urbaNest Lab for Social and Co-operative Urban Housing

urbaNest Lab for Social and Co-operative Urban Housing

The acute shortage of inexpensive housing within urban centers can be readily met by adaptive reuse of existing office spaces and vacant buildings. Retrofitting existing buildings for housing can promote environmentally sustainable cities by reusing existing structures, maximizing the use of existing infrastructure, reducing building waste and eliminating the CO2 generated by new construction. Creating a vibrant, community in central urban neighborhoods can reduce the commuting, facilitate healthier lifestyles and support local economies for people currently priced out of the market.

The Covid-19 Pandemic has accentuated the need for economical and flexible urban housing for a range of users, from young students to the elderly. In readiness for future epidemics and in response to the dramatic shifts in housing needs and opportunities this research aims to develop new prototypes for urban housing.

This research-by-design will develop flat-packed micro living units and offer a radical new vision of urban real estate suggesting that people can own their apartments while renting the location. The urbaNest should not be seen as temporary emergency housing but rather as a longer-term solution to affordable urban living.

The micro-units we are developing meet the following criteria:

  1. The units will be constructed of recycled or recyclable materials.
  2. The units should cost less than $500 per/m2.
  3. The units must be manufactured digitally such that they can be produced remotely to create local employment and minimize the environmental cost of shipping. The technologies will be limited to those available in Fablabs worldwide.
  4. The units must be designed to be transported as flatpacks, for ease of handling and transport.
  5. The units must be designed for easy assembly by a team of four untrained individuals, using simple hand tools and an instruction booklet.
  6. The units must be designed to be dismantled and reconstructed without quality degradation. Owners must be able to move their units to short term or long-term storage or reassemble in a new location.
  7. The units must be designed for 12V electric current for energy efficiency and meet contemporary acoustic and thermal insulation standards.

The CAD/CAM files will be available to designers and ‘makers’ throughout the world to adapt, modify and improve the code to meet local cultural, regulatory and climatic conditions. We expect to research the modification and permutations of the design in different cultures and environments as well as the economic and social impact of this new model for urban housing.

We anticipate catalysing local industries world-wide for the adaptive design, manufacturing, assembly/disassembly, maintenance, packaging and storage of the micro units.

This lab is led by Dr. Dan Price, an architect and student in social and cooperative housing. He founded and runs the Technion Design-Build studio in which student design and construct small structure with and for disadvantaged communities.