Sunday, March 21, 2010

Modular highrise apartment buildings

A modular high rise apartment building is under construction in Melbourne. This uses the "Unitised Building" (UB) system developed by Nonda Katsalidis at Fender Katsalidis Architects. Apartment modules are built with a steel structure and fitted out in an offsite factory and stacked to form a building. This is similar to shipping container apartment buildings, such as Laurus Wing of Ursula Hall at the Australian National University. However, the UB system is not restricted by the size and structural limitations of standard shipping containers and so can be used for larger modules stacked much higher.

The Melbourne building is provisionally named "Little Hero apartments" and is at 16-34 Russell Place (architect Fender Katsalidis). While one of the claimed benefits of the UB system is increased height over the shipping container building limit of six floors, the Melbourne building is eight floors high.

A hybrid system could prove useful for combined commercial/residential buildings, as well as student accommodation. This would use traditional construction techniques or specialised modules for the ground and lower commercial floors of a building and then shipping container modules for the apartments above. This would allow for an eight story building.

This would be equally useful for commercial/residential and a university buildings. Commercial retail spaces as well as teaching and catering in a student building would be difficult to accommodate in the small shipping shipping container sized modules.

The current move from teaching in large purpose designed lecture theatres to "blended" teaching using the Internet and small groups could provide particularly useful for modular buildings. The student accommodation in six floors could be located above dual purpose rooms on the lower floors. These rooms would provide teaching spaces as well as entertainment, with the same computer and video education being used for instruction and entertainment.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Demolish Lecture Theatres to make Room for Students

3D rendering of a modular apartment at Laurus Wing, Ursula Hall, ANU by Quicksmart HomesIt is time for Australian universities to demolish their obsolete lecture theatres to make room for modern teaching and student accommodation. In 2006 I suggested we celebrate Canberra's centenary by investigating the construction of low cost, high quality, environmentally efficient modular housing. The ACT Government did not take up this idea, but the Australian National University built a student block from shipping containers, modelled on the Keetwonen project in Amsterdam (as highlighted in my proposal). Other Australian universities are following this lead, but are still short of student accommodation. What campuses do have are old large obsolete lecture theatres, which I suggest be demolished to make room for modern education and accommodation facilities.

Old large lecture theatres are no use for modern educational techniques. These spaces are now mostly empty, as few students attend traditional lectures. New, smaller, computer equipped teaching spaces are needed. There is no efficient way to convert the old lecture theatre buildings to the new use. These buildings should be demolished and replaced with new ones. As well as new smaller teaching spaces, this space can be used for more student accommodation. The distinction between accommodation and teaching building can also be lessened, with more teaching done close to the accommodation (Oxbridge style).

New building can be designed to be easily re-purposed for teaching, administration, commercial space and accommodation. These buildings can be built using environmentally efficient modular techniques and rapidly constructed.

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Pisa University new student accommodation

Residenza Studentesca Praticelli Photo June 25, 2009 by lEtnEoWith their Residenza Studentesca Praticelli Salvatore Re Architects have created new student accommodation for Pisa University with an industrial aesthetic. The end walls of the student wings have a dark louvred surface, looking like enormous shipping containers, complete with shipping numbers stencilled on. However, these are in fact conventionally constructed buildings. This contrasts with the Laurus Wing of Ursula Hall at the Australian National University, which is actually built with shipping container modules, but where the container corrugated walls have been hidden.

Also there appear to be a cultural differences between the Italian and Australian buildings. The Pisa University building provides wings containing single bedrooms for students, with larger apartments only in the end building for "Professors". In contrast the ANU is providing self contained bed-sit apartments for single accommodation and apartments with a bedroom for couples.

Height is another differentiator, with he Pisa building limited to three stories high, whereas the Canberra building is six stories (the maximum height shipping containers are designed to be stacked). Both buildings use the approach of a long accommodation wing with a services core at one end joining the wings and stairways at the other.

The Italian design appears to be for a bespoke building, whereas the Australian design is available in modular form Quicksmart Homes for assembly into student and other accommodation.The next due for completion is at Sydney University Camden campus with accommodation for 150 in 2010/2011.

Labels: , , ,

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Economic and environmentally sustainability of modular buildings

Brendan Baxter commented on my review of the ANU shipping container apartment building. Brendan questions the economic and environmental sustainability of importing building modules manufactured in China. As he notes, an independent life cycle analysis would be useful. One preliminary analysis from the USA shows modular building reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 5%. Transporting modules from China would increase the CO2 emissions, but not by much, as they are sent by ship, which is relatively efficient.

The Michigan study is for a wooden frame single family dwelling, which is very different from ANU's steel frame 70 apartment block, but some factors are similar. A modular building requires more materials in each module, as they have to be strong enough to be transported. This applies particularly with shipping container modules, which are required to meet railway safety requirements for strength as well as being able to support the weight of five loaded containers on a ship. The result is that a building built from containers is very much stronger than required, with much more steel used than needed for a conventional building. This gives locally made building modules, made for transport by truck, an energy advantage.
A 1,456 ft2 modular home and conventional site built home in Benton Harbor, Michigan are analyzed to examine how the different construction and design methods of two types of housing influence environmental impact over their 50 year life span. The chosen modular home is fabricated by Redman Homes in Topeka, Indiana and transported to the building site. The conventional home is modeled after the modular home in collaboration with Douglas Construction Company. Many assumptions and simplification were made due to data gaps, so results represent preliminary estimates. The total amount of the materials placed in the conventional home is 9% less than the amount of the modular
home because the modular home is framed with larger 2X6 studs and requires additional structural components. The conventional home produces 2.5 times more construction wastes than the modular home. The lesser material consumption of the conventional home is offset by a larger amount of waste generation. The building use phase dominates more than 93% of the life cycle energy consumption and over 95% of the total greenhouse gas emissions for both homes. The total life cycle energy consumption for modular home is 5%
less than the conventional site home. The total global warming potential for the modular home is 5% less than the conventional site built home. The use phase energy consumption and greenhouse gas emission differences are attributed to the expected higher air tightness (0.194 ACH) of the modular home over the conventional home. The conventional home was modeled with 80% lower air tightness (0.35 ACH) than the modular home, which results in 7% more of the natural gas consumption over its service life. The modular home requires additional transportation energy compared to the conventional home for
delivering the fabricated modular home to the site. However, 4~5 days of the modular home’s short fabrication cycle time allows the modular home to significantly reduce the employee’s transportation energy compared to that of the conventional home.

From: Preliminary Life Cycle Analysis of Modular and Conventional Housing in Benton Harbor, Michigan, Doyoon Kim, University of Michigan, 2008
The road transport part of the energy budget for the modules is likely to be higher, where a truck is used. But If transported on land by rail, rather then by road, the energy use would also be low. Also the manufacture of modular buildings benefits from economies of scale. Large shipments of materials to a factory are more efficient than small deliveries to scattered building sites. Of course greater environmental efficiencies could be achieved by using local materials from the site for building, but this is not commonly done in Australia.

Buying imported buildings at the same time as the Government is attempting stimulate the local construction industry is an interesting issue. The building industry has previously not had to face overseas competition, but now has to with modular building. My view is that the government should support the development of an Australian modular building industry which can compete on price and environmental sustainability. Australians should be able to buy locally made modular buildings. Subsidising the building industry is not a viable long term strategy, as subsidies for the car industry have shown. When in Tasmania a few months ago I suggested development of hi-tech wood modular buildings.

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Shipping container apartment open for inspection in Canberra

3D rendering of a modular apartment at Laurus Wing, Ursula Hall, ANU by Quicksmart HomesOne of the studio units in the Australian National University's new shipping container apartment building is open for inspection by staff, students and members of the ANU community on weekdays between 12-1.30pm. It is at the corner of Dickson and Daley Roads, Acton. This will be known as the Laurus Wing of Ursula Hall and is made from ISO standard forty foot shipping container modules fitted out in China and stacked to form a building. The modules are from Quicksmart Homes

Artist Impression of Laurus Wing, Ursula Hall, ANUThe building is in some ways a realisation of the concept of Le Corbusier, with his Unité d'Habitation. This was intended to be a modular steel frame building, with each apartment a slotted in module, but post-war material restrictions resulted in it being constructed on-site from concrete. With the provision of communal facilities in the building, the Laurus Wing also has some of the social aspects of the Unite d'habitation.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Shipping Container Apartment Building in Canberra

Containerised apartment module ready to be lifted into position at ANUThe Australian National University is building Australia's first shipping container apartment building. This ANU Modular Student Accommodation is being constructed at ANU's Canberra campus. This will be known as the Laurus Wing of Ursula Hall and is due to open in 2010. The modules are from Quicksmart Homes.

The building is being made from 75 ISO standard forty foot shipping container modules (in the jargon this is 150 TFUs). These are being stacked five high to make 70 self contained apartments.

The construction is processing at a rapid pace, with modules arriving by truck and being lifted into place by a crane. On the day I took some photos there was only one container on the top level of the building, but by the following day another four apartments had been added.

3D rendering of a modular apartment at Laurus Wing, Ursula Hall, ANU by Quicksmart HomesThe building has a simple design, with a concrete stairwell at one end and a rectangular stack of containers next to this. The modules come in two basic designs, each using a forty foot container. One design is fitted with a kitchen and bathroom. This is used on its own to make a "Single Studio" apartment. To this can be added a second container with two bedrooms.

Each container has a balcony at each end. These appear to have multiple functions. The balconies provide extra space and shade the apartment from the sun. The balconies also appear to be the method of access to the apartments. In addition, by having the windows and doors recessed inside the balcony, this protects them during transport.

Artist Impression of Laurus Wing, Ursula Hall, ANU by Quicksmart HomesAll the containers are painted a light grey, off-white. The sides are standard ribbed steel (these sides will be hidden in the building). The artists impressions of the building shows coloured panels on the balcony railings, but these panels appear to have yet to be fitted (perhaps to protect them form damage in shipping). If built as per the rendering, the building will look much better than the best known shipping container housing, which is the Dutch Keetwonen project.

The apartments appear to be well appointed. One inclusion which I don't think is needed, is a wall mounted flat screen TV. A better option would be to offer the student a desktop unit which could function as a TV and as their computer monitor.

Prefabricated offices being built at ANUThe ANU is also constructing some offices using more conventional prefabrication techniques. Compared to the shipping container apartments, which show flare and daring, the prefabricated buildings look very dull and detract from the image of the campus.

Labels: , , , , , , ,