Is flat pack housing the future?

Its not the latest idea but I do wonder if flat pack housing is the way to go for the future especially if labour costs are critical factors.

Because mass producing stackable wall units and other sections of a home can not only be cost affective but also extremely quick in comparison to traditional housing methods. The same can be said for “unique” homes as you take a standard design and construction method using original flat pack building methods and introduce with it the odd shape or alteration in the design. Which in reality leads to mass produced panels coming off a factory floor while the unique parts go to a bespoke part of the factory.

flatpak,flat pack,house,slot walling

But it doesn’t stop there because when you work with things like a slot wall system where your literally dropping walls in then sealing them up. Your talking a huge saving in labour construction time compared to a traditional home design.

Its things to way up when looking at if you should go down the flat pack route or go with a traditional home. Because on the surface going down the usual routes may seem cost affective but factoring in labour costs and some of the maintenance issues. You may find that the change into flat pack which if they are adapted from industrial and commercial design could have some unique benefits. E.g. easy to clean and maintain, easy access for cable runs etc.

Personally I like both although not a fan of “modern” mass produced housing that you find on estates but do like flatpack and traditional older type houses. Mainly on the older traditional houses as they do have better construction methods but also extremely expensive ones (I am talking houses over 100 years old). With things like traditional oak beams and lath and plaster methods used. But with a carpentry background I do like the unique and original wood.

At the same time understand the world is changing and things are beginning to get expensive. Moving away from what we would “like” and to what we need is going to become more of an issue as time goes on. The same as the materials and resources used in construction. I can see more and more foam injected panels becoming the norm because they are both cheap and efficient. In the same way the outer and inner skins becoming more acceptable as “finished” and quick to install.

Container Buildings Oman

As I was up in our transport office (some of you are probably not aware I am currently working in Dubai and Oman) but noticed some container units had turned up and were busy having electrical wiring done.

They are from another site where we have worker camps and currently these are being moved off site as the construction project is finished. Nearly 500 of these units.

Portacabin - Oman

Container building Oman

Sturdy and clean due to the design but also gave the opportunity to show what you can do with sandwich panels you find in things like cold room stores at restaurants. As changing the type of panelling on the units that are foam centred in a slot wall system does give quite a nice finish.Container building inside,Oman

Internally looking just as clean and fresh as well as functional. As you can see the wiring is on going and the electrician was wondering why I was poking my head round the corner taking photos.

Sandwich panels used in container buildings

Would have to look at changing the roof design if building these though. But the photo also lets you see what the end of the foam panels look like.

Gets back to the argument often used where people say that they are too hot to live in. Well after several month out in the desert and also spending time in portacabins for accommodation on sites we were surveying I can honestly say the containers work! We have had temperatures above 50 degrees and sandstorms and the containers stand strong and offer comfortable living.

Modular home on concrete posts.

Klaas Modular House

After recent email exchanges with Brandon regarding the Klaas modular building I have started to look at the idea for a current project we have here in Minglanilla,Cebu,Philippines.

Because we have an area that has a roof on it already but it was originally supposed to be dismantled and a new concrete base added as a second floor. Then looked at the idea of a shipping container being added instead to save dismantling the roof as we could just extend the pillars then dismantle the roof later. This would save disrupting the store that exists underneath where the new building would be going.

But now looking at the construction methods of the Klaas I get the feeling not only would it be cheaper to create a steel deck and build up from it in a similar manner but it could easily be done in stages across the pillars. The design of the Klaas home/office is well suited for this type of work as well as other locations. I will advertise here Brandon’s website once its up and running for those in Malaysia.

The project isn’t going to happen overnight as I do have to head to the UK shortly but it will certainly be happening once work is setup in the UK. I prefer doing things while I am out of country simply because I can balance the books easier as the cash flow reduces rapidly when I am in the Philippines. With my wife as site supervisor and working with modular construction something I have worked a lot with this should be a project that is easy for others to follow. But more importantly one that can also be kept within its budget.

Recycle Or Build A Container Home?

This may seem to defeat the idea for some being “green” but here in the Philippines its not always about recycling simply because containers aren’t readily available.

shipping container structure

Take a shipping containers basic structure and what I see is a very simple building block that can be replicated side by side. and more importantly easy to build. Now what your doing with the container blocks will make a difference in the support structure and density of the steel for load bearing purposes. Why I am pointing that out is that someone may go “its cheaper to buy a container” well here in the Philippines its not unless you know something I don’t.

Your main dimensions you need to work on are based on transportation needs and not the home itself. For example if you took this open sketched version as a real building block you can actually attach other containers in any direction. Even stacking one on top and removing several of the floor beams for a staircase.

Why this is important is that from an engineers point of view it becomes extremely easy to put a value on materials as well as labour costs. You can decide on sections do you weld or bolt? but all in all you can get a real accurate price structure on your modular container construction.

Building them within standard transportation design metrics also means that you can make these off site or more importantly speed up production and lower costs. These buildings can be built in a factory and shuttered along on a conveyor system or as we used to do in the UK moved by forklifts. E.g. outside we used to weld the frames together before they were transported indoors to have the walls installed.

Pretty much the whole thing can be produced on site in a factory then all the modules can be joined together at their final destination. But that’s not always useful and with many of the areas in the Philippines its full of mountains. How many containers can you fit inside one if just cut and stripped down ready for putting together and welding/bolting? 2 – 3 trucks could be transporting virtually the entire house in parts that could physically be carried and erected on site.

This idea is something I have thought of due to one of my wife’s relatives having half a mountain for sale and this could see homes perched on the top and the most sensible way of transporting materials to the location.

Klaas Cabin–Malaysia

Klaas Cabin by Kinwai marketing in Malaysia offered this modular home design which I think will stir up a lot of interest in the design not just in Malaysia but most of Asia for those interested in modular design.

I have been talking to Brandon from the company and looking at the design of the home can see why this would be something that could be picked up by many markets in Asia. The first thing being that exterior wise the Klaas cabin has a rather unique and modern feel to it. Which if your used to the concrete jungle like the Philippines where hollow block concrete blocks are king then it brings a nice contrast to everything around us. The exterior cladding no doubt sits on an internal frame work which is then sees ply overlaid on the interior. Ok ply may not suit everyone but in reality its a “choice” and that’s part of modular building the ability to change parts to suit peoples choices and needs.

klaas cabin,kinwai,malaysia,modular,prefabricated,prefab,house,home,construction

The exterior layout with its roof light openings allow a lot of natural light to enter the building throughout the day. Obviously another section that can be altered to suit someone’s needs be it glazed, glass blades or even just vented depending on the persons needs. The wood framing around the windows add a finishing touch will adding a bit of security grilling for the home or office. Finished off with exterior lighting along the length of the building.

klaas cabin,kinwai,malaysia,modular,prefabricated,prefab,house,home,construction

The interior ply walls seem at home in the design which is a little bit strange for me as its not normally a “finished” use product for me. I do use ply like this but generally its flooring or sheeted over and then cladded. but with the wood flooring it looks very at home.

klaas cabin,kinwai,malaysia,modular,prefabricated,prefab,house,home,construction

All in all can see a lot of uses for this here in the Philippines as well as other countries and I am interested to find out more about the structural building and how it fits together. Is it built on a wooden frame, aluminium or steel? Because to be honest I can see my next office being built in the same way as this building with a similar design. I would like to thank Brandon for sharing their company design of their modular home product which by the way hasn’t got the limitations of shipping container dimensions due to being custom built! You can alter the dimensions to suit your needs and land space. You can contact Brandon regarding building enquiries at leisurehaus@yahoo.com

Why I Love Modular Home Construction.

Modular construction isn’t a new method of home construction but does seem to be catching on in a much bigger way in recent years.

For me originally looking at modular and prefabricated it reminded me of the 50s and 60s videos I watched with the rise of British industry and council estates after WW2. The homes were bland and all similar in design which is something people these days are trying to move away from. Even developers working on the same concepts of designs try to make houses look slightly different but at the same time in keeping with an area.

But even this isn’t enough for those that really do like to be different and modular construction seems to be a cost affective solution for many peoples homes due to not only saving on production costs to a traditional house due to generally being factory constructed but also the fact you can decide how many modules you want or more importantly can afford for a specific budget. Over the years the market has moved from a bit of a rough and ready business with a lot of finishing work being done on site to today where many homes are near enough complete and come with the bathroom,pipes and electrics pretty much all ready for hooking straight up to the mains. I believe this may be the way things are going for the future especially for mass production of homes due to the way modular construction is easy to adapt to its market demand.

As the businesses have progressed due to also being “factory based” also means sourcing recyclable, locally sourced and sustainable materials are all a realistic goal that companies are looking to achieve. Small developers or even medium size may not have the luxury of choice and time to be doing the same which are other good reasons for modular home construction.

Fabricating Container Homes In The Philippines Over Shipping Container Conversions.

People are always pushing the recycling of shipping containers as the main concern in the container home building circuit but over here in the Philippines they are rather battered and over priced in general.

You can find prices fluctuate depending on the time of year and even old containers seem to survive here decades after they should have been scrapped, bruised battered and the rust is cut out and new plates welded in but its a market people don’t realise exists that see’s the old containers surviving. International shipping standards keep the containers at a high quality standard but we live in the Philippines with over 7,000 islands how much goods move island to island?

This is why we see inflated prices on old containers that go back as far as the 70s and 80s is the fact they are used between islands and not internationally. If you see the state of them they would never leave the docks on an international vessel. But its this that creates our problem as a good container is always in demand as even the oldest roughest container never seems to see an end of life but simply patched up and shipped off.

Which got me back to a system I used in the UK before which is basically a frame setup and you simply slot the wall sections in. Being open already means that you can then adapt sections from adding staircases,windows and doors to complete sides being left open as unlike shipping containers these are built for the job of container homes. In essence its moving away from shipping containers into modular home construction.

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Makes a bit more sense when you see the photo above as these can be manufactured on site or in a factory depending where the final location will be adding to that they are still stackable and get used more than people realise already in places like the UK. Temporary clinics,doctors surgeries, classrooms are all commonly using a similar system and I am looking at this as being the serious way forward with construction in the Philippines due to the costs of buying second hand units. No issues of toxic floors or damaged side panels but simply starting from the frame upwards.

But what about the walls? This is where the tricky bit comes in but is also how its practical. Getting the stuff here may not be as easy as I would like but basically I am looking for foam panels that can either be injected with foam or preformed foam panels that we can glue cladding sheets to externally. Light weight and extremely easy to construct with as well as strong and fire retardant.

House from a box – Roese Sunshower SSIP house

In one of the worst hit areas from Hurricane Katrina which left heavy flooding in its aftermath developers have come up with a new prototype home that is designed for rapid deployment for areas blown away by hurricanes and tornadoes or knocked down by earthquakes.

The Roese Sunshower SSIP house in New Orleans  

The Roese Sunshower SSIP house in New Orleans is designed to be shipped in a single shipping container as well as for rapid deployment as a quick housing solution that is also permanent as well as strong enough to withstand other calamaties. Adding to this a solar panel array to help with recovery as it can operate off grid.

 The Roese Sunshower SSIP house in New Orleans

As you can see the wall sections are formed from SIP eps foam core encased in a Galvalume steel skin. I have used similar in the construction of large freezer/chiller buildings and factory units in the UK as the method is not only light but very easy to work with. Adding to that its also moisture resistant and works as a hydroscopic thermal mass which helps to remove heat from the building.

The Roese Sunshower SSIP house in New Orleans

Models were submitted as part of a design competition and the winning entry was the Roese Sunshower SSIP house. Lots of good ideas and rapid deployment is always key to disasters due to the camera switching off generally public interest does to. So getting it done quickly while  there is still public support and funds is always critical.

The Roese Sunshower SSIP house in New Orleans  The Roese Sunshower SSIP house in New Orleans  

  The Roese Sunshower SSIP house in New Orleans

Podd – Australian Prefabricated Shipping Container Housing

podds - Shipping container homes Australia

Podd have also caught onto the niche of container/modular housing and are producing these modern designed homes for use in Australia. The construction takes an estimated 5 hours on site which isn’t bad going and internally looks great. The roof is also hydralulic to save time. Initially designed to help boost moral for mining employees but I can see a lot of people finding a use for these little homes.

The houses are made using shipping containers. The additional walls, ceilings, and floor structure are constructed using Austral exflam sandwich panel composite.

Podd Container housing - Kitchen and sitting room Podd Container housing - bedroom Podd Container housing - bathroom Podd Container housing - sitting area

Although the space seems small due to its design and colour and lighting affects the place does seem a lot bigger than it is. I love the design which is more inline with professional business than hobby farming or off-grid living. A rather unique shipping container house which others may find acceptable as a hotel chalet or conferencing rooms. Very professional finish love it!

Beautiful Houseboat In Vancouver

Vancouver Marina is the home of todays floating house, owned by Doug McClelland and Anthony Tucker they decided to position they’re newly constructed boat house alongside some amazing yachts and boats of the rich and famous. The new home stands out as the most modern and newest of additions to the marina but also taking on extra windows for natural light and its sleek modern design makes it hard not to ignore especially with its panoramic views from the roof deck seating area.

beautiful house boat in Vancouver

The exterior of the house although modern still takes on a nortical nature due to its cedar wood panelling with clear coat finish which contrasts against the the corrugated steel which was an addition to pay hommage to the old boat sheds that once existed along the old Coal harbour marina. Although a shiny mirror type finish was used instead of the dull grey finish normally associated with the old boat sheds. The house is sited on a 8ft deep concrete floatation that is filled with styrofoam. "It was pretty tricky for the engineers and the architects to fit everything we wanted and needed into a 20′ x 45′ footprint, while still keeping the house stable and floating levelly," McClelland says.

sitting room

Although a little limited in space the use of natural light as well as natural colours in the home gives it a feeling of being much larger than it is. All spaces have been maximised which gives it a homely feel.

dining room

The Dining area seated next to the sliding doors means that when entertaining guests or choosing to eat out on the terrace is always an option to relax or entertain within easy reach of the kitchen.

IKEA kitchen

The kitchen is spacious and well laid out utilizing a JennAir down-draft fan behind the cooker top has allowed the saving of space compared to a normal full cooker hood."We really wanted the cooktop in front of the window, but we didn’t want to have a conventional fan hanging over it," says McClelland. The down-draft fan rises out of the counter and outputs exhaust below the counter.

IKEA kitchen

Making the kitchen feel light, airy and clean the use of white granite worktops, glass subway tile splash backs and IKEA light maple cabinets keep the kitchen in keeping with the rest of the home while giving a real sense of space. Going for an extra tall refrigerator from Blomberg means you get more space utilized due to limited width in the house boat home. The lighting system from Robinson Lighting also finishes the kitchen off as it reflects off the worktops and brightens up the kitchen.

small office made to feel bigger by use of light and the use of rectangular paintingsMaster bedroom with beautiful viewsclean and airy bathroom using a large mirror to create a feeling of space as well as a rectangular sink to maximise the space.light and airy guest bedroom with windows on multiple walls to create the feeling of openness while allowing in lots of natural lightRelaxing roof deckRelaxing roof deck

The entire home has been thought out thoroughly and its dimensions aren’t far off a shipping container home at 20′ x 45′ and does show how a bit of thought on the design aspects before you start as well as sourcing the right materials can make all the difference on the finished product. A beautiful home that is fully functional on a small footprint.