Modularity

All the systems of the prototype house are designed to be modular. The design follows the principle of “the independence of systems”, where each independent system is developed as a kit of exchangeable parts. The components and the software of each system can be substituted in future time, by new components and updates.

Both the above two kinds of modularity enable the flexible rearrangement of systems and turn the house into a superb test-bed on connectivity and sustainability.

The spatial arrangement of the house is organized in spatial modules that can be combined in alternative ways, depending on the desired utilities. The current version of the prototype is a minimal configuration of three spatial modules accommodating basic house utilities such as living, sleeping and eating. There is a provision for expanding up to seven modules.

The house modules were produced in collaboration with IVALSA (Trees & Timber Institute of Italy). They are prefabricated and transported to the dedicated site for assembly. Beyond modularity and transportability, a parallel consideration was to reduce the construction time and to ensure the efficiency of the assembly process.

The dimensions of each module were studied to fit in a standard shipping container. The house can be assembled at any selected site in alternate configurations.

The envelope of the house is partitioned in base modules and house modules. Each base module functions as the foundation of a house module. The base modules are massive containers made out of wood. The base includes 3 transportable modules and 2 side components. They insulate the house interior, they conserve thermal energy and they transfer the loads of the structure to the ground. The structural material of the base is cross-laminated (X-Lam) panel and the side components are constructed with Glulam GL28 class.

Each house module is approached as a structurally independent, self-standing box, with its sides oriented towards north, south, east and west, respectively. Each box is open from south, west and east, and it is closed from north, top and bottom. For the structural components of each module (floor, north wall and roof) are used three X-Lam panels of different thickness.

A typical house module includes active and passive parts, such as: a 4 x 3 matrix of dynamic windows and their control boxes and wiring, a passive envelope and base component made out of X-Lam wood panels and insulation, and an energy production component involving solar collectors and PV panels.

Also, there are 7 energy production modules in the house, including 2 solar panels per house module. House modules also include the connections between thermal collectors and the Energy Box.

Connection tubes are spread to facilitate the air circulation to/from the building, and are dimensioned to avoid pressure drops in the air distribution. Their junctions are designed to facilitate easy assembly and dis-assembly.

An array of approximately 8 sensors per module is appropriately distributed in each module. Interior/exterior temperature, humidity, illuminance, and motion data are transmitted to the autonomous control system of the house.

The assembly of the X-Lam structure in the modular system was especially designed: The structural requirements of transportability include the safe lifting of the individual modules and their maneuvering into a position. The system remains invisible and available to be reused every time the house is disassembled from a specific location, in order to be transported and reassembled into a different location.

The lifting of the modules is secured by the insertion of threaded bars. The bars are inserted into the roof through four threaded holes and are attached to the X-Lam floor panel. The system was designed to follow the interior perimeter of the module to facilitate the tiling of modules and to prevent the “blocking” of the boards at the contact points of adjacent modules.

Reference
Kotsopoulos, SD, Farina, C, Casalegno, F, Briani, A, Simeone, P, Bindinelli, R, Pasetto, G, 2012, “A Building System for Connected Sustainability”, Proceedings of the World Conference on Timber Engineering (WCTE2012), University of Auckland, New Zealand Timber Design Society, pp. 270-279.

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