Friday, October 29, 2004

It's a PhD, not a Nobel Prize - Mullins, G (2002), Studies in Higher Education Volume 27, No.4, p.386, Carfax Publishing

' A PhD is a stepping stone into a research career. All you need to do is to demonstrate your capacity for independent, critical thinking. That's all you need to do. A PhD is three years of solid work, not a Nobel Prize' (Maths-Eng/Female/18)

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Review of Willowater, UK

Below is a very interesting website I've encountered during my literature review:

This link has brought me into a mobile prototype building concept being conceived by John Talbot based on Roger Dean's architectural idea. This prototype building is constructed for The Bishops Wood Centre in Worcester using a new modular building method and designed to be in harmony with the natural environment.

In terms of its building services requirement, underfloor heating (with provision for open fires and log burners), air flow management system, air conditioning and smart house technology is to be installed on site.

The off-site construction start from the inside with the inner room shell's to be made of fibrous plaster and switches to be built into the shells. The modules will then be transported to the site and secured together. Next step is to have a raft of concrete cement applied to the structure and insulation sprayed to the internal walls of the shells. As mentioned earlier, wiring power plugs and other services are mainly underfloor and installed on site.

This prototype earthship modular building aimed to save about 10-20% on materials and a further of 40-50% on labour. Savings than utilised for fitting out a high quality interior and toxin free materials.

Earthships buildings always known as having the advantage of being less susceptible to the impact of extreme outdoor air temperatures, hence building users wouldn't feel the effects of adverse weather as much as in a conventional buildings. This resulting in temperatures inside the buildings that are more stable with less temperature variability, and interior rooms that seem more comfortable.

Another good point to be added is the use of modular construction that not only help balancing the time cost and quality, but also in terms of creating a better working environment in the factory. Modular construction also aid to mitigate working on site that can sometimes be hazardous.

One thing I'm in doubt about: looking at the 3D view of the building, wouldn't it be difficult to hang anything on the wall as there are hardly any flat areas around the shells? How maintenance can be carried out since the services will be built underground? Wouldn't it going to be expensive to dig the flooring up?

Other downside that need to be taken into account for having an earthships construction is the level of care required to avoid moisture problems, during both the construction and the life of the building.

It will be quite interesting to actually find out the possibility of using wood construction for the shells. Could it be cheaper and better in terms of waste management at the end of the building's life time?

Friday, October 15, 2004

Japanese prefabrication housing construction

As stated by CIRIA Special Publication 139, Japanese house building market is substantially larger than that of the UK and new build housing output in Japan has varied between 4.5 to 8 times larger than in the UK.

Japanese traditional timber housing was constructed using post-and-beam timber frame methods. Modernism then had started in Meiji Period (1868-1912) which gave flexibility to internal layouts and allowed occupants to perceive internal dimension and horizontal spaces from any position within their houses in a more fluid manner than in Western Style dwellings.

For its timber-frame dwellings, Japanese has used a method of 'Precut' which consists of timber structural ridig frames, with members cut to size and finished with complex connections in factories that based on traditional jointing methods.

The principal assumption of an off-site construction/mass production is that reduction in the variety of components used in a system will allow economies in the production of components. The unit cost is reduced by mass production, on assembly lines, where fixed costs (e.g. investment in factory plant) are spread over an increasing number of identical components. Variable costs (e.g. cost of material) are roughly constant per unit, although there may also be benefits because of large volume purchase (CIRIA, 1996).

Modular construction aims to achieve a predictable and efficient construction with excellent quality as promised. It is hoped to give a lower whole life cost, better working environment in the factory, and to achieve a minimum on-site time.

Nevertheless, downside might occur when an off-site construction is in need of larger capacity transport vehicle than in-situ constructed project. Cost also can be appear to be higher than anticipated due to craneage limitation.

So, how sustainable a modular construction can be?

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Housing in the UK - towards sustainability

During my literature review, I had found out that housing markets in the UK have undergone major structural change over the last 20 years which includes the shift from public to private housing provision.

In this matter, 80% of new housing has been built to satisfied the private individuals and only the other 20% goes to housing association, with the figure being confirmed by CIRIA in their Special Publication 139. Proportion of owner-occupied housing has also risen to nearly 70% of all housing, followed by the change in household formation pattern along with the demographic transformation such as a growing number of single parents, elderly, and disabled people required special need housing.

Environmental awareness has also play an important role in the last 20years. There is an increasing need to reduce the pollution and to limit the waste in production through recycling. This followed by the need for longevity of housing because of the ageing housing stock and low replacement rate.

CIRIA also stated that new demands for low energy housing may means that the use of seemingly robust technologies such as bricks could be stretched beyond their physical limits in terms of embodied energy, buildability, and thermal performance in use. An increasing number of housing project involve the need to innovate, unfortunately, as stated in IPRA (1992), UK house builders invest almost nothing in research and development!