HOUSING, LOW COST, TEMPORARY
Carterwilliamson architects: carterwilliamson.com
In a world increasingly challenged by man-made and natural disasters, it is now time to consider the development of a sustainable housing prototype, which can be assembled quickly and transported cheaply and easily to diverse and remote locations.
GRID, named after the Norse goddess of peace, was originally conceived as a response to the tsunami in Banda Aceh. The strategy was to devise both an ‘ideal’ and a ‘re-use’ system that could operate interchangeably in all conditions. In disaster zones the materials would comprise objects and materials retrieved from debris. In less compromised circumstances, the shelters, pre-fabricated off-site, can be transported ‘flat-packed’ by road or rail either to remote communities or industrial locations. The clean lines and modest materials of GRID belie many sophisticated ideas. Inverted Acrow props, traditionally used for scaffolding are reinvented as its support columns and can be adjusted to suit large variations in devastated terrain. This pre-fabricated ‘Ikea’ concept, based on a 2.4 metre unit system of standard material lengths and truck-load capacity, can be easily transported as a ‘flat-packed’ unit to diverse and remote and inaccessible locations and assembled by four unskilled workers in one day. True to its claims, the prototype, gradually refined over the last seven years, was recently assembled on site in Martin Place for the Sydney Architecture Festival in just three and a half hours. This impressive performance is only surpassed by the fact that it can house between eight to ten people, even boasting a mezzanine level for sleeping and privacy. In community contexts, GRID can be arrayed in different configurations to respond to the specific contextual and administrative requirements of family, culture or work.
GRID also meets the highest efficiency standards and is able to operate using either local municipal services or independently off-grid. This ultra-fit, fully insulated, steel-frame structure utilises photovoltaic cells and a roof-mounted solar hot water system; rainwater tanks collect roof water; and barn-door windows ensure the building is thoroughly ventilated. Sanitary amenities, comprising a composting toilet system and a shower along with gas bottles for cooking, are located on two external perforated metal decks to maintain hygiene and to isolate these activities from living and sleeping areas.
GRID is soon to find its first new home in regional New South Wales. The sub-zero winter temperatures, extreme summer heat and infamously rugged terrain of Armidale and the New England Tablelands will be a welcome test for this highly adaptable, mobile structure, and one that will ensure the resilience and relevance of its future.’
Studio: Carter Williamson Architects
Project name: Grid
Typology: Emergency housing
Area: 37.5 sqm
Photographer: Brett Boardman