A better home adapts to needs and functions over decades, thereby maximising its value over time. An 'open-ended' design creates capacity for a home to endure change, should change be required. So 'better' refers to housing that not only does more with less, but also provides opportunity for adaptation.
Less effort is required when a house has built-in capacity to change – as well as fewer materials, construction, maintenance and living costs. Questioning popular building methods involves looking at design and construction processes slightly differently to find innovative contemporary materials that achieve our goals for a better home.
Stand 47 results from a collaborative process between professionals and businesses that have embraced the concept of building a better home over the period of two years (from the initial idea to the complete building). The contributions of the following collaborators have been invaluable:
The development and construction of Stand 47 received direct input from Saint-Gobain South Africa's marketing and technical teams. Saint-Gobain's hi-tech products used with Light Steel construction provide a real-life example of a better house built using contemporary materials that are energy efficient, and increase health, comfort, safety, flexibility and environmental protection. Saint-Gobain materials perform as well and at times better than traditional brick-and-mortar construction and also fully integrate with brick buildings (inside and out), and so form a viable housing alternative in the high-end South African market.
The New Order is an agency that accelerates consumer adoption of new and innovative products. This Design-led business initiated the project, selected the various project partners and oversees all design, content and communication components of the initiative.
Our view is that modern-day building constraints combined with contemporary construction materials and technology available demands a review of the traditional process applied to building a modern-day home. We therefore devised a 4 Step process to guide the development of Stand 47 consisting of:
The purpose of this step is developing an architectural brief with a detailed accommodation schedule to guide the entire process. For a house to be designed in a considered manner, one must first know how it must work before thinking about how it will look. Knowing how it must work begins by setting up an accommodation schedule that lists the rooms and functions required.
The absence of a 'real' family meant that Stand 47's accommodation schedule had to consider the potential needs of a 'question-mark' family. This uncertainty informed how uses fit together to make the house comfortable and adaptable in future; functional service areas are fixed in service zones, while living areas remain adaptable in living spaces. The objectives can be summarised as:
1] Internal rooms evolve easily overtime without compromising the outer shell of the house or its architectural integrity with the possibility for multi-purpose uses.
2] Fixed services (service zone): kitchen, scullery, bathrooms, garages, domestic quarters, and storerooms. Flexible spaces (living spaces): Living areas, bedrooms, study, patios, and corridors. While lifestyles evolve, needs satisfied by the service zone undergo less radical changes, so the 'living spaces' must adapt to change more easily.
The house incorporates the best-suited contemporary technologies to create a state-of-the-art home that has capacity to adapt to change, while still feel homely.
The purpose of this step is to create an architectural design concept that builds on a clear accommodation schedule and brief to direct the decision-making involved in resolving and detailing a building. Design requires constant adjustments to technical necessities by exploring possibilities before construction, and in Stand 47 design materialises in the concept of 'building better by doing more with less'.
Stand 47's site inspires a design sensitivity toward the landscape by incorporating views, working with the slope, integrating passive strategies for orientation, ventilation, light and thermal comfort, acoustics and water harvesting. It also incorporates principles from the Modern Movement and the Transvaal Regionalists of the mid-1900s that illustrated a contextual sensitivity to site while adopting contemporary materials and technology. The layout consists of two distinct zones; a fixed service area and a flexible living area.
Generating the sketch plan, sections and elevations from the accommodation schedule, site analysis, precedent study and functional layout, provides the architectural quality and spatial character of the house. It is not primarily about 'looks'. Stand 47's design qualities include flexibility (fixed outer shell), fixed versus flexible zones (adaptable internal walls freeing up living space), planes (continuous floor and ceiling planes to create the possibility to reposition the internal drywalls), grid (a 900mm x 900mm module making repositioning of internal walls easier), skin (the roof and solar screens), contrast (through zones, structure, and transparency).
Stand 47's design emerges from a process that always refers back to Step 1's Fixed vs. Flexible approach, to do more with less. The design also incorporates hi-tech functionality and contemporary building strategies and technologies without losing the feeling of 'home' by using organic materials, connections to nature and references to traditional design.
The purpose of this step is to adjust the sketch design to material requirements, structural integrity and technical feedback received from the quantity surveyor and structural engineer, while keeping to the accommodation schedule and concept. After a few design iterations, documentation is finalised and the approval processes begin at the various regulatory bodies (estate committees and municipal councils).
Contemporary materials, systems and technologies that meet the objectives of Step 1 and Step 2 are analysed for their impacts on the design. These adjustments are reflected either in layout changes or technical detailing. Stand 47's specification process refined technical requirements based on the best contemporary options available (such as building systems from Saint-Gobain) to meet the state-of-the-art deliverable that is the vision for Stand 47. Cost projections generated by the quantity surveyor and feedback regarding product performance, alternatives or requirements and alternative energy solutions influence design refinement. Decisions are also often informed by building costs versus the escalating long-term operational costs and energy savings at this point.Selected state-of-the-art materials and products that influenced the design were:
Light Steel frame construction (and subsequent 'training' of municipal staff)
Saint-Gobain drywall and ceiling systems
Saint-Gobain Insulation systems in the walls, ceiling and floor
Symbiosis of 'organic' homely materials versus hi-tech materials
Integration of Solar PV power
Approval from the local municipal council for light-steel
The purpose of the fourth and final step is to monitor the construction process on site, to work out unexpected issues that might arise from specification or unknown site conditions and to manage timelines and costs. It begins after building plans are approved after which the tender process is opened to interested or selected contractors. The tender closes when the main contractor is appointed based on their tender submission. Stand 47's high quality materials and vision required that the contractor emulate this excellence in workmanship and construction experience. Collaboration and regular meetings with the contractor and subcontractors, QS, architects, and clients ensure that building work is well monitored, inspected, adapted and executed as per updated drawings to ensure quality control.
The construction process at Stand 47 is guided by the objectives of the preceding three steps. In addition, the decision to document the construction process has formed an archive of valuable lessons, which can guide similar projects and also contribute toward creating a network of like-minded individuals that can build better using contemporary housing solutions in South Africa.
Some of areas where the focus lay on building better were:
If you are considering building a new home or adding to a home, we recommend that you get in touch with a SACAP registered architect who will help you understand your needs and can explain the detailed benefits of building with Saint-Gobain drywalling systems. They will also be able to advise you on a contractor.
SASFA, the South African Steel Frame Association provides a list of their members who provide services in the light steel frame sector.
We recommend Thomashoff + Partner Architects, who were the chosen architects at Stand 47, if you are in Gauteng.
If you are located elsewhere in South Africa, the South African Institute of Architects will list professional architects in your area.
For information on contractors who are able to install Saint-Gobain building systems, please contact the South African Building Interior Systems Association