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house of the future

design concept
the clay house of the future uses clay bricks and pavers in a courtyard plan to create a very private house, that can fit to a small land area, and have very high level of thermal comfort. the mass of the clay products increases the thermal efficiency of the house, making it warmer in winter and cooler in summer, without using artificial heating or air conditioning.

clay as a material
clay bricks and tiles offer 4 great advantages that make them ideal for the house of the future: durability, security, mass and acoustic control. bricks and tiles are solid and long lasting and provide an ideal walling for a courtyard house as they offer great security at the perimeter and excellent sound isolation. on the interior they provide thermal mass which means they can store the warmth of the winter sun for cooler periods and in summer they can be cooled by breezes, particularly at night, so they can store coolth to offset the heat of the day. a conventional cavity brick wall will perform better than most other forms of construction, and the house of the future, with it’s insulated cavity and tile external skin, will outperform even the traditional cavity brick.

the inside out upside down house
this house uses clay products in a very different way to current house construction. unlike a a conventional house which has a timber frame with a decorative veneer of brickwork and a tiled roof, this house has the bricks on the inside as the structure and puts the clay tiles on the floor and external walls. this puts the thermal mass on the inside where it can do most good and allows for it to be insulated behind the external wall tiles. it also increases the loadbearing strength of the house allowing it to have a roof garden, (or a roof of any shape).

the plan: a solarium courtyard
the house is centred around a “solarium courtyard”, an indoor-outdoor space that acts as both the living area and the internal courtyard. all the rooms of the house open onto this sky-lit space, which opens onto a veranda, which in turn opens onto a garden. the adjustable roof, folding doors and glass window louvres of the solarium allow the occupants to adapt this room to varying degrees of openness and for different uses. in this way the solarium can be both an indoor and outdoor space for varying activities at different times of the year.

courtyard housing
we face many issues in the future of suburban housing. whilst we love this style of home in australia the recent past shows some of the coming problems in what we call the 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 phenomenon. the average block is half the size of 50 years ago, but the average house size is twice as big. as a result the houses are two storeys, with all the overshadowing and privacy problems that brings, and now those houses have less occupants than before, down as low 2 people per dwelling in some parts of the cities. the single storey “solarium courtyard” house addressees all these issues. the plan versatility creates a smaller area for a 3 bedroom house which can fit on a site of 250 - 300 square metres, (including car parking and garden). this means we can fit 3 to 4 houses, all with the privacy and outdoor areas we value, in an area where 50 years ago we had just one.

other plans
the square form of the courtyard can be expanded on two three or four sides, so that the exhibition clay house is only one of many versions, bigger or smaller, than could be built. ideally the houses would be grouped together so that the rear wall of one house becomes the courtyard wall of the next house and so on. in this way greater efficiencies of land use are possible without the loss of the feel of suburbia with its private outdoor space and gardens.

the solarium roof
the solarium roof is constructed of multiple layers to control the passage of energy and light in and out of the house. the top surface of the roof has photo voltaic cells embedded in the glazing that make electric power and also allow light to pass through. the adjustable aluminium louvres, sandwiched in the centre of the roof section, can be electronically adjusted to control the light and shade. the ceiling below the louvres is double glazed polycarbonate for insulation.

seasonal operation
during winter, the roof louvres are open during the day and they adjust to the angle of the sun allowing the sun’s heat to flood into the thermal mass of the brickwork, storing warmth for the evening. at night the louvres are shut and the combination of the layers of glazing and closed louvres seal in the warmth keeping the occupants comfortable without artificial heating. In summer, the roof louvres are closed during the day, providing shade, and with the doors open the solarium becomes a veranda or courtyard. at night the louvres open vertically allowing the thermal mass of the house to cool down by radiating its heat through the roof into the night sky. this cooling is assisted by the cross ventilating evening breezes. thus the thermal mass stores “coolth” for the next day, keeping the occupants cool without air conditioning. during the roof louvres can be controlled to let in a variety of light levels with or without direct sunlight, and the doors and window louvres can be opened and closed so the occupants can control the warmth and the “feel” of the solarium room.

the portable house
for this exhibition we have based the house around 6 shipping containers: 3 for the internal rooms and 3 for the solarium. this has allowed us to make the house off site in a factory, then transport the entire house (and its contents) on 3 low loader trucks to the site and to crane the entire house into place in just 4 hours. in reverse it can disassembled, uploaded onto the trucks and taken off to its next destination in the same time. this experiment shows that you can make a transportable house in bricks, but its is not our intention that all clay and brick houses in the future would be made this way.

the prefab brick house
it is more likely that prefab clay brick houses will be made in brick panels, like the 2400 x 1200 wall panels shown in this house. this would allow large wall panels to be made, including windows and doors, that could be then trucked and craned into place onto a cast concrete slab to make a house much more quickly than conventional on site brick laying. the strength of these panels would make the core of the house support the roof or upper floors, and the panels could be clad in a variety of coverings including clay, conventional or ultra thin face bricks.

floor structure
this house has a steel frame floor with concrete panels for portability, but the permanent house of the future will probably have a fully precast concrete panel floor, with a water storage tank under the floor of the solarium. the tank, about 1 metre deep, could have a concrete base and cover that forms the floor of the solarium, increasing the thermal mass of the house. the tank provides fresh water for the house, but also gives a source of thermally stable water that can be circulated brought the slab to heat and cool the house.

this house excels at meeting the requirements of the nsw government regulations for energy and water saving. the thermal comfort energy is greatly reduced with the measures outlined above. further savings in energy and the water saving measures are outlined below.

the solarium roof is capable of being fitted with up to 30 square metres of photo voltaic cells, at a nominal power rating of 38w/sqm, giving a possible power generation in excess of 1 kw. this energy can be fed back through the electricity meter to save costs (grid connected) or it could be stored in batteries if the house is off grid.

there are no ceiling lights in the house, rather a concealed pelmet that lights the whole ceiling is used to give a more diffuse and uniform light.

rainwater is collected from the landscape roofs into vertical holding tanks between the internal walls. this stores the water for use in the gardens and on the roof, as well as adding to the internal thermal mass. the rainwater that falls on the solarium and veranda roofs is collected in the central box gutter of the butterfly roof, stored in tanks under the solarium floor where it serves 2 purposes: it is cleaned and used for all the fresh water in the house; and it provides a huge “thermal well” for use in hydronic heating and cooling panels around the house to provide additional heating and cooling.

the bathroom has been set up as a non-working prototype to show an alternative way to lay out a prefabricated bathroom. rather than have all the fittings (basin, wc, shower etc) separated on the walls with pipes in between, here the fittings are collected onto one t shaped structure that would require only one hot, cold and waste connection. the toilet pan is designed for a composting toilet; the angled seat gives better posture and the shape allows for urine and faeces separation which makes the composting function more efficient.

mobile furniture
as the houses get smaller in area (to compensate for smaller sites, environmental concerns and increasing costs) it would be increasingly useful to have flexibly designed furniture that can be moved around the house so that rooms can be used for different purporses at different times of the day and night and in varying seasons. the furniture was designed by environa studio to be mobile and flexible: the kitchen can be used in the solarium as a bbq, the main table can become a work bench or even a bed, the bed can be used as a couch or day bed in one room and wheeled into another as a bed for the evening, the table is a desk in the study, the stools can be used with the large table etc.

when the house is no longer needed it can be completely unbolted (the house bolted together in modular pieces) and moved to another site for reuse, or the separated parts can be sent for reuse and recycling.

presenting sponsors: clay brick and paver association, Silver sponsors: austral bricks, csr pgh, boral bricks, vantage aluminium joinery, caesarstone, jwi louvres. bronze sponsors: acrs all round carpenary services, eureka tiles, complete metro lighting, ripa steel, harvey norman, samsung, marsupial landscapes, nilsen electrical.architects: environa studio, engineers: macartney engineering consultants, builder: arcs, phillip grueff