Spiral Housing

Spiral Housing

OBRA Architects
Hamburg, Germany

Spiral Housing

OBRA Architects as Architects

ARCHITECTURAL INNOVATIONS: 270 x 4 = 360 x 3 The elevations of the building are ruled by simple ordered patterns that direct the weight of the masonry to the ground with a minimum need for beams and steel reinforcement. This elevation is nonetheless not rigid, an expression (in architectural terms) for a „Cosmopolis“, with a multitude of different rhythms flowing through it, not unlike the multiplicity of backgrounds, cultures and ethnicities of its anticipated inhabitants, for which it can be seen as a metaphor. The proposed facade design though is not a superficial play of compositional shapes, but rather the true expression of three factors that define the articulation of the building‘s space:

1. RAMPED ACCESS The ramp spirals up at the rate of 2.70 meters per turn, easily complying with German regulations for maximum slope and allowing gentle access to different apartments and defining a continuously harmonious sequence while ascending the height of the building.

2. VARIABLE SECTION The entire section of the building is composed of two complementary sequences defined by: [2.70 x 4] = [3.60 x 3]. This allows most of the area of each apartment (bedrooms, bathroom and kitchen) to have a ceiling height of 2.40 meters which is typical in projects of this type, but also allows one room (living room/dining) to contain a more generous 3.30 meters. This combination of heights allows for quality of living while preserving economy of construction.

3. THREE DIFFERENT TYPES OF WINDOWS The apartments are equipped with three (3) different window types, all in height multiples of 20 cm, the size of the masonry block: —small [1.00 x 1.60] for bedrooms [1 or 2 each] —medium [1.50 x 2.00] for living rooms [2 each] —large [1.50 x 2.60] for living rooms [2 each] as French doors to serve as balcony-like space This arrangement allows each room to enjoy ventilation, light and views in proportion to its size while avoiding the expense of making all windows of larger size, as well as the loss of quality of living in making them all too small.

PALINDROMIC FOOTPRINT In plan, the building is composed of two identical halves that are rotated, displaced and linked by the ramp, thus avoiding the authoritarian connotations of symmetry while still enjoying the economic advantages of building two nearly identical halves. In construction, repetition means savings. The layout of the apartments is also extremely simple and repetitive, but the adjacency of the bedrooms allows configurations of two-room, three-room and four-room apartments without substantial changes to the plan, through the simple device of opening doors on one wall rather than another. This arrangement could even make it possible from one neighbor to buy or purchase a room from another. The possibilities are many, but as shown in this version, the project includes: 2 two-room apartments (1 of them barrier-free) 8 three-room apartments (2 of them barrier-free) 4 four-room apartments (1 of them barrier-free)

This also allows the easy transmission of gravity loads to the ground and the stacking of kitchens and bathrooms for plumbing economy. The arrangement of the plan allows for the creation of 6 parking spaces under the building on the ground floor. This preserves the enjoyment of the beauty of the park by residents and visitors without the cluttered nuisance of a multitude of parked cars.

Besides the already mentioned community space, other facilities on the ground and semi-sunken floor (only one meter below grade and 50 cm above the level of the water table) include the necessary mechanical and storage spaces as required by the Hamburg building code and the engineering systems designed into the project.

SUSTAINABLE WILHELMSBURG With what we think might constitute an unusual arrangement for a residential building in Hamburg, our project proposes an option of a fully mechanical ventilated home interior as an example of sustainable innovation. For a full description of the system please refer to the description of our Energy Concept, while we can remark here upon its novelty as an example of the „multi-talented“ innovations proposed by the project. This proposal might seem counter-intuitive at first, but in the way it is being proposed, it will increase the amount of used energy from renewable resources while increasing independence from centralized systems and energy efficiency resulting in a better-performing environment-friendly building. This option also provides concrete advantages for it‘s inhabitants such as being able to condition the spaces without opening windows and therefore protecting the interiors from highway noise and airborne pollutants. This system would depend on the use of geothermal heat-pumps and roof-mounted solar systems.

ENERGY CONCEPT + BUILDING SERVICES CONCEPT Following in the spirit of IBA’s key theme for “Cities and Climate Change,” and honoring the Smart Price Houses requirement for low-cost construction, we have developed two separate solutions to meet the energy objectives with flexibility to insure feasibility and realization of our proposal. Either of these solutions could fully satisfy the stated goals for IBA’s vision for Wilhelmsburg and a sustainable future while providing climate-friendly and comfortable environment conditions for future residents of the complex.

These two alternatives are:



Although from an energy perspective SOLUTION 1 is preferred, SOLUTION 2 would be more economical.

SOLUTION 1: SIMPLE YET EFFICIENT The Proposed Design attempts to minimize the energy consumption of the building by combining proven traditional concepts with superior building materials and technologies. The strategy includes radiant floor heating in combination with a well-insulated building envelope to minimize the thermal losses during the heating season and limited heat gain during summer. Each residential unit will have thermostatic controls to maintain desire space temperatures. The exterior walls comprise of two-layered aerated concrete blocks with phenolic resin foam insulation in the core of the blocks. Roof, slab-on-grade and walls / floors against unheated spaces are fully thermally insulated to avoid thermal bridging. Operable windows with triple-pane glazing and aluminum-clad wood frames provide excellent thermal performance and sound attenuation. Space heating and domestic hot water are provided by water-to-water heat exchangers that use hot water supplied by a roof-mounted solar thermal system with auxiliary hot water supplied by a central district plant. Connections to the heat exchangers eliminate the need to have decentralized mechanical equipment and full advantage can be taken of the efficiency of the district plant. The above approach offers a simple yet cost-effective heating system that does not compromise habitability of the residential spaces.

The Proposed Design further includes roof-mounted photovoltaic (PV) cells and recommends the use of exterior lights with LED lamps to further reduce the energy use of the project. It is assumed that more than 30% of the total energy used will be provided by renewable energy sources through the installation of roof-mounted PV and solar thermal systems.

SOLUTION 2: COMPREHENSIVE WITH GEOTHERMAL In contrast to the above concept to make the most of the district power plant and to minimize operational and first costs, the Proposed Alternate is designed around a closed-loop geothermal system that provides space heating and cooling. The close proximity to highway and rail yard exposes the occupants to harsher outside conditions than for a typical residential project (noise level and air pollution). The key design element of a highly efficient building envelope is also used for the geothermal solution to keep the required number and depth of the wells to a minimum. Water (or a water/glycol) mixture circulates through closed-loop geothermal wells that are connected via heat exchangers to the building loop that provides water for heating and cooling to the heat pumps in each apartment. Each residential unit will have its individual highly efficient heat pump that will be controlled by thermostats inside the space. The heat pumps will reject heat into a geothermal loop during cooling season and will extract heat from the ground during heating. If needed, additional heating will be supplied via connection to the hot water supply from the district power plant.

Although initial cost will naturally be higher, the Proposed Alternate includes a complete air ventilation and conditioning system, the percentage of energy use from renewable sources and the independency of centralized systems will increase while maintaining high efficiency. Additional benefits that are not energy related include the ability to cool the spaces without opening the windows that will allow airborne pollutants to enter the room. The introduction of filtered outside air through a system based on geothermal heat pumps will maintain required ventilation while mitigating sound pollution. This is especially important for occupants suffering from allergies or respiratory diseases. In combination with the aforementioned roof-mounted solar systems, this approach will increase the percentage of renewable energy.

Project team
Product Specifications
H+H DeutschlandManufacturer AAC
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