A sustainable solution to affordable and sustainable housing
With the rising cost of gas and mortgage rates, suburban housing in the USA no longer has the promise it once did when it boomed with the automobile industry in the 1950s and 1960s. To address the need for affordable and sustainable housing, students at Harvard University Graduate School of Design are using the latest revolution in car manufacturing technology from BMW in the search for a new, cost-effective housing model.
Funded by the international architecture firm RMJM, and led by Professor Frank Barkow and Christopher Bangle, Director of Group Design at BMW, the research program is creating futuristic housing concepts from the design principles of a new ‘elastic skin’ technology that challenges architecture as something fixed and static.
The inspiration for the program comes from a team at BMW Group Design Munich who created the ‘GINA Light Visionary Model’ car, which has a surface made of elastic fabric. Unlike conventional sheet metal, the innovative surface is flexible, is lighter weight, and uses less energy to manufacture. The use of elastic fabric is a radical departure in creating a car’s body and interior, allowing the surfaces to change aesthetically and in response to performance factors, allowing for mass customization.
Design leaders believe the principles of this innovative new technology have the potential to create a new sustainable and affordable housing model. The project is funded through a $1.5 million donation to the Harvard GSD from RMJM, which enables ground-breaking research and arms student with both design and business skills. The students will focus their efforts on designing new models for suburban housing, which will be far more affordable than existing stock both in terms of the building and operational costs. The research also draws parallels between cars and suburban housing and the automobile culture that created the suburbs.
RMJM Chief Executive, Peter Morrison, said: “Architects are always looking for the technologies of the future and affordability, sustainability and design are top of the agenda at the moment. We will work with the greatest minds from any background or industry to exploit new opportunities and so we are delighted to be funding this research which brings together leading industry figures and academia. We look forward
to seeing the results of their research.”