Philippe Starck describes himself. "Subversive, ethical, ecological, political, fun: this is how I see my duty as a creator." He has designed everything from boats to lamps to wind turbines, and now is doing prefabs for RIKO, a company in Slovenia that has been doing innovative wood buildings for years. (We first covered them here)
The P.A.T.H (prefabricated accessible technological homes) are called green and sustainable. Starck's design has all the green gizmo bells and whistles:
Committed to further reducing our impact on the environment, each P.A.T.H. makes the best use of renewable energy sources for heating, ventilating and cooling your house. It is designed to integrate the latest smart and green technology of your choice: photovoltaics, solar panels, heat pump, wind turbine or rain water collector, among other. By combining the right equipment to best suit your energy efficiency requirements, Riko’s experts can help you choose the right package to ensure proper energy conservation and responsible resource use. And most importantly – we can help you turn your P.A.T.H. into a zero-energy or even positive-energy home.
It does have a lovely green roof and what little solid wall there is, is made of RIKO's sophisticated laminated wood wall. The problem is, when you look at all 34 variations on the theme, they are all exactly the same, the dopey curved cornice acting as a flowerpot for a green roof that may be appropriate in some locations, but not others, like a desert environment.
Then there is the issue of the amount of glass and the lack of shading. How many photovoltaic panels and wind turbines would it take to heat or cool what is pretty much a glass box, with no shading other than a couple of retractable awnings? And they say "we can help you turn your P.A.T.H. into a zero-energy or even positive-energy home."- At what cost? This is why net zero energy is so stupid in cases like this; it is all additive, just keep throwing more money at the already expensive ($ 325 PSF to start) box.
This is the worst of green design; build a glass box, put a green roof on it and then throw money at gizmos.
Another recent prefab launch was that of Bright Built Homes, designed by Kaplan Thompson. Even if you didn't spend ten cents on gizmos, it would cost almost nothing to heat and cool with its modest glazing and careful use of overhangs. Its design wouldn't exactly fit on the Côte d'Azur, but then Philippe Starck's isn't going to fit very well in a lot of places either.
I used to be such a strict modernist, but lately I have come to learn that design is not universal but is appropriate to climate and culture; that designing for low-tech or no-tech is a lot greener, cheaper and resilient that covering it with turbines and photovoltaics; that green roofs don't necessarily make a building green and are not always appropriate.