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A HOUSE WHICH SNAPS TOGETHER LIKE LEGO

pop3A French design studio has come up with a rather revolutionary home building system whereby an entire house can be assembled in a much shorter time compared to conventional methods, all with the help of just a screwdriver.

Words by Isabelle Pinto

Photography by PopUp House

All of us are familiar with Lego, the well-beloved children’s toy set which is popular amongst little boys and girls alike. I’m sure most of us used to enjoy playing with Lego blocks during part of our childhood. Those colourful, brick-like plastic units could be joined together to create anything we wanted, from miniature robots and vehicles to tiny buildings of all shapes and sizes.

With Lego, not just a building but a whole city (a miniature one, of course) could be easily constructed by an older child or an adult due to its simple assembly method – blocks are easily joined together due to their complementary shapes. But what if I told you that there is currently a life-sized housing unit that can be constructed almost as easily as Lego!

pop1Check out the new Pop-up House concept – a custom home-building system that enables a house to be assembled rapidly and easily, akin to joining Lego blocks. Unlike conventional houses, a PopUp House can be put together by using just human hands. There is no need for heavy machinery. All the builder needs is a screwdriver in hand and they’re good to go.

Conceived by a French design office – also named PopUp House after the building concept – this innovative system mainly uses three materials: treated lumber, insulation blocks and laminated wood. The materials are all held together by only wood screws, thus requiring the need of just a screwdriver to assemble an entire house.

Popping up a house

pop2With the PopUp House concept, construction is made faster and easier not only because of the simple assembly method acquired but also due to the use of light materials which provide for easy handling. Conventional homes are known to take at least 6 months to complete but by using the PopUp House concept, houses can be built in a much shorter time.[ihc-hide-content ihc_mb_type=”show” ihc_mb_who=”1,2,3,4,5″ ihc_mb_template=”1″ ]

After setting up the foundation as well as the electricity and water connections, it would take a mere one to two weeks to install the frame of the entire house together with the windows. And once the frame is done, it will be personalized with finishes of the client’s choice, both interior and exterior. A customizable system, PopUp House can be designed not only as a house but also as an office and even a guest house.

Though the housing units seem relatively easy to build, they are mainly built by professional homebuilders, who are equipped with specific tools in order to guarantee the quality of the product. The concept is not available for do-it-yourself purposes; however, customers are free to install the finishes on their own.

Being essentially a research and design studio, PopUp House is not directly involved in the execution of the building processes, but rather they act as the provider of the core building materials as well as assembly instructions for the system. In order to design and deliver their homes, the studio collaborates with local architects and homebuilders which they connect their clients with.

Epitome of affordability

Due to the materials used for PopUp Houses: wood and insulation blocks, the housing units are enriched with effective thermal insulation causing them to be highly energy-efficient. This not only bodes well in terms of energy savings but also provides enhancements to living conditions by maintaining a comfortable interior temperature without the need for active heating and cooling systems.

Screen Shot 2016-05-08 at 1.30.08 AMDesigned to be a sustainable housing solution, PopUp Houses are also compatible with green features such as solar panels and wind turbines. Due to its high energy efficiency, it can also easily become a net energy-positive house when combined with these renewable energy sources. Another plus point is that the core materials used are recyclable and reusable. A PopUp House can be disassembled just as easily as it is to assemble; and once taken apart, all materials can be recovered separately, thus making it possible to reuse or recycle them.

Thanks to its inexpensive materials and quick assembly process, the system is the epitome of affordability. A completed PopUp House located in metropolitan France is generally priced (before tax) between €1,100 and €1,700 (USD 1,244 and USD 1,923) per sq m which includes labour charges as well the assembly instructions. This quotation, however, does not include the foundation, heating and cooling system, carpentry as well as finishes. Nevertheless, the price is fairly reasonable considering the benefits it comes with: sustainable, quick to build, and bringing a whole lot of savings to your energy bill.

A relatively new concept which made its commercial debut since April last year, PopUp House is currently only available in France and Italy. The studio, however, is optimistic on going global. According to them, they have already conducted some pilot projects in Europe, and are currently looking for local architects and homebuilders from other countries to work with to expand their concept. “We are now looking for local projects in other countries with which to experiment our building techniques, including adapting our techniques to comply with local building codes,” reveals Marion Couturier, a spokesperson of the company. “In assembling simple and standardised building materials coming directly from manufacturers, we are simplifying the way [houses are built] and our goal is to make PopUp House available globally.”

Founded by engineer Corentin Thiercelin, the concept was to “rethink the construction process of a building, using the isolant as the main component of the frame to increase the energy efficiency of the house.” The idea was that we need to initiate change at the building construction level as the building sector consumes up to 40% of all energy, and contributes up to 30% of global annual green house gas emissions. “It means that the building sector has the potential to become one of the key actors of the energy transition provided we change the way we build, hence Popup House,” explains Couturier.

To date, this method has been used to build commercial and residential buildings in France and Italy including a guest house in Nimes which has a swimming pool built right next to it. Despite the simplistic building method, the end result is a surprisingly modernistic and expensive-looking building with state of the art interior. Is this the house of the future – affordable, easy and fast to build, carbon-positive yet having a modernistic appeal?

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