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January 20 2016
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PDD

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Green, skinny and a bit spaced out – the future of homes

For the first time in history, more people live in cities than outside them. Rapid urbanisation, resource scarcity and key climatic changes are adding to the pressure on policy makers and those tasked with designing, planning and constructing urban environments. At the same time, a growing number of consumers are coming to demand and expect to live and work in spaces that are not just good for their health and happiness, but are also energy efficient and respectful of the environment.

Also known as sustainable or high-performance building, a green building is one that minimises energy use during design, construction, operation and demolition, and – as well as increasing in popularity – green building is also becoming more affordable. In the US, TIME magazine reported that the recession has spurred a rise in modular construction – also known as offsite and prefabricated (prefab) homes – a trend that is growing globally.

Modular buildings are manufactured in factories and then assembled on location. Almost all modular buildings are made with recycled or recyclable materials like recycled metal, glass and wood. Compared to on-site production, prefabs are cheaper and more environmentally friendly to construct – thanks to generating less waste and traffic (i.e. transportation of material and equipment to the site). Generally, they are also more energy efficient to run.

Skinny house movement
Japanese retailer, Muji, has shown the building industry how to do stylish prefab homes for the super-sized city. Designed to fit into tight built-up spaces, the slimline, three-storey Vertical House is built in Tokyo – the world’s most populated urban area. The house has large north-facing windows and no interior walls or doors, effectively making the small areas seem larger. Available in seven variations, the Vertical House costs about 19,170,000 yen (€140, 500). Granted, with limited land available, the cost of a plot will probably cost close to an arm and two legs but even so – with the way house prices are going in London – I wouldn’t be surprised if Muji’s prefab still managed to come in cheaper than a one-bed flat in Hackney.


Muji’s Vertical House – Tokyo, Japan

Make mine a mothership
Whereas prefabs of old don’t always have the best reputation – in the UK their image is associated with “cheap bulk manufacturing, mobile homes, and Portaloos” – contemporary eco-efficient versions are winning over fans of modern architecture. A cheaper alternative to architect-designed homes, modular buildings win bonus points for the customisation opportunities proffered. For an impressive example of personalised prefab for 2015 and beyond, check out the Spaceship House in Madrid. Featured in Dwell homes magazine, the metal-clad structure is described as an amalgamation of “sustainable building design, smart home technology, and the vision of its owner, a die-hard science-fiction fan.”


The Spaceship House – Madrid, Spain. Image credit: Meritxell Arjalaguer

To perfect the Spaceship House design, the architects reportedly studied real spacecrafts (about as close an encounter as you can get for a people-centred researcher :)) and worked with technology specialists to create the home’s hi-tech hub. This futuristic-looking control panel (see below) is where a host of in-house utilities and devices are managed. With touch-screen buttons for the regulating of water and air temperature; adjusting of sound and lighting, plus security systems operation, housekeeping really doesn’t get any smarter than this.

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Posted by PDD
@pddinnovation

Languages spoken: Global.
The last thing that inspired me: Design and Innovation.
My dream project: A project that makes a difference in the world.
My obsession: Develop successful, award-winning and world-first products and experiences.

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