proposal, called Kornets Hus (“Grain House”), will be an activity-based learning center in Hjørring focused on the importance of grain to Jutland—a region believed to have been populated 10,000 years ago. Kornets Hus will be of a minimalist and modern design built largely from brick and timber that takes inspiration from the region’s diverse landscapes, folk culture, and agricultural heritage. Commissioned by Realdania , the L-shaped 680-square-meter Kornets Hus is set on a site with an existing farm and bakery. The learning center will offer visitors as well as locals and employees engaging educational experiences about the region’s rich food and farming culture. In addition to educational and exhibition spaces, the building will also include a cafe, store, and offices. Related: Norwegian Mountaineering Centre mimics a dramatic snow-covered mountain The building features a simple and flexible plan to accommodate a wide variety of activities. Two brick-clad light wells , reminiscent of baker kilns, bookend the structure’s two ends. Skylights and large windows also help maximize access to natural light . Glazing on the west facade frame views of wheat fields and connect to an outdoor terrace. A large bread oven forms the heart of the public spaces. + Reiulf Ramstad Arkitekter Images via Reiulf Ramstad Arkitekter

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New light-filled learning center celebrates the food history in one of Denmarks oldest towns

Provocative timber horn explores the hypnotic pull of the unknown

July 24, 2017 by  
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Digital fabrication and traditional woodworking fuse together in Y, a modern sculpture with a provocative and pixelated appearance. A team of international architects and carpenters comprising &’ [Emmi Keskisarja & Janne Teräsvirta & Company Architects] collaborated with the Finnish National Museum to create the funnel-shaped art piece in Helsinki’s Seurasaari open-air museum. The intriguing artwork is built from horizontal prefabricated cross-laminated timber elements interlocked by 568 timber wedges. The temporary Y was built in the historical Niemelä Tenant Farm courtyard , creating a new social space on museum grounds. “Y is an equation of temporality, time and provocative use of wood in the museum milieu,” wrote the architects. “As Y is the mathematical symbol for the unknown, the installation Y points to the future and the possible outcomes of Nordic built heritage. In Niemelä, Y is a variable within the parameter of time.” The funnels-shaped sculpture is large enough to climb into and explore like a cave, and its hypnotic effect encourages meditative practice. Related: Palestinian architects give the ancient stone vault a modern twist in Jericho Architecturally, the most interesting aspect of Y is its combination of digital fabrication with traditional woodworking . The project’s carpenters used traditional handicraft methods to help develop the project, while the architects brought their set of digital design and production tools to the table. The result is a sculpture that functions like a giant wooden joint that’s built from prefabricated cross-laminated timber elements. The use of timber gives the artwork a feeling of familiarity, however the pixelated appearance adds a touch of the futuristic and unknown. + &’ [Emmi Keskisarja & Janne Teräsvirta & Company Architects] Images by SWANG

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Provocative timber horn explores the hypnotic pull of the unknown

Mobile Smartdome homes pop up almost anywhere starting at 20k

May 31, 2017 by  
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Dome homes are durable, efficient, and—above all—fun to live in. Now you can get your hands on your very own mobile dome home with Slovenian firm smartdome construction . Available in a variety of styles, the Smartdome consists of prefabricated modules engineered for energy efficiency and designed for the enjoyment of nature lovers and DIY enthusiasts. Built on a set of adjustable steel legs, the elevated Smartdome sits lightly on the land with the option of placement in degraded and difficult terrain. Thanks to its modular design , the homes can be easily expanded, dismantled, and transported to new locations with little technical knowledge needed. The base Smartdome model measures 25 square meters with a starting cost of 19,900€. Related: These gorgeous glass homes can pop up in 8 hours for under $50k “The project is really something fresh and different […] for every nature lover,” said Željko Ho?evar of smartdome construction to Inhabitat. “It’s the first printed dodecahedron structure in the world.” The modules are constructed from galvanized steel and a laminated and moisture-resistant timber framework sealed with UV-resistant rubber gaskets. Buyers can choose between transparent modules with two or three-layer thermoformed polycarbonate or opaque versions filled with mineral wool or space-tech foil. All Smartdome homes are designed, engineered, and manufactured in Slovenia. + smartdome construction

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Mobile Smartdome homes pop up almost anywhere starting at 20k

Tiny eco-minded home bathes owners in the dappled light of metal leaves

May 30, 2017 by  
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Who can resist an afternoon nap in dappled sunlight? Sleeping beneath a tree canopy can be wonderful but not always practical, so architect Eva Sopéoglou found a clever way to recreate the dramatic light effects indoors year-round. Inspired by ecological principles, Sopéoglou designed the Olive Tree House, a small prefabricated summer house in Halkidiki, Greece with metal textile-like cladding perforated with leaf patterns. Set on an olive grove hill overlooking the sea and nearby Mount Athos, the Olive Tree House is an experimental, bare-bones summer retreat. To minimize the building’s environmental footprint and waste , Sopéoglou used prefabricated and moveable building components. The 21-square-meter home is wrapped in a lightweight metallic surface perforated with a textile-like pattern inspired by the shade of olive trees. The metallic walls open up and expand the living space to the outdoors, while the interior is bathed in an ever-changing play of light and shadow. Related: Solar-powered Rotterdam home wraps around an olive tree “This building forms part of an enquiry into sustainability and the provision for human comfort in architecture, by questioning the definition of inside and outside inhabitable space,” wrote Sopéoglou. The Olive Tree House was oriented to the cardinal points and carefully placed following several site studies to optimize views, natural ventilation , lighting, and the creation of interesting shadows throughout the day. The home’s metallic textile-like cladding was developed in collaboration with metal fabricator METALSO using a CNC punching machine. + Eva Sopéoglou Via ArchDaily Images © Mariana Bisti

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Tiny eco-minded home bathes owners in the dappled light of metal leaves

Prefabricated lakeside cabin is a beautiful exercise in restraint

May 22, 2017 by  
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Family reunions can be loud affairs, a fact that one Torontonian family patriarch with ten energetic grandkids knows well. To secure peace and quiet while staying close to visiting family, a homeowner on Ontario’s Lake Simcoe hired Superkül architects to design a retreat within a retreat—a modern kid-free cabin separate from his existing bungalow. Dubbed Pointe Cabin, the prefabricated modern dwelling is a beautiful exercise in restraint that fully embraces the outdoors. The two-bedroom, 840-square-foot Pointe Cabin is sited close to the client’s original log cottage, purchased in the 1970s, at the edge of Cook’s Bay on the southern tip of Lake Simcoe. Although the new addition contrasts with its predecessor in its contemporary design, both cabins are linked by their predominant use of timber that blends the buildings into the wooded surroundings. Natural, locally sourced , and low maintenance materials were used in the indoor and outdoor living areas and include a mixture of cedar, white oak, and spruce-pine-fir. Related: Superkül Designs Canada’s First Active House To meet cost and efficiency targets, the single-story cabin was prefabricated offsite. The factory-built wall, floor, and roof panels were trucked to the site and the home was assembled in just a few days. The two-bedroom home is connected to the original cabin with a glazed passageway and contains a private entry, kitchenette, bathroom, and wrap-around deck. Floor-to-ceiling glass frames views of the lake and the landscape. + Superkül architects Images via Superkül architects , by Shai Gil

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Prefabricated lakeside cabin is a beautiful exercise in restraint

Americas largest modern timber building pieces together like LEGO

November 30, 2016 by  
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The nation’s largest timber building has officially opened its doors in Minneapolis. Designed by Vancouver-based Michael Green Architecture and Architect-of-Record DLR Group , the seven-story tower is the first modern wooden building of its kind to have been built in over 100 years. Created from prefabricated timber panels, the 224,000-square-foot building’s structural system was quickly pieced together like LEGO blocks on-site at a speed far exceeding conventional steel-framed and concrete buildings. Located in Minneapolis’ North Loop neighborhood, T3 mimics its historic warehouse neighbors with its blocky shape, but steers clear of the heavy bulk. The wooden building’s structural system—mostly cross-laminated timber and nail-laminated timber—weighs approximately one-fifth of similarly sized concrete buildings. 180,000 square feet of timber framing was installed in less than 10 weeks. The majority of the wood is beetle-kill pine sustainably harvested from the Pacific Northwest. The prefabricated timber panels were combined with a spruce glulam post-and-beam frame, all of which sits atop a concrete slab. Related: White Arkitekter wins bid to design Sweden’s tallest timber building The 224,000-square-foot mixed-use building houses office and retail space in a light-filled modern interior that celebrates the timber construction. “The entire timber structure of T3 was left exposed and illuminated with a percentage of the interior lighting directed up to the ceiling,” said Candice Nichol, MGA Associate and T3 Project Lead. At night, “the illuminated wood glows from the exterior similar to a lantern.” + Michael Green Architecture + DLR Group Images via Ema Peter

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Americas largest modern timber building pieces together like LEGO

Beautiful prefab box is a modern light-filled extension to a historic barn

November 1, 2016 by  
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Constructed from cross-laminated timber , the modern extension is punctuated by large windows that let in natural light and frame views of the garden. A bay window on the existing barn was removed and replaced with a short, all-glazed link that connects the historic building with the modern extension and minimizes visual disruption. “We approached the scheme with the aim to set the works into the surrounding nature, provide natural light, harness the fantastic views and provide a social heart to the house and for the family,” write the architects. Related: The Austen House is a tiny timber-clad home suspended between two buildings The extension comprises a large open-plan kitchen, dining area, and living room that opens up to the garden through large glazed sliding doors. A partition separates the open-plan space from the study, bathroom, and utility area. The light-filled extension is minimally and tastefully furnished and aimed “to increase the excitement when entering the property.” + Adam Knibb Architects Via Dezeen Images via Adam Knibb Architects , James Morris

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Beautiful prefab box is a modern light-filled extension to a historic barn

Off-grid farmhouse on Australias remote French Island runs on solar energy

July 7, 2016 by  
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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=20VnWR-cfSA With no sealed roads, Australia’s French Island is only accessible by passenger ferry or charter barge service. As a result, off-site prefabrication was the most sensible option for the farmhouse project. Ecoliv delivered the farmhouse in two phases, beginning with site modifications and the installation of waste treatment systems, water collection, photovoltaic power supply, and other important services for comfortable off-grid living. The second stage consisted of off-site prefabrication followed by the installation of the five farmhouse modules that were transported via barge across Victoria’s Westernport Bay. Related: Off-grid home keeps naturally cool in the lush Australian rainforest To provide protection against the site’s harsh winds, the farmhouse is arranged in a courtyard layout to shelter a central outdoor patio closed in with glazing on four sides. The roofs are angled inwards to facilitate water collection , while solar energy is harnessed via photovoltaic panels on the side of the secondary building. The house is elevated off the ground to minimize site disturbance and is clad in steel and Australian hardwood. Large windows overlook a 270-degree view of the sea towards the Bass Strait and the surrounding rolling pastures. + Ecoliv Images via Ecoliv

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Off-grid farmhouse on Australias remote French Island runs on solar energy

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