Posts tagged with "Prefab":

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Canadian architecture collaborative designs a low-power panel to integrate tech

A collaboration of Canadian companies led by Toronto’s WZMH Architects has developed an award-winning prefabricated panel that could make buildings smarter and more efficient.  The prefab Intelligent Structural Panels are made of two steel plates, just two inches apart, that sandwich connective tech and are arranged something like an enlarged microchip. Lighting, HVAC, elevators, security systems, fire safety systems, and all manner of sensors can be plugged into the panels, which, as the name suggests, would serve as a structural element—likely flooring—in the building process. The panels can be connected with one another, and the designers envision that the various parts all seamlessly communicate; sensors that determine occupancy and temperature could pass their data along to climate control or lighting systems, for example. Carrying both data and electricity via power-over-ethernet connections, as well as using low-voltage DC power, the panels are far less electricity-intensive than most current building systems and would do away with the need for numerous transformers demanded by AC power. Not only simplifying network and electric connectivity, WZMH estimates that the smart panels could bring the total amount of building materials down by approximately 10 percent. WZMH also believes that the panels could take advantage of the energy that would otherwise be wasted and feed it gradually into other systems, such as heating and cooling. The IoT-ready panels would be managed by building users through an app. While still in the prototype stage, the Intelligent Structural Panels are already getting noticed. In 2018, WZMH won the UPPlift True Disruptor Award from the France Canada Chamber of Commerce, and in 2019 won the 2019 Award of Excellence from the Canadian Consulting Engineering Awards for the project. WZMH research and development head Hiram Boujaoude was also nominated as an Innovator of the Year at Autodesk’s AEC Excellence Awards.
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New report shows that the modular construction business is booming

According to the recently released Commercial Construction Index (CCI), an economic indicator that tracks trends in the commercial construction industry, demand for modular construction is on the rise, and general contractors expect the trend to continue. Modular construction uses prefabricated and preassembled building components that are built in a factory and shipped to the job site for assembly. They meet the same standards and use the same materials as a traditional building but, advocates say, they offer a range of additional benefits.  As reported by The National Real Estate Investor, over the last five years, the modular construction business has doubled in size to become an $8 billion industry. What amounts for the new interest? Previous studies have shown that increased productivity and lower costs are driving contractors to embrace modular construction. Now, with materials costs continuing to rise around the world, these potential savings have become even more critical. But they're not the only issue. The CCI study found that more than 70 percent of surveyed contractors reported eight clear benefits of modular construction: increases in efficiency, productivity, safety, and quality; reductions in risk, cost, material waste, and construction times—an particularly important benefit for revenue-earning buildings whose owners want to start collecting rent as soon as possible. A few of those benefits go hand-in-hand with one another, but the report is promising for the industry. The nonprofit Modular Building Institute also predicts an increase in modular construction over the next few years. However, in their view, it's not just the above-mentioned benefits driving change, it's also the accelerating loss of skilled labor that will push the industry further toward industrialization and automation. The reports are a potential boon for the industry, which hit some bumps during what might be called its “start-up” phase a few years ago. Notably, 461 Dean Street in Brooklyn’s Pacific Park development hit setbacks that included manufacturing disruptions, disputes, and delays that ultimately lead to a four-year construction period and giving it, as AN wrote at the time, “the dubious honor of having one of the most languid construction timelines for a tower of its size in city history.” The plan for more modular buildings in Pacific Park was abandoned, but, after the project got back on track, the building now stands as a model of the potential and the pitfalls of modular construction.   The stories that have since followed have suffered from fewer hiccups, like the 21-story CitizenM New York. The tallest modular hotel in the United States, the CitizenM is composed of 210 modular units, each housing two hotel rooms. Housing, hotels, and hospitals, which depend on the repetition of identical rooms and spaces, are the areas that stand to benefit the most and, in turn, drive the growth of modular construction.   What could stall the rise of modular construction? Upfront costs can be large and securing loans can be difficult. And although the manufacturing technology is becoming more sound, the much-touted savings aren’t as significant as predicted yet. That could change as demand rises, as more factories are built to produce modular components, and as other factors, like the use of autonomous vehicles to reduce shipping costs and advancements in BIM make it easier to build stronger partnerships between architect, fabricator, and contractor. The last hurdle? A lack of awareness. More than 70 percent of general contractors say their reason for not using modular construction is that clients aren't asking for them and architects aren’t designing them.
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This strip club's VIP room is a long-forgotten Futuro house

I first encountered a Futuro house in a lavish palazzo during Milan Design Week in 2016. It was part of Louis Vuitton’s exhibition Objets Nomades. Fifty years, ago, a futuristic prefab house hit the market in the U.S.A. Originally designed in the 1960s by Finnish architect Matti Suuronen, the portable houses featured built-in furniture, a full bedroom and bathroom, heating and air conditioning, as well as a living room and dining room. The fiber-reinforced fiberglass shell was punctuated by oval windows—an iconic shape now associated with futuristic design (and UFOs). But despite its place in design history, very few Futuro houses remain. There are around 60 of the houses left, which have become a mix of residences, tourist-draws on Airbnb, and museum pieces, among other quirky uses. The most exciting might be in Tampa Bay, Florida. Suuronen's company stopped production in 1975, partly due to rising production costs in the wake of the 1973 oil crisis. One house, a display model used in Clearwater, ended up in the hands of local Futuro dealership manager Jerry DeLong, who also happened to also own “2001 Odyssey"—a local strip club. The spaceship first appeared in ads in 1971, according to the Tampa Bay Times. The club was making big money until the mob pressured DeLong to sell, and, according to the Tampa Bay Times, fell under the ownership of “the Trafficantes,” or the crew led by Santo Trafficante Jr. Several years later, in 1974, Pasquale “Pat” Matassini bought the club, but Matassini was later convicted of distributing $1 million in counterfeit cash, and in 1992, was accused of having ties to the Tampa crime family because he owned a bar called Godfather’s on Trafficante-owned land. These days, according to the Tampa Bay Times, "the spaceship is entered via a carpeted staircase from the first floor of the club. There’s a curved bar in the center, serving soft drinks and water. Black lace curtains hang over leather booths that wrap around the mirrored walls. The ceiling is adorned with glow-in-the-dark constellations and a disco ball." the Futuro house has become 2001 Odyssey's VIP room." Well, this is one possible “future,” but probably not the one Suuronen imagined for his visionary design. For more on where the other remaining Futuro houses have landed, check out thefuturohouse.com.
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Prouvé gas station to be auctioned

Want to buy a classic modernist gas station? How about one designed and fabricated in 1969 by one of the pioneers of prefabrication, Jean Prouvé? The French auction house Leclere is auctioning off a two-story Prouvé “SUCY’ station on Wednesday, April 3, at 6:00 p.m., Paris time. The station is currently located outside Marseille, France, listed a “heritage” structure, but needs to be relocated. This should not be difficult (disassembly and restoration estimates on request) as it was made to be “demountable” and has a facade of 13 polyester and glass panels and galvanized sheet metal, all resting on a central drum with peripheral aluminum poles and neoprene joints. The website Metalobil has a fantastic image library of other renovated SUCY stations, including one turned into a windowed fashion catwalk for the designer Raf Simons. The station is one of 100 designed and built for Total gasoline brand in the 1960s. The auction house has put an estimate on the station of €100,000 to €150,000.
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Escobedo Soliz designs two prefab schools in rural Mexico

Mexican practice Escobedo Soliz recently completed two schools in Mexico's Puebla region, which was devastated by an earthquake in 2017. According to the architects, over 200 public schools were destroyed in the region, which spurred a group of private investors to commission the firm to create two primary schools in the town of Santa Isabel Cholula. The team had only nine months to design and build both structures, leading to the selection of a modular, prefabricated system. The two schools use repetitive, single-story, barn-like modules with skylights along their ridges and red-pigmented precast concrete panels on their exteriors. The modules are arranged along covered porticos that act as outdoor hallways.
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California is embracing prefab architecture with innovation, talent, and investment

With a long history of mass-produced housing experiments going back to the 1920s Sears, Roebuck & Co. mail-order homes, and the post–World War II suburban mass- housing experiments, California has a rich legacy of prefab hits—and misses. In recent years, a new generation of builders has arrived on the scene seeking to surpass this legacy by exploiting emerging mass-customization techniques and new technologies to streamline production. But these aren’t your grandparents’ prefab units. The days of rigid space-age designs are long gone, replaced by new designs that instead focus on diverse aesthetics and material flexibility. These new designs tend toward a pervasive adaptability that not only bolsters their widespread appeal but also helps builders meet the onerous local design restrictions that define many California communities. LivingHomes, based in Santa Monica, California, offers a variety of factory-made designs for single- and multifamily units, including models designed by prominent architects and firms such as Yves Béhar, Ray Kappe, and KieranTimberlake. LivingHomes’ designs are built by its spinout firm, Plant Prefab, which focuses on construction and assembly. Founder and CEO Steve Glenn is hoping Plant Prefab will lead the way in creating a national network of home-building factories where “homes are built like airplanes” rather than as one-off works, as is currently the case. Plant Prefab bills itself as the nation’s first sustainably minded home factory, and recently garnered a $6.7 million investment from Amazon, which is looking to expand the market for the company’s Alexa smart home technologies. Seattle-based Blokable, on the other hand, pursues vertically-integrated projects with the help of their in-house development team’s business model, which seeks to treat “housing development as a service.” By controlling planning, design, and production, Blokable is able to offer turnkey development services for local nonprofits and other housing providers at a lower cost. The firm offers standardized building systems along with customizable windows, doors, and finishes in order to meet a variety of price points. Blokable has begun the development process for a 64-unit housing complex in Edmonds, Washington. The project is a partnership between Blokable, the City of Edmonds, and the nonprofit Compass Housing Alliance. At the smaller end of the building scale, Gardena, California–based Cover is working to boost the availability of backyard Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) in Los Angeles. Owing to a 2016 state law that legalized these backyard structures, Cover has developed unique zoning analysis software that can give potential clients a view of what type of ADU they can build. Cover offers sleek custom designs and uses its own modular building systems, fabricating units in a new factory in southern L.A. County. While many of these outfits are relatively new, legacy prefab designers are also making strides. Office of Mobile Design (OMD) principal Jennifer Siegal has been working at the intersection of portable architecture and housing for over two decades, pioneering a distinct approach to modular design that is flexible enough to include additions to existing buildings, as well as develop modular commercial structures. Siegal recently partnered with builder Bevyhouse and premium kitchen designer Tortoise to develop her own line of prefab ADU models and is also currently working on a modular design for the Sanderling Waldorf School in Carlsbad, California. If OMD’s continued experiments in non-housing prefab building types are any indication, factory-made structures of all types could soon make their way off the assembly line and to a community near you.
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This memorial to Argentinian farmers glows with reinforced resin and burlap panels

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In 2011, Buenos Aires-based estudio Claudio Vekstein_Opera Publica (eCV) was approached by the government of Argentina's Sante Fe Province to design a space memorializing the centennial of the Alcorta Farmers Revolt. Founded in 1892, Alcorta is a small farming town laid out according to a dense and rigid grid surrounded by plotted agricultural land, an urban morphology typical of this southern corner of the province. From this historical context, eCV's Memorial Space and Monument of the Alcorta Farmers Revolt rises as an asymmetrical fissured edifice wrapped with semi-translucent, prefabricated epoxy resin-and-fiberglass panels.
  • Facade Manufacturer América Fiberglass, SRL, Rosario (resin panels)                              Del Balcón, Luthier's Workshop (molds)   
  • Architects [eCV] estudio Claudio Vekstein_Opera Publica
  • Facade Installer Coirini S.A. (general contractor)
  • Facade Consultants Mark West and Ronnie Araya (paneling), Ayelen Coccoz (artist) Tomas del Carril and Javier Fazio (structural)
  • Location Alcorta, Argentina
  • Date of Completion June 2018
  • System Structural steel with metal framing and epoxy resin and fiberglass cladding
  • Products Molded epoxy resin reinforced with fiberglass and burlap panels
The complex, located on an approximately 81,000 square-foot plot, is a visual homage to the town and region’s proud pastoral heritage. For the main northwestern facade, eCV Principal Claudio Vekstein turned to the region’s traditional forms; during the harvest season, farmers would pile their corn bags into hillock-scale mounds as a testament of collective pride in their work. Approaching the memorial from the southern border of the town, Vekstein achieves a material and symbolic bridge to the past with a vast canvas of an “insistent, alternating and syncopated relief of bags” formed out of epoxy resin, fiberglass, and rough burlap cloth. For the relief of the bags, eCV designed a set of rectangular molds of a standard height and varying widths. These modules are plugged into 275 alternating facade elements measuring approximately 3.5 feet in height and 7 feet in width. The billowing mass of the reinforced resin panels is broken by a series of narrow apertures of four different dimensions. The structure of the monument is highly visible, consisting of exposed and inclined steel beams and trusses planted into a concrete foundation. Mounting the precast facade panels onto the structure was a fairly straightforward operation: the panels are attached to a bracket-connected metal framing system with self-tapping screws. In total, the installation of the panels took approximately three weeks. A significant portion of the northwestern facade folds over the 4,300 square-foot built area and interior segments of the panels are backed by rows of grooved fiberglass. The rear elevations, which host offices of the Agrarian Federation and communal spaces, are fronted by rectangular corrugated sheets of metal that are similarly fastened to a framing system. During the day, the semi-translucent screen filters a soft yellow light into the memorial's principal spaces. The rough burlap fabric, which provides the panels their outward dark hue, takes on the form of a glowing and sinuous skin. As the sun sets and interior spaces are illuminated by artificial lighting, the facade becomes a lamp beaming toward Alcorta. Beyond the facade, eCV’s interior is spartan and reflective of the populist ethos of the overall design typology–the flooring is bare concrete, with steel trusses and cross braces cascading below the slanted roofline. After six years of episodic construction, the complex opened to the public on the 106th anniversary of the uprising in June 2018.
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In L.A., this modular steel frame house doubles as a bridge over a secret stream

Half a block south of Los Angeles’s ritzy Hancock Park neighborhood, a secret underground stream that draws its water from the mountains of Griffith Park runs across the backyards of several unassuming homes. On a quizzical block where each house provides a corresponding bridge to span the stream, Los Angeles–based architect Dan Brunn is busy erecting a 200-foot-long house that doubles as its own bridge. The 4,500-square-foot home is being built using the BONE Structure prefabricated steel construction system, a modular product developed by an eponymous manufacturer based out of Laval, Quebec, Canada. The all-steel system is fabricated entirely off-site and put together on-site, each element assigned an individualized bar code designating its placement. Brunn utilized a five-by-five-foot module “designed around experience, not transport or manufacture” to create the home. The three-bedroom, shotgun-style house is arranged with a carport facing the street. From there, a living room, kitchen, and courtyard extend into the site, followed by a bathroom sandwiched between two smaller bedrooms. A master suite caps the back end of the home, concealing an office space located below that is accessible to the banks of the stream. Brunn said, “The precision of the BONE Structure system is so evident and clear, it’s like seeing the inside of a Swiss watch.” The home is currently under construction and is expected to be complete late 2018.
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Katerra's approach could make factory construction a model for the future

Some of the most fruitful innovation in the AEC industry right now lies in the realm of factory-built buildings. Whether they include experiments with prefabrication, mass-timber construction, or modular components, architects are increasingly working with building assemblies that are fabricated off-site and under controlled conditions. And while some designers work in these modes on a one-off basis, a new crop of technology-focused, end-to-end construction service firms have sprung up that can take a project from idea to finished building all on their own, including construction and fabrication. Established in 2015, Katerra is one of the firms that are shifting how buildings get designed and built in the United States by pioneering a hybrid business model that combines prefabrication with mass-customization. The Menlo Park, California–based company is a relative newcomer in the field, but with over $1.3 billion in projects and an expanding nationwide presence, Katerra is poised to make factory construction a thing for the future. AN’s West editor Antonio Pacheco spoke to Craig Curtis, president of Katerra Architecture, to discuss its business model, examine how the company integrates technology into its workflow, and delve into the firm’s new project types. The Architect’s Newspaper: Can you tell us what Katerra does? Craig Curtis: Katerra is an end-to-end construction and technology service company that applies systemic approaches to remove unnecessary time and costs from building design and construction. Our services include architecture and engineering, interior design, materials supply, construction management and general contracting, and renovation. What are some of Katerra’s short- and long-term goals? Since the company’s founding three years ago, Katerra has accomplished a significant amount: We have more than $1.3 billion in bookings for new construction spanning the multifamily, student and senior housing, hospitality, and commercial office sectors. [During this time] our global team has grown to more than 1,400 employees and we also opened a manufacturing facility in Phoenix and started construction on a mass timber factory in Spokane, Washington. Going forward, we are focused on delivering the projects in our pipeline, bringing our Spokane factory online in early 2019, and continuing to build out additional domestic factories like the one in Phoenix, where we fabricate building components. We will also continue to expand and improve Katerra’s technology platform, which underpins our vertically integrated model. What does it mean to use a “systems approach” with regard to building design and project delivery? Katerra’s model uses technology and end-to-end control throughout all levels of design, development, and construction. By moving from individual project thinking to a systems approach, we deliver greater precision, higher productivity, and improved quality control. With design, we combine product standardization with customization. This provides the efficiency of manufacturing without sacrificing design freedom. Through our global supply chain of curated, high-quality products, we eliminate middlemen, passing savings directly to our clients. We also integrate Building Information Modeling (BIM) tools and computational design with our global supply chain infrastructure. So, plans go directly from design to the factory floor and to the construction site. Materials and products arrive at our construction sites on time and ready to install. As a result, the activity at a Katerra construction site more closely resembles a process of precision-sequenced product assembly than traditional construction. Speaking generally, how much time does Katerra’s business model shave off a project timeline compared to traditional project delivery? In 2018, we are beginning construction on the first series of fully optimized buildings designed by Katerra. This particular building type is a three-story suburban product for workforce housing. We anticipate being able to achieve up to a 40 percent reduction in project schedule for these projects, providing significant benefits to our customers. As we develop similar tools for other market sectors, we anticipate significant schedule reductions, with the percentage dependent on the complexity of the building type. What are some of the innovative technologies Katerra employs from a design, fabrication, or construction point of view? A great example is our use of Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID). We add RFID tags to all the components fabricated in our manufacturing factory. These tags are accessible from mobile devices either on the production floor or in the final assembled product at the job site. Each RFID is linked to an archived file showing the entire assembly of the selected component, including video of each step in the manufacturing process. With this RFID technology, enclosed wall panels can be delivered to the job site, allowing local building inspectors and third-party verifiers to perform virtual framing and air sealing inspections. Application of RFID is just one of many ways Katerra is using technology to drive down costs, improve quality, and deliver a superior customer experience.
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Secret cities of the Manhattan Project to go on view at the Building Museum

In the midst of World War II, three new cities sprung up across the United States, built from scratch by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Between 1942 and 1945, Oak Ridge, Tennessee; Los Alamos, New Mexico; and Hanford, Washington would become home to more than 125,000 people, but, officially, none of these places even existed. In fact, everything that happened inside the three "secret cities" was strictly confidential—even their locations, which were completely off the map. Now, some 75 years later, the National Building Museum is digging through the archives to present a declassified picture of the three cities at the core of the Manhattan Project, the research and development mission behind the first atomic bomb, with the exhibition "Secret Cities: The Architecture and Planning of the Manhattan Project," which opens from May 3. The show examines the exceptional design thinking required to build three clandestine cities at the height of the war, but these were not simple military encampments. Coinciding with the early moments of modernism, the hidden cities were a laboratory for the most cutting-edge explorations of town planning, engineering, and efficiency of mass and scale. To realize their vision, the Army Corps turned to architects like those at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, who provided the master plan for the community at Oak Ridge, which would grow to encompass 10 schools, a hospital, 17 restaurants, and 300 miles of road. To make it all possible, a team from SOM, led by led by John Ogden Merrill himself, set up shop in the town. The Tennessee office would grow to include some 300 architects, making it among the largest firms in the country at the time. Not only would the town prove a testing ground in which Bauhaus and other early modernist principles were utilized to create the type of planned suburb development that would dominate the following decades, it was also an opportunity for SOM's designers and engineers to experiment with new techniques and technologies, using prefab and modular construction methods combined with cemesto panels (names for their a mix of concrete and asbestos). At the time, the work was strictly confidential—not even the residents of the secret cities knew what they were working on. Only now, with the distance of time, is it possible to examine the legacy of these instant cities that sprung from the atomic race.
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Burning Man's 2018 temple revealed

Burning Man, a summer festival located in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert, is something of an architectural bonanza. Each year, dozens of artistic displays and sculptural forms are erected in Black Rock City, the temporary metropolis that hosts the festival. Temples in the past have included a wide range of designs, from pagoda-inspired structures to Wicker Man-eqsue towers. Galaxia, designed by architect Arthur Mamou-Mani a professor at the University of Westminster and the owner of the fabrication laboratory Fab.Pub, has been selected to serve as Burning Man 2018’s main temple. The temple will be constructed of twenty spiraling timber trusses, crowned with a 3-D-printed mandala. A series of alcoves are formed between the timber trusses, allowing spaces of congregation for attendees. According to the Burning Man Journal, the distance between the timber trusses will be wide enough to facilitate movement to the core of the structure. The Galaxia structure “celebrates hope in the unknown, stars, planets, black holes, the movement uniting us in the swirling galaxies of dreams”–a description fitting for the international designs of the festival as well as the broad scope of its attendance. The architect, Arthur Mamou-Mani, has designed installations in Black Rock City for the last six years. Based in London, Mamou-Mani specializes in digitally designed and fabricated architecture. As reported in the Reno Gazette Journal, the 2018 temple will be pre-fabricated and mostly built off-site as a collaboration between a crew of artists using a range of robotic tools such as 3-D printers, laser cutters and robotic drill arms. Through this digital fabrication process, Mamou-Mani hopes to reestablish the architect as craftsman, allowing for a closer connection between the design and construction processes. Shipping the interstellar structure will also prove to be quite a feat, requiring the use of flatbed trucks to transport them to the center of Black Rock City. Regardless of the architectural and engineering efforts going into the Galaxia, the structure is nonetheless temporary and will go up in flames on the last night of the festival, in accordance with Burning Man principles.
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This designer created a live-work prefab development for Detroit's growing creative class

Detroit is full of surprises. From the Mies-designed Lafayette Park to the currently disassembled Heidelberg Project, small enclaves throughout the city challenge the perceived image of a city that has lost 60 percent of its population in the last 50 years. Tapping into this potential of small community spaces, Edwin Chan and his Los Angeles–based design practice EC3 have recently completed True North Detroit, a half-acre live-work community.

Specifically designed to cater to Detroit’s growing creative population, True North comprises nine lightweight prefabricated Quonset huts in the Core City neighborhood about two and a half miles northwest of the downtown. Core City has not seen any significant construction in over 60 years, and the area surrounding the project mostly consists of vacant lots.

“The majority of Detroit’s housing stock is either out of date or completely dilapidated,” Edwin Chan said. “Rather than being determined by ‘market demands,’ True North’s design is an inclusive and aspirational vision to create a new typology of affordable housing and to promote alternative, creative lifestyles in one of the world’s most iconic cities.”

The small complex of vaulted buildings is arranged in such a way as to provide access from the street and produce open outdoor communal spaces. Security, views, and privacy were also considered in the strategic orientation of each structure. The shape of the Quonset huts was also modified from the typical semicircular section to better serve the targeted residents.

Elongated and heightened wall space was produced for hanging art for production and exhibition. Kitchens, bathrooms, and utilities were moved into a center “island” and built out of a durable polycarbonate. Translucent and transparent polycarbonate was also used throughout to provide generous light and extra security. Radiant concrete floors, finished plywood, and other inexpensive materials and construction methods help keep the spaces affordable. The apartments range from 475 to 1,600 square feet, all with a lofted space above the kitchen area that can be used as a bedroom or additional workspace.

Even before its completion early this summer, True North received an honorable mention in the 64th annual P/A Awards in the community category. Far from the massive developments happening in the city’s downtown, projects like True North attempt to add to the city in more elegant way. As such, True North is the first of an iterative plan designed by EC3 to build on another seven acres in the neighborhood. It would seem that it is unavoidable that Detroit is going to be a testing ground for architectural and urban innovation. Projects like True North will hopefully prove that this can be a positive, and truly progressive, experience for the city.