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Meet the Next Generation of Incredibly Adaptable Homes

It is an all-too-common problem: You adore your neighborhood — that the friendships forged during backyard barbecues, the park down the road, the flower beds that you’ve labored over for decades — but you no longer want a house with four bedrooms and an eat-in kitchen. Or you’re in your dream house, however your growing family needs more space. Do you need to walk away from the house and community you’ve come to adore and start over someplace else? As baby boomers become empty nesters and young households attempt to enlarge, many believe that this is the only alternative. However, it doesn’t need to be like that.

Envision a house whose walls can actually open and shut to make flexible spaces, or one at which lightweight panels could be snapped into and from place to enlarge walls or psychologist them, based on a household’s requirements. Or a duplex that can transform into a triplex or a single-family house over time. Or a kitchen that can move from 1 room.

These aren’t pipe dreams. These are real-life scenarios that many savvy sustainability-minded designers are empowering at the moment. All so households can save resources and money and remain in their cherished neighborhoods.

The Mima House

Mima Architects’ prefab Mima House, made up of a square post and beam construction subdivided by modular wooden frames, is comparatively simple to assemble and reassemble to meet families’ changing requirements. Corner posts support the roofing so that walls could be made entirely of glass (wooden shutters provide light and privacy control), and the residence is finished with reversible panels that come in an assortment of colours and wood veneer. Panels can be added or removed on a single side of the house to change the facade.

Easily movable interior walls made from lightweight panels have been snapped into place on a grid using integrated tracks in the ground and ceiling. The panels can be rotated, replaced and removed to modify the inside space in a couple of minutes. The homes are inspired by traditional Japanese houses, which are constructed using a column-spacing grid, known as the ken, and customized interior using movable shoji screens, fusuma panels and tatami mats.

The architects, Marta Brandao and Mario Sousa, explain the prefab house, which costs roughly the same as a midpriced car, as “bright open spaces wrapped up having a pleasant, clean design.”

The following Home

Early adapters Avi Friedman and David Krawitz of the McGill University School of Architecture in Montreal constructed the Next Home to establish that homes can be both flexible and affordable. Buyers can purchase one, two or all three floors in the three-story units, constructed using open-web floor joists that allow them to find kitchens and baths nearly everywhere. A structure can begin as a duplex and be enlarged to a triplex or a single-family house.

The staircase’ being put along the side longitudinal wall in the center of the device and adjacent to the front entrance facilitates this flexibility. The homes could be detached, semidetached or constructed as a member of a row. “The evolutionary nature of the Next Home — the idea that housing be made to evolve not just in configuration and look but also in usage — responds to an explicit requirement to accommodate a wide diversity of users and family types,” Friedman and Krawitz state in their white paper, The following Home: Affordability Through Flexibility and Choice.

Demo Home in Texas

I got turned on to this adaptable-home idea 15 years ago when I visited a demonstration home in the Center for Maximum Potential Building Systems in Austin, Texas, where I serve on the board. An open post post and beam method of columns, struts and joists provides a structural armature that can be enlarged or contracted like Tinkertoy structures as spatial needs change. Walls open and shut to make multiple-use flexible rooms.

The center’s codirector, Pliny Fisk, planted the concept in my head. “Buildings change — because we change — and change is very pricey to the environment and to people’s pocketbooks,” he told me. “Why not construct buildings that are really meant to change from the beginning?”

The demonstration house is constructed of a constant open frame of rebar (manufactured locally from crushed automobiles) that can be adjusted and changed over time. The system could be retrofitted to accommodate a selection of support technologies, such as solar, water harvesting and waste treatment systems.

In 1 room a mammoth table goes up and down through agricultural steel chains, and desks fold vertically to become pinup boards for business presentations or compress against the walls to make room for a dance floor during parties.

Meanwhile, a mobile kitchen could be detachable, choo-choo style, into the party room to serve as a buffet or outside to the home’s breezeway so that cooking dinner will not heat up the home during summer time.

Toilet fixtures are constructed on a movable, swiveling pole in a room divided by drapes so that one individual can shower while the other uses the bathroom.


Architecture students at Texas A&M University developed groHome, a modular building system that could be easily expanded, upgraded and modified. The basic structural frame is made of a kit of lightweight, industrial components (steel, wood or aluminum can be used, dependent on the special location’s material accessibility and climate needs) and finished using prefabricated walls, floors and roofs. Components can be replaced or altered to meet changing homeowner requirements. Homeowners can add rooms or market a few rooms as detached accessory units when the children go off to college.

The groHome’s modular design permits homeowners to move rooms round. The kitchen and toilet could easily be rearranged. The home’s walls are self-contained modular units that can be detached, moved and attached in various locations on the framing. All kitchen utilities have been contained in a self indulgent, detachable unit.

Afresh Home

Afresh Home, a demonstration project assembled through a team effort that included the British Columbia Institute of Technology, is intended to accommodate to households’ changing needs; it can easily be converted from a four-bedroom, single-family house to a duplex with two bedrooms each unit. Occupants can also add an office or a massive first-floor master suite in the front or back of the home. Huge bedrooms could be converted into two chambers, with wide doorways that make moving furniture easy. Stacked closets on the first and second floors can be converted into an elevator shaft for aging residents or people with disabilities.

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