Modular living

Another one of Marmol Radziner Prefab prototype homes in Desert Hot Springs, California.

We enjoy the open frame that shelters living spaces and the prefabricated
factory building technology that uses modular steel frame units.

Simple & versatile

We like the simple, elegant versatility of this little house in the country. 
Check out Sommerhaus Piu…

More on Inhabitat.

Design co-ordination meeting

As part of the design process that makes up the bulk of Step 2, the architects met with Saint-Gobain to discuss co-ordination of the design specification and detailing for Stand 47. The team at Saint-Gobain elaborated on options and design solutions for the products that have been specified, with particular reference to acoustic and thermal properties, ceiling finishes, internal walls and external wall waterproofing, as well as a number of service solutions including for example, the use of PV Panels to generate some energy for the home. The Saint-Gobain team are now reviewing the architect’s design, while maintaining the core ethos of innovation and efficiency in mind.

Porch house – adaptable design

We like the Lake Flato Porch House concept. A new way of thinking, designing and building for residential clients.

We have entered step 2, the design phase of Stand 47!

Stand 47 has been created from a strong architectural concept that has been built on a clear accommodation schedule and brief. Together, they direct all future decision-making on the project relating to design, technology and detailing, especially when doubts arise about the success of the transformation of these intangible ideas into a well resolved building.

Our design process (like any process) is an iterative one of constant adjustment to technical requirements, further research, refinement and evaluation of the design in relation to Step 1 and those that follow. Innovative efficiency is the concept that underlies our design exploration, and in this section we follow the design process that has been used to tie together the ideas which have generated the architecture of Stand 47.

Step 2 – design principles

1] Begin by conducting a site analysis that notes the prominent views from the site as well was toward it, considering the slope, vegetation and other noticeable landscape features such as rocky outcrops or rainwater catchments, as well as orientation, light, thermal comfort, acoustics and security. Understanding the opportunities of the site further crystallises the design concept.
2] Investigating design precedents can be an important and inspiring reference to drive the initial design process. When conducting a precedent study, the focus lies in understanding the thinking behind the design while looking for clues that explain why certain design decisions were taken. It is not useful to concentrate on aesthetics at this stage.
3] Following a precedent study, creating a functional design layout that caters for the requirements set out in the accommodation schedule and brief forms the primary, mostly pragmatic, iteration of the design on plan. This layout is tempered by the constraints and features identified during the site analysis.
4] Develop the design further on section and elevation by producing various sketch plan iterations that hone in on the requirements of the accommodation schedule, brief, and site analysis so that an architectural response created is spatially rich, tectonically strong and conceptually clear.

Step 2 – design options

1] Stand 47’s site analysis requires a deep sensitivity to the landscape, not only because of the ethos of the estate’s development goals, but also because of the requirements that were set up in the accommodation schedule and brief. The challenge is to design a home that can be tucked into the landscape quietly, without disappearing into it; it has to maintain a sophisticated simplicity and elegance. The innovation and efficiency concept had to extend to the way that the site would be developed in order to add experiential and functional value while not degrading or destroying its natural qualities.
View: The site has two prominent views toward the valleys at Monaghan Farm; East and North. Maximising the visual connection to the distant hills of the Magaliesberg forms a primary design consideration for the design.  It is framed to the South by a row of mature trees, and needs to be visually sheltered from neighbouring properties on the West. Being sunk into the ground, the single storey scale of the building maintains clear views over it, if viewed from the surroundings and enhances privacy levels. The garage and storerooms are also set back in order to maintain views from the living room to the valley South-East of the house. In addition, views through the house form an important element of the architectural quality. A clerestory running along the length of the building provides glimpses to the row of trees along the Southern site boundary, while the kitchen window (window sill height matching the external ground level) opens up directly to the herb garden, transitioning the view from an intangible visual reference, to a tangible haptic experience. Within the living room, 270° views are provided; however, the concern is to frame and direct views by means of carefully placed walls and architectural elements.

Slope: The placement of the house has been influenced by the slope of the site. A three meter drop falling toward the East made it possible to “sink” the house into the ground on level with its lowest point, thereby increasing privacy, maintaining views and also allowing for the house to be built on a single plane, without level differences. Street access is from the East and has required careful placement of garages so as not to obstruct the view toward the South-East. From this point, the buildings extend West, giving the main house full Northern orientation, while shielded it from the elements and overlooking. 

Orientation, Light and Thermal Comfort: Our efficiency approach limits the need for mechanical systems to heat, cool or light the house. Therefore we adopted passive principles for shading that use large overhangs determined by sun angles, as well as solar screens on the East and West to improve the thermal comfort seasonally, especially with regard to early morning and late afternoon sun. The screens and overhangs also allow for large glazed openings to be designed on the North and East. Diffused Southern light is captured into the central passages and service areas by means of continuous clerestory windows. Cross ventilation has also been facilitated, to limit the need for air conditioning during summer months.

 The innovation and efficiency concept led to the exploration of lightweight building construction, but in this case noise pollution through the building is a sensitive aspect that is usually perceived to be a weak point in residential applications. 

Water harvesting: As part of the estate building guidelines, each home is required to harvest rainwater. In light of this, a mono pitch roof running along the full length of the house offers an opportunity to harvest a significant amount of rainwater.

2] Initially, our design was generated from an interpretation of the conceptual manifesto, which was supported by analysing precedents, largely from the Modern Movement and the Transvaal Regionalists of the mid-1900s. This led the architect to found her design ideas on a contextual sensitivity to the home and site, yet with a strong contemporary response reflecting innovative use of available materials and technologies. The design was initiated on the drawing board and not on computer, so that a tangible exploration of the concept could develop from the start. Working on paper at first, has allowed the architect to be exposed to the full extent of the project at all times; an important aspect that is lost in computer aided design.
3] Following from the clear directive in the accommodation schedule, our functional design layout consists of two distinct zones; a fixed service area and a flexible living area. These areas are reflected on plan; the fixed services are connected and share infrastructure along the southern edge of the linear main dwelling structure, while the flexible living areas are connected to the service area but are all North-facing. The storerooms and garages are placed on the Southern edge of the site as support structures for the fixed service area and also as anchors in the landscape. The strategy to sink the buildings into the ground ensures a greater degree of privacy afforded by a gently sloping site, maintaining the liberating spacious feeling that comes from farm-living and identified in the site analysis. 
4] Generating the sketch plan, sections and elevations from the accommodation schedule, site analysis, precedent study and functional layout, provides an important next layer of the design and forms the backbone of the spatial character of the house and the architectural quality. Here we have to take a design that may function well, like a machine, and turn it into a careful considered architectural response that includes sensory experience, spatial intrigue and delights the user. To achieve this, these have been some of our design considerations:

Flexibility: Our approach to flexibility requires a construction system that can accommodate change in ways that typical brick-and-mortar buildings cannot do as easily as lightweight steel construction can. In this scenario, dry walling can improve the internal flexibility of the design of Stand 47 when its internal walls are move to adapt the size and number of rooms.

Zones: Our design has two clear zones: a Fixed Service area and a Flexible Living area. The Fixed Service area is located along the South, with the Flexible Living areas located along the North in order to benefit from the maximum amount of natural lighting, views and thermal comfort. The section also reflects the different zones through spatial articulation of the roofs. A flat roof runs along the length of the fixed service area and reflects the heaviness of this program. In contrast, above the flexible living areas, lies a lightweight mono-pitch roof that frames the potential internal adaptations.  

Planes: The fixed floor and ceiling planes anchor the flexible walls in the Flexible Living area. Designed as continuous elements that run through the length of the building, tying the spaces together, they create the possibility to reposition the internal walls of the living space without having to damage the floor or ceiling. The ceiling runs parallel to the roof and its void contains service zones containing electrical conduits in the centre of each grid, further enhancing the adaptability of the internal layout and building in flexibility to accommodate for future changes in technology. The ceiling plane extends beyond the interior and continues as a large overhang that creates a threshold between building and landscape.  

Grid: Our design uses a structuring grid of 900mm x 900mm, based on the dimensions of standard doors and windows. With dry walling placed along grid-lines, the  grid structures internal layout configurations and adaptations to allow for maximum flexibility in future, while maintaining the architectural integrity of the building as well as its internal functioning.

Skin: The roof consists of S-profile sheeting (as per the estate guidelines), and has a 10° pitch sloping down toward the North. This also allows for the placement of a continuous strip of Photo Voltaic panels running along the length of the building. Spatially, roof pitch sloping down toward North brings the scale of the building down, closer to the landscape; a more modest response to the surroundings. Due to new energy efficiency requirements in the new SANS regulations, our design needs to meet energy efficiency regulations while still addressing the accommodation schedule’s needs. Various façade investigations resulted in the design of vertical slat side screens that act like a second skin protecting the building from solar gain on the East and West. They are perpendicular to the roof, thereby adding a further degree of spatial interest and intrigued to the building facades and edges.

Contrast: A number of contrasts exist in the design. Firstly, the contrast between fixed services and flexible living areas; this is further reflected in the contrast between roofs where the flat roof above the services is contrasted by a sloping roof over the living areas with a clerestory between them giving the impression of a floating roof. A second contrast is found in the landscape as it is moulded to merge with the architecture; here the heavy and solid landscape walls are rounded and clad with stone, and as they reach the building, they anchor the space from which the lightweight ‘manmade’ structure emerges. A final contrast occurs in the facades of the Southern and Northern elevation; the to the North, large glazed sections form part of the living room areas while the bedrooms frame views with windows and doors, while to the South the façade is more restrained and simple, with fewer openings.  

Step 2 – design solutions and conclusions

Our design solution has been generated from a process of transforming the accommodation schedule, brief and design concept into a number of workable design principles. These then generate a functional layout plan that always refers back to the Fixed vs. Flexible approach, and also ensures that the functionality of the home works well with the building strategies and technologies that are available. Although somewhat counter-intuitive, flexibility relies on a few rules and principles that can anchor and guide a number of variations which are sure to work; completely unguided flexibility can result in a breakdown of the integrity of the building.
1. Generate a clear concept that answers the needs of the accommodation schedule, while enhancing the qualities of the brief.
2. Conduct an extensive and detailed site survey 
3. Learn from others – find precedents that have similar constraints and aims and see what you can adapt.
4. Compose a few clear design strategies. 
5. Mould the design strategies into a plan, section and elevation that continuously answer to the needs of the accommodation schedule and design intent, until the most appropriate solution is generated. The aesthetic is derived from this process and becomes an authentic design solution. 
6. Begin to identify the quantity surveyor and engineer who can evolve the design further in the specification step.