One building, six layers
We see a building as a collection of layers with each layer having its own function, subset of elements, products and materials, and lifespan. Building layers can be broken down in building elements and parts, produced by co-makers or bought (make or buy decision) separately. Circular construction is about designing out waste, understanding the parts that make a building and optimizing the lifespan and value of building elements. The overall residual value of building elements will increase in the coming years due to resource scarcity.
The varying lifespan of elements, products and materials demands that the design, building, using, maintenance and demounting activities need to interlink closely. For being able to reuse building elements it’s imperative that from the start of creating our new building (system) the design, engineering and construction process was done according to the “Design for disassembly and adaptability” principles. By applying modularity in design, in such a way that outdated or broken modules can be easily replaced, we keep adaptability and value at the highest level.
Flexibility is key
About 60 percent of a building consists of the supporting structure which can technically last for hundreds of years. That makes it logical that attention to the supporting structure is a precondition when you design and realize a circular building system. Floors make up about 50 percent of the building structure and about 30 percent of the total building. That is why NxtGen Houses focused on smart, flexible and adaptable designs and floors with a low environmental profile. We made a switch in mindset from mainly considering how to assemble buildings to think about how we can also take buildings easily apart again so that components can be reused elsewhere. Supreme simplicity (KISS) has been an important principle in the design. The lightweight building elements are equipped with smart sensors to monitor, optimize and safeguard operations. The use of materials is kept to an absolute minimum.
By starting from mass produced primitives (the smallest indivisible building parts) which we dry mount in an assembly line like process into standardized sub-assemblies and building elements, an universal building system is created. By changing primitives, the building elements can get a different shape, function or load-bearing capacity without changing the dimension (the LEGO brick). This creates design flexibility, and a wide variety of housing types and models can be built.
Modular or off-site building is unfortunately often associated with stacking of houses with a so-called ‘container look’. That is NOT what we do. NxtGen Houses has reinvented conventional building and created a revolutionary new Meccano/LEGO -like sustainable industrial building system with an IKEA instruction, and flat-packed transportation that will grow into something extraordinary. We have developed a standard “chassis” on which we can build any type of residential building.
NGH residential buildings are customizable because subcomponents and building elements can take various forms, sizes and finish specifications within the standardized framework. When we kick off a new project 80 percent of the design and engineering documentation is already in place. We use digital twin technology and all collected data (drawings, building parts, weight and structural loads, operational and maintenance info) is stored during the total life cycle of the building.