A modular solution to homelessness

Nick Myall
Wednesday 25 Jul 2018

A compact and flexible modular housing solution is being developed using timber in Finland

Kokoon is a modular living unit built to address the acute shortage of temporary accommodation for asylum-seekers, students and residents displaced by building renovations. The prefabricated modules were designed as a living solution that can be easily transported and stacked in various configurations in order to fit numerous sites in urban and suburban contexts. Kokoon is one of the winners of Metsä Wood’s Open Source Wood award.

Kokoon modules have the potential to be mass-produced and assembled as multi-unit housing complexes. Kokoon’s three initial prototype units were designed and constructed by the Aalto University Wood Program team in Finland. They were prefabricated at the Aalto University Architecture workshop in Otaniemi, Espoo. Design of the units started in January 2016, and construction began in April 2016. The units were completed in a couple of months.

When it came to design development, the team explored several wooden materials for the construction of the modules. However, the material efficiency of Kerto® LVL (laminated veneer lumber) allowed for minimal wall profiles to optimize the limited footprint imposed by the project parameters – a comfortable living unit that can fit on the bed of a truck for ease of transport. LVL not only provides the primary wall structure and the floor and roof substrate, it is left exposed as the interior finish, which reduces the layers of assembly and construction time. Kerto LVL Q-panels allowed for fast module production and offered the required load-bearing capacities. As a wood product, the extensive use of LVL also contributes significantly to the overall sustainability of Kokoon.

Kokoon rewarded for innovation

Details and assembly drawings of Kokoon can be found online at www.opensourcewood.com. Open Source Wood is a collaboration platform, developed by Metsä Wood, for architects and engineers to share their innovations in modular wood construction. The platform allows users to share their ideas for innovative wood elements and constructive systems with a global audience. The best innovations using Kerto LVL, like Kokoon, receive awards from Open Source Wood’s panel of experts.

“I think this is a great idea showing how modular living can help in temporary housing for families. In the future, it may be possible to order a temporary house, just for a few weeks, delivered to your doorstep,” says Frank Werling, Head of Technical, Engineering and Design, Metsä Wood, who is a member of the award jury. “This concept is an example of how to achieve flexible and functional temporary accommodation with Kerto. Kokoon modules are also adaptable for larger housing units and on an industrial scale,” Werling continues.

Prefabrication with Kerto LVL for efficiency, precision and sustainability

In the Kokoon project, prefabrication allows the majority of construction to occur off-site in a climate-controlled environment. This improves the working conditions for the team constructing the modules and enables easy assembly of the elements’ interior layers, without the need for expensive onsite weather protection. Building on the ground as one-storey modules allows workers easier access to areas that would be hard to reach if the three-storey structure was built at the site. Prefabrication allows efficient mass production of the modules.

“As an architect, how we manage the quality of building from start to finish is an incredibly important part of the equation,” says Philip Tidwell, a teacher in the Wood Program at Aalto University. “Prefabrication gives us possibilities to minimize the construction time on site, and to improve the final quality of the product we are providing to our users.”

Nick Myall

News editor

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