There are many things that push our TreeHugger buttons when it comes to housing. There is Passivhaus design, where buildings have to meet a very tough standard where they use almost no energy at all; there is Cross Laminated Timber, using a sort of plywood on steroids that is the cutting edge of wood construction; There is urban infill, where instead of sprawl, leftover urban land is utilized; there is small space living, where less really is more.
And then there is Lansdowne Drive, a house in East London designed by Tectonics Architects. It pushes every single one of them, and pushed the buttons at the Passivhaus Trust Awards recently, winning the urban category. Watch the terrific video by TreeHugger friend Ben Adam-Smith of Regen Media:
It was built on a tiny site, with its lower level half underground to minimize height; the living room and kitchen are on the upper level. The house itself is pretty tiny at 1011 square feet. According to the Passivhaus Trust:
Tectonics architectural approach aimed to respond to the context in terms of volume, and to create a building with the generic simplicity, flexibility, light and character found in industrial or studio spaces.
Set half a level down from the street, the house appears as a low zinc-clad chamfered volume, behind a garden wall. A large open plan ‘Upper Ground floor’ forms the living area, with generous windows to the west and distant views across urban gardens. The entrance, bedrooms and bathrooms occupy the lower level.
The upper level structure was prefabbed from CLT and installed in two days. It’s also insulated with wood fibre on the outside of the CLT and clad in zinc, so that the interior wood is exposed, a nice look.
It’s like the High-tech seventies again with the exposed conduits and electrical; this is an interesting choice. In Seattle, Susan Jones did all the electrical on the outside; In Austria, KLH runs designs the electrical like a circuit panel running through the middle layer of the CLT. It’s nice to see the services all hang out like they used to.
Passivhaus designs are incredibly efficient; this has a total heating load of 8 watts per square meter, totalling 752 watts. That’s significantly less than a hair dryer, and it’s met with electric towel bars and a panel heater. And unlike all the drafty Victorian piles it is surrounded in, it will be comfy and warm. It also was surprisingly economical to build at 3000 pounds per square meter, given the location and the small size. I won't convert that to dollars because it's getting cheaper every hour.
I am intrigued by the similarities in concept and construction between this and Susan Jones’ wonderful little house in Seattle, which demonstrates that small, efficient and healthy CLT designs can work on any continent. They both win in my prize book.
You can see all the winners and runners-up for the Passivhaus Trust Awards here.