Big ideas For Small Lots


Type: Competition Entry, Schematic Design

Status: Call For Interest
Commission: Pitch

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113 W136th St.

      This project's goal is to develop a design scheme that would fulfill requirements of urban infill design, while providing an exploration in construction strategies for quality and affordable home developments, and which demonstrate feasibility and replication of housing design solutions across various sites and neighborhood conditions. In order to satisfy these requirements this project has developed an interest to explore and work with cross-laminated timber and modular construction strategies.

       In a time when our resources are becoming finite and our eco-system has proven to show some negative repercussions for our daily environments, as architects and builders we must understand and acknowledge the materials being used in our projects to their full influence and potential, when addressing materiality in any construction. It is important to emphasize on issues of sustainability and carbon emissions, which our materials can and will have an impact on. For most of the 20th through 21st centuries, we have been using inorgranic materials such as concrete, masonry and steel. Hence, the revolution and introduction of Cross-Laminated Timber, a wood panel product made from gluing layers of solid-sawn lumber, in any project should be recognized as a building and structural material that works for a friendly environmental approach. 

           Most of the CLT construction projects, which are not too many as this is a new way of contruction, use a platform construction process. In which each floor is set on the walls below until reaching the final roof ceiling, and in order to secure the joints and alignments or partitions-to-floors, screws and angles are positioned. Very much like the system being used with pre-fabricated wall panels. But today, our focus and interest is on modular housing which is prefabricated off-site and then brought onto site for an easy and quick assembly. The benefits are in the kind of construction material, CLT, and in the construction type, Modular. Not only is CLT much easier to assemble on-site rather than poured concrete, it is a much greater structural property than steel and/or reinforced concrete and a much more sustainable property since it does not require the burning of fossil fuels durings its production. This provides an advantage in cost of materiality taking away any massive need of steel or reinforced concrete for structural properties, while also providing the advantage of a quick construction process of about three times less the time of any other construction type.

          Moreover, the materiality of Cross-Laminated Timber, specifically solid wood panels have much more efficiency in carbon footprint than carbon masonry, in which studies have shown a 40% advantage of carbon emissions release than most commonly used material types. CLT also allows for an achievement in requirements of fire resistance, through the chemical process known as charring, where materials are heated to its maximum incomplete combustion providing a 60-minute fire resistant material. After installation of the CLT, plasterboard is always added for an interior finish and this adds a 90-minute fire resistance to the final wall property. This becomes extremely relevant and efficient when considering the building and fire codes that require significant materialty and layers to acquire the desired fire-resistance. The same way CLT can be manipulated for fire resistance it can be reused as a waste material, and therefore, is a significant sustainable material. It is also a great product of thermal insulation as its thickness allows for the storage of heat for longer times than any other thermal property. 

       To be able to take this material property and use it through modular construction is a great benefit to the client, construction and building process. The design of sustainable architecture can be produced at a high level with CLT and the construction of off-site modules. Since the CLT exterior/interior walls and CLT slabs are angled when jointed, it is relatively easy on-site construction and assembly. This makes the planning of electrical wiring, plumbing and mechanical features much easier to bring into the assmebly of the total structure, again we can consider the cost of labor, material use and the ability to provide an efficient architectural typology for building processes as shown in the related drawings . The use of modules can be applied to different architectural schemes and designs based on the building footprint and allowable design area on a site.

      As the schematic diagrams show, after the zoning ordinance was reviewed, it was clear that the building could reach a six-story height in the designated site. This and the idea of using modular housing enticed an ambition to providing the most efficient cost effective and sustainable architecture. The design was broken down into three compartments at each rising level. Since the proposed site is a through lot, the idea is that the building can be assmebled through different compartments of structures from an open living/dining area at the front of the lot to the circulation area and towards the private/sleeping areas to the rear yard. Each module would be designed to-be ready for construction with mechanical, plumbing and electrical, and would be assembled/stacked on-site like Lego's. The structural properties of the CLT material allow for a non-column structure, since each span on each floor is maxium 16'-0" off each bearing wall. 

        For sustainable measures, grey water, hydronic flooring, green planter bed restoration and solar panels are introduced to the project. These features would increase the ability for the building to provide electricity, lessen the need of fresh water, as well as decrease the use of energy for heating and air-conditioning in the structure. For aesthetic and solar-production purposes, the front and rear facade is designed to have concrete panels that juxtapose the appearance of texture on the building, but as well as provide spots for pre-designed solar panels that bring energy to the building and lighting to the building's facade.


      At a very efficient cost, this building design scheme provides an opportunity to develop and investigate an innovative solar facade system and an architectural typology that can serve as a prototype for sustainable mesures in modular housing across NYC.