Fab pre­fab

A 36-square-me­tre house by Bon­ni­fait + Giesen

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In essence, the lat­est pre­fab­ri­cated de­sign by Wellington ar­chi­tects Ce­cile Bon­ni­fait and Wil­liam Giesen is a sort of apartment on the ground – a sin­gle-storey struc­ture for those seek­ing a small dwelling that comes with plenty of out­door liv­ing. Bon­ni­fait + Giesen has long been in­ter­ested in ef­fi­cient pre­fab­ri­cated and mod­u­lar build­ings: their first at­tempt, ‘Porta-Bach’, was a con­verted ship­ping con­tainer that opened up like a Swiss army knife. The cou­ple has since ex­plored a num­ber of ef­fi­cient and de­light­ful projects. The MiniHut, how­ever, is new and ex­cit­ing ter­ri­tory. An eco­nom­i­cal op­tion for first-time home own­ers seek­ing to build a stand­alone home, it takes ad­van­tage of new tech­nolo­gies and think­ing that un­lock a mul­ti­tude of is­sues. “Our en­thu­si­asm is not for pre­fab, as such,” says Giesen, “but for de­liv­er­ing high-qual­ity ar­chi­tec­ture at a rea­son­able cost.” Fac­tory-built from cross-lam­i­nated tim­ber (CLT), the de­sign is based on a ser­vices mod­ule that’s built and fit­ted off site. The struc­ture and walls are erected on site – a good op­tion for those want­ing a house to be built quickly – and cladding, join­ery and decks are de­signed to be added in just a few days. MiniHut feels grander than its 36 square me­tres, thanks to a high stud that con­tains liv­ing ar­eas in the main vol­ume and sleep­ing ar­eas on a mez­za­nine. Ad­di­tional mo­d­ules, mean­while, have been de­signed to serve as en­trances, util­ity sheds and cov­ered decks. And, with one side of the 3x8-me­tre struc­ture filled with win­dows, the hut can take ad­van­tage of views and have a con­nec­tion to the out­doors – ben­e­fits you might as­so­ciate with some­thing much grander than a small pre­fab­ri­cated tim­ber build­ing. Bon­ni­fait + Giesen de­signed the house in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Jimu, a Chi­nese de­sign and man­u­fac­tur­ing firm that also built the ‘Port-a-Bach’ in 2006. This time around, Jimu se­cured pri­vate and gov­ern­ment fund­ing to build the pro­to­type in Hangzhou, a gar­den city three hours south of Shang­hai. The idea was pre­sented at the Green Ar­chi­tec­ture and Con­struc­tion Ma­te­ri­als Expo 2017 in Shang­hai, gen­er­at­ing much in­ter­est. Sus­tain­abil­ity is key. Giesen is ex­cited about the use of CLT, which comes with good in­su­la­tion prop­er­ties; the roof an­gle, mean­while, slopes to the north to ac­com­mo­date so­lar pan­els. “The crafted house has a small foot­print,” says Giesen. “It’s low en­ergy and can be an en­er­gy­pos­i­tive so­lu­tion with the cor­rect equip­ment.’’ While the house you see on these pages is in China, the first MiniHut is be­ing built in Wanaka; Bon­ni­fait + Giesen is work­ing with David Reid Homes to es­tab­lish cost­ings. The MiniHut fea­tured here is 36 square me­tres, but there’s also a 100-square-me­tre de­sign – ‘HutOne’, which has two dou­ble bed­rooms, en suite, a me­dia room, and liv­ing spa­ces – for those who need more space. There’s also the op­tion to add a glass house on the side. Giesen imag­ines that both struc­tures could sit to­gether in small vil­lages, linked by path­ways and walk­ing ar­eas. “This is a way of cre­at­ing more den­sity,” he says, “with­out build­ing a high rise.”

Project ‘MiniHut’ pre­fab house Ar­chi­tect Bon­ni­fait + Giesen Lo­ca­tion Hangzhou, China Brief A small pre­fab house with qual­ity ar­chi­tec­ture and ef­fi­cient de­liv­ery.

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