Architecture Student Concept: Houses Designed for Disassembly

Clara Mu He is pursuing her Masters in Architecture at Harvard’s GSD. Her thesis project asks: “How to (un)build a house?” Mu He seeks to design a reversible framing system, using strapping rather than fasteners.

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“In recent decades, as we recognize that our extractive practices are driving humanity toward an imminent environmental crisis, there has been a renewed interest in reusing construction materials. Against the backdrop of a national housing crisis, densification policies, and an anticipated surge in residential construction and demolition—compounded by challenges of lumber shortages and sustainability concerns—there is an imperative to rethink how we build and demolish houses.”

“The predominant method of housing construction in America today is wood framing, which relies heavily on nails and adhesives. This makes materials difficult to reuse and contributes to environmental pollution due to the disposal of wood from demolitions. To divert wood waste from landfills, this thesis proposes a Design for Disassembly (DfD) wood framing system: the Strapped House. Inspired by traditional bamboo construction in Southeast Asia, this system aims to reinvent wood framing by introducing strapping as a non-intrusive means of assembly, facilitating easier disassembly and maintaining material integrity. The approach recognizes the momentum of our current construction industry and leverages the skill sets of local contractors. Instead of centralized prefabrication of panels or modules, the Strapped House system adopts a bottom-up approach, seamlessly integrating into the current labor market of housing construction and empowering local builders to actively participate in sustainable construction and deconstruction.”

“To demonstrate the application of the Strapped House system, this thesis proposes a three-phased incremental construction on a newly upzoned residential lot in Mattapan, Boston. The proposal illustrates the possibility of building six units on a previously low-density lot, enabling sustainable urban densification.”

Structural model showing the house in the first phase of incremental construction.

Construction Manual of the Strapped House System.

Phase One: A small house for a couple of ceramic artists, who use the first floor as their office space.

Phase Two: The artists’ son moves back to live in the house with his wife and daughter, while the artists convert their garage into a ceramic studio space and build an ADU to age in place. The main house is converted into a duplex, with the rent from the attic studio funding the construction loan for the ADU.

Phase Three: As densification policies intensify, the homeowner transforms the property into a compact 6-unit multi-family development.

A 1-to-1 mockup structure is constructed using the strapping method to assess its real-life feasibility and structural rigidity.

Disassembly of the 1-to-1 mockup.

(My persistent gripe with student work: Please upload large images, so we can actually read the drawings!)

The project was awarded a James Templeton Kelley Prize, awarded by the Boston Society of Architects.

Source: core77

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