The design moves away from the rigid constraints of the typical dwelling by providing a flexible structure that can respond to the ever-changing needs of the 'family'. Typical units can be combined into a terrace to provide relatively high urban densities while retaining a balance between the public and private realm. Future lifestyle requirements such as home working are provided for by a fully integrated data communications system. Lifetime energy savings are made via a semi-automated bms which controls shading, ventilation and heating. The design also addresses sustainable issues in its construction, with the main modular components designed to be replaceable and recyclable.
Abigail Ashton - Cook & Hawley Architects
The underlying principle behind the internal organisation is to enable the space to be reorganised and adapted to suit lifestyles that inevitably change over time. The requirements made on space alter significantly as people develop through the various stages of their lives. The needs of a young, single professional are often quite different to those of a family with young children. Changing patterns in a person's life often precipitate a physical move from one dwelling to another. Although an accepted part of twentieth-century life, it is not always convenient or desirable. Each unit offers the ability to adapt. In its simplest form the building is an open shell with basic services that are able to support a home and work base. These are houses that can be lived in for life. Communities that are consolidated can stay intact and develop together. Local services that often provide essential infrastructure for families need not be abandoned through re-location.
To achieve a sustainable environment we must work with natural energy cycles, not against them. As the sun is the ultimate source of energy, the vx-solar house is essentially a 'smart' roof orientated to the sun to collect its energy while providing shelter to the spaces below. The single most efficient use of solar energy is the use of daylight, so the house is organised around a double-height space naturally lit from a large north-facing window and south-facing rooflights for maximum daylight without excessive heat gain. Space heating uses recycled heat from the thermal store in the floor of the sun space. Supplementary water heating is powered by roof-mounted radiant panels, and underfloor heating warms the first-floor rc slab which in turn warms spaces above and below. Ventilation air is drawn in through contra-flux dynamic insulation panels to the main living space and bedrooms. The air is pre-heated by the fabric of the building, achieving an estimated heat-loss reduction of 50 per cent. A thermal flue extracts the air, maintaining necessary pressure differentials, while heat exchangers connect to the focal heat source and flue to recycle heat for water. A simple bms maximises efficiency of services and appliance use.