Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A Design Review

By Cray Shellenbarger

The earthquake in Haiti has reminded the design community of its responsibility in the relief efforts of governments. Competitions have come up since then on many levels from the professional to architecture studios. One particular solution for this issue really stands out was submitted by NC Offices in Miami, Fl. It does this because it is a very feasible solution and it references the traditional Japanese tea house.

The basic design was based on four eight by eight modular system. The electric, plumbing and other utilities are condensed in the core of the design to minimize travel distance. The goal is to provide a sustainable building method that will allow for repeated construction in order to established small self sustaining communities. The core contains a 1 kw photovoltaic system and the cistern for rain collection. The design also utilizes composting toilets. The architect designed the frame of the module to withstand lateral earthquake and wind loads. It is a rigid box frame with four inch by four inch H beams for the vertical and horizontal structural units.

The system closely resembles the Japanese tea house design. The modularity of it reminds one of the huts laid out according to the dimensions of the tatami mats. The light walls made from Magnum Boards allow for sliding panels for cross ventilation. This is also resembles the Japanese tea house in the cross section of the wall. The frame of the structure is accented by light wall construction with low and high openings to promote cross ventilation. Each structure is built upon masonry walls to allow the building to conform to any topography.

As designers, we should look at more of these types of designs. It is imperative that designers use their specialized skills to help those in need. Architects must combine their understanding of big picture issues with a detail oriented work ethic to solve these types of problems.

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