Industrialized housing is a phenomenon that has been alive in the building industry since the industrial revolution; the casting of iron components enabled Victorian iron casters to prefabricate entire buildings and to export them to all British colonies. It got a second boost by Modernist architects such as Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Walter Gropius and Konrad Wachsmann. A third boost happened in the United States when US soldiers came back from the Second World War in 1945; In the later decades of the last century, composite prototypes were built. Timber frame houses have become extremely popular in low-density areas worldwide. For densely populated areas housing is now firmly attached to reinforced concrete. The contracting industries have developed efficient building methods for the concrete structures on which separate systems of claddings are fixed to form a house. Since Dutch architect John Habraken in his seminal book Supports, an Alternative to Mass Housing divided concrete ‘support’ and lightweight ‘infill’, structure and cladding now form two main and different building parts. In the recent decades a third element has become increasingly important and independent from the pure infill, the services.
However, in the coming decades we – designers, builders and scientists – must keep the world a sound environment within sight, prevent the exhaustion of materials and be for the minimization of embedded energy and energy usage. In the coming age, low ecological footprints, as renewed values will have an influence on the building technology of the future. This will lead to a reformation of the building vocabulary. Sustainable materials will have to be chosen and developed to function in building elements and components.
In the Concept House research group in my Chair of Product Development at TU Delft, in which Andreas Vogler participated for a few years, the focus was on industrialized, customized, energy-positive, low carbon footprint buildings, specifically multi-story apartment housing. In the last 8 years studies were made, of which can be found in this book, and designs were developed for the Concept House Urban Villas of 4 stories, which indeed has a low footprint. It has been realized as a plug & play in an industrial mode and is customized and energy positive. In 2012 the first Concept House DELFT Prototype of 7,5 x 15,0 m2 was realized in Rotterdam in the Concept House Village. In the years up to 2016 the Concept House DELFT Prototype will be employed as a living laboratory to study cases such as occasional dwelling, comparable dwelling, experimentation, testing and evaluation.
The next phase would see further development garnered from the evaluation data, and then make possible improvements on a single prototype within an urban villa and consecutively in a small series of 16 apartments. Then, came the realization of the Concept House Urban Villa. In the mean time regular publications and dissemination ensures the contribution from the academic side. In publishing and collaborating with the building industry, the hope is that academia will stimulate industry.
To work and research efficiently, the first few years of the research group between 2005–2008 were spent on historical and existing prototypes. In the research group Sannie Verweij did historical research as well as the Munich, based architect, Andreas Vogler. Apart from the futuristic designs in his office, ‘Andreas Vogler Studio’, Andreas has spent some time on the history of industrialized housing and its difficulties in an else highly industrialized world. During his studies the need for a wide overview of historical examples of industrialized housing became apparent as he recognized the need to not make the same mistakes made by others before him . The many examples in this book show that there are different reasons why industrialized housing did not mature in the same level or degree of industrialization as the automobile or aeroplane industry. Many of those reasons of failure are based in marketing and financing, not so much in technology. Smaller serial effects also play a role. The amount of repetition is nothing compared to the automobile industry. The housing industry is, for the larger part, still to be compared with the turn of the century automobile ateliers in which cars were assembled by hand and in very many different types. Only in the Netherlands some 5.000 contractors are working in producing houses. And most of them are built on the base of handicraft.
Before making the jump from the Concept House DELFT Prototype as a single apartment towards the serial Concept House Urban Villa, it is good to look back and see whether all necessary steps have been taken to determine that we have not made the same mistakes as our historical colleagues did. That is the reason why this book has its value. The windshield is larger than the rear view mirror, but you need both when moving towards the future.
Prof. dr. Mick Eekhout,
Chair of Product Development at TU Delft 1991–2015