Innovative Residential Building Designs
The way we construct our homes is changing. The buildings we live in need to not only look good but also work hard to have a positive – or at least neutral – impact on their environment.
This home by London-based Vine Architecture Studio is an example of a fabric-first approach. Using craftily repurposed materials, it enables a new visual permeability while incorporating renewable technology.
1. Automated Architecture’s Robot-Fabricated Home Extension
A home is the cornerstone of our existence, a sanctuary where we find rest and relief from the outside world. It is where we feel most ourselves, where we can be our most authentic selves and share intimate moments with family and friends. That is why it is important that residential building designs strike a delicate balance between function and aesthetics. They must be spacious and comfortable, but also fit into their natural surroundings in a harmonious symbiosis. This year’s iF Design Award jury was impressed by innovative ideas for residential buildings that achieve this kind of symbiosis with nature. Clear structures, strong lines, and balanced color concepts characterize these impressive concepts.
This sustainable residential building was designed for a family of musicians, who required extra space for their cellist and double bassist to practice and play. The designers created a modular system of timber elements that can be easily assembled to form a versatile extension of the existing house. The solution is easy to transport and assemble, reduces construction time, construction waste, and pollution, and is highly customizable to suit different sites and needs.
This project uses a computational design tool to provide users with the ability to interact with an architecturally embedded robotic system for in situ spatial reconfiguration. It explores the need for design at both the production and building operation level, arguing that architectural fabrication systems must be architecture specific and informed by structural, environmental, assembly, and operational considerations.
2. SOM’s Shenzhen Rural Commercial Bank Headquarters
The design of buildings should be a balance of functionality and aesthetics. Ultimately, a building’s best design is one that seamlessly integrates with its surrounding natural environment – a concept demonstrated in these innovative residential designs that won the 2021 iF Design Awards. Designed by SOM, this Shenzhen tower features a diagrid structure that blends with the surrounding landscape like a living extension of the building itself.
The architects of this Shenzhen project drew inspiration from feng shui, an ancient Chinese philosophy that incorporates the principles of water and air into the design of buildings. This is evident in the multistory water wall at the building’s main entrance, the undulating striations of marble that clad the elevator core, and the mixed-mode natural ventilation system. The vertical atria that span the height of the building allow for fresh air to be circulated to the office spaces and common areas, and employees can control their own access to these vents with louvres on each floor.
SOM’s external steel diagrid resembles an exoskeleton, and it serves as both a structural support for the column-free offices inside and a solar shading element that reduces glare by 34 percent. At the base, the diagrid widens to frame views of a nearby public park and Shenzhen Bay.
Sustainable practices were an essential part of this design from the beginning, with a focus on reducing embodied carbon, minimizing energy consumption, and using locally-sourced materials. The diagrid’s structural optimization reduced the use of steel and stone, while an integrated SFCU system and a “breathing” facade helped the structure consume 19% less energy than comparable structures. The architects also incorporated an acoustic screen to limit noise pollution.
3. Paper Igloo’s Passivhaus Home in Kippen
Mhairi Grant and Martin McCrae, of Paper Igloo Architecture, designed this self-build home to be Passivhaus certified. It is clad in Siberian larch and set within the historical conservation village of Kippen, near Stirling. This ’box in a box’ timber frame design was built over the course of several years on a modest budget. It is a stunning example of an innovative low-energy residential building design that works. It produces just 0.8 tonnes of CO2 per year, which is considerably less than the average UK house.
The house was built by the couple as their personal project, but it is also a case study to demonstrate how the Passivhaus standard can be applied to traditional houses. It is also on the shortlist for Scotland’s RIBA House of the Year 2022.
The Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS) shortlist includes 14 projects from across the country. The other nominees include Reiach and Hall’s Glencoe Base Station, The Den at Tighnabruaich by Techinique Architecture and Design in partnership with Stallan-Brand, Konishi Gaffney’s MVHR-enhanced home in Glasgow, Moxon Architects’ Ostro Passivhaus in Kippen, and more. The winner will be announced on Channel 4’s Grand Designs next month. The winner will be eligible to receive the RIAS Andrew Doolan Best Building in Scotland Award and will be considered for the RIBA National Awards.
4. Harvard’s Science and Engineering Complex
Harvard’s 500,000-square-foot Science and Engineering Complex (SEC) sits just across the Charles River from its Cambridge campus in Boston’s Allston neighborhood. Its innovative high-performance facade and generous approach to collaborative spaces foster the translational innovation of its researchers, who work on visionary projects including flying and swimming microbots, wearable robotics, data privacy tools and novel drug delivery platforms.
Designed to be a “vertical version of Harvard Yard,” the SEC is surrounded by two glazed, multi-story atria that serve as a social hub for faculty and students. The atria are clad in a layered facade that calibrates the scale of the research boxes beneath, creates an identity for the complex and plays a critical role in its energy performance and occupant comfort. The lower floors of the SEC contain large, open laboratories where researchers can collaborate in teams to design, test and refine their inventions. Each laboratory is paired with an open studio for teaching and discussion, further promoting collaboration among researchers.
To achieve its ambitious sustainability goals, the team at Behnisch incorporated water-based heating and cooling systems that use one-third of the energy of air-driven alternatives, a large, double-glazed, sun-shading façade that reduces solar gain at glazed openings, a green roof and five acres of vegetated terraces. The SEC’s atria also feature commissioned art installations by Brooklyn-based artist collective BREAKFAST, including their signature Flip-Discs, which serve as electromagnets to capture and replay thousands of interactions between passersby.
In addition to being ranked the healthiest building on Harvard’s campus, the SEC is LEED Platinum and has earned Living Building Challenge (LBC) Petal certification in the categories of Beauty, Health, and Equity, demonstrating that it can be used as a model for other buildings to achieve LBC’s rigorous requirements for healthier materials free of harmful chemicals.
5. Hilda Solis Care First Village
The Hilda Solis Care First Village (formerly known as the Vignes Street Interim Housing Project) provides 232 housing units and onsite services for people who are experiencing homelessness or are transitioning out of the homeless population in Los Angeles, California. The site was formerly a parking lot, and the campus is located on four acres near Union Station, the city’s main public transportation hub.
Solis’ office partnered with the County of Los Angeles Department of Public Works to choose Bernards, a local employee-owned construction management company, and NAC Architecture, a local design firm, to build the HSCFV campus. They used a component-based approach to deliver the project on an accelerated schedule. The 132-bed residential buildings consist of three story shipping container homes that are assembled back-to-back for a continuous length without expansion joints. Each of the structures is insulated and fitted with individual heating and cooling systems to provide residents with comfort in harsh LA weather conditions.
Unlike previous projects that use bunk-style arrangements to accommodate multiple people in a single space, the CSCFV structures were designed to include private bedrooms for each occupant. NAC worked closely with the building team to ensure that the designs were implemented in an efficient way, which reduced overall cost while allowing for each resident to enjoy some privacy and personal space.
The CSCFV is named after Los Angeles County Supervisor and Board of Supervisors Chair Hilda Solis, who was raised in the community of La Puente and served in Congress from 2013 to 2021. Solis is an outspoken advocate for women’s issues, LGBTQ rights, and the environment. She has lobbied to get the Exide battery plant cleaned up and has spoken out against gentrification in downtown LA.