The design of the Z-House is somewhat of a selfish endeavour. As a “Millennial”, I’ve long lived in a world where the typical cost of a house is way beyond the affordable limit for me. And as I’ve seen the housing market continue to get pricier and pricier, and my friends around me continue to be as unable to afford a house as I am, I was driven to try and design a solution that would give comfortable and affordable modern housing to a new generation of home owner.
Whilst I had a lot of anecdotal evidence of the problem the UK is facing, to truly empathise and understand the problem, I needed to turn to expert sources and research to truly understand the scale and the underlying causes of the problem the UK’s housing market is facing. With this, I undertook extensive research into the current state of the UK housing market, looking at the average cost, size of house, size of plot, etc, as well as the labour market in the UK, hoping to understand the average salary and how that related to the cost of housing.
It was from this research that I found that the average UK house had a floor area of between 72 and 90 square metres. And that the average UK plot size was about 300 square metres. I also discovered that the typical UK house is priced at 7 times the typical UK salary, and that the majority of houses in the UK are occupied by a single occupant or two people. And that for two people, a minimum size of about 80 square metres is needed for them to feel comfortable in their house.
With all of this information, I was able to define a list of parameters against which my design ideas could be prototyped and tested.
Success of the Z-House project is defined by 8 design parameters. Seven of these parameters are objective and quantitative, and can be easily checked and derived from the design of the building. The eighth is more subjective and qualitative.
- The final product will be a design for a residential building.
- The internal floor area of the building must exceed 80 square metres.
- The building must fit on a plot size as small as 125 square metres.
- Able to scale up to the average plot size (333.5 square metres.)
- The building must offer a comfortable lifestyle for 1 or 2 occupants.
- Internal space must be flexible, allowing for privacy and dedicated cooking space.
- The building should aim to be priced around 5x the average salary.
- The building must add more to its environment than it takes away.
These parameters work to define the eventual solution as well as work as constraints during the design process.
The idea of a Z-shaped house occurred early on in the ideation phase. It was something I had looked at and done some experimentation with before the project even officially began, as I played with different ideas for the form and orientation of different housing solutions based on geometric shapes. An early stage in this was the creation of styrofoam models, out of cubes and cuboids, that were held together with hot glue and covered in coloured tape to identify different areas of them.
Some of these models stood independently, whilst others were designed to interlock and coexist. Some were for one or two-storey buildings, whilst others looked more like skyscrapers. A selection of these ideas can be seen in the following figures.
Once these early physical sketches were complete, I moved on to creating drawn sketches of different ideas that stemmed from the physical play. Some of these were directly influenced by the forms I created from styrofoam, otherwise were more tangential.
As I returned to the parameters, one shape of house stood out to me as providing the best solutions to each of the problems, whilst also going above and beyond the call of duty in offering more. This design is what is now known as the Z-House. It’s combination of offset cuboidal shapes allow for the provision of two outdoor spaces in the same horizontal space of one, whilst also efficiently using the plot area to provide living space.
I expanded on this model by creating a series of floor plans, exploring how big a Z-House would have to be to create a variety of floor plans. Once was designed to have an internal space of 80 square metres, as defined by the parameters of the project. Another delivered a 125 square metre Z-House. And the last explored how big a Z-House would be if build to fully-occupy the space of the UK’s average house plot. This versions became known as Z-House 80, Z-House 125 and Z-House 420 respectively.
Once I was confident in my idea and sketches, I moved to the physical prototyping stage. I create five 1:100 scale models of the Z-House 80. This number of models allowed for the building to be tested in a variety of contexts, whilst also allowing varieties of finish to be applied to the material, through the application of vinyl stickers, to see how they would look built from a range of differing materials.
The five models could be separated into 5 top and 5 bottoms, creating 25 possible outcomes, which would prove important later in the process, when asking people for their opinions on the design and finish of the Z-House.
Once the 1:100 scale models had proven their popularity with those I had spoken to, and inspired some creative thinking and discussion about housing, it was time to step up the prototyping and create a single 1:10 model of the building, complete with floor plan, to better understand the size and the features of the building.
As it stands, the Z-House has yet to be tested in a final iteration. The investment required to build and test a full-scale Z-House are currently beyond by means. But, the next steps and iteration on this project are designed to overcome this and test the full viability of the Z-House for construction and general availability to the public as a housing solution.
Next Steps and Iterations
Now that the Z-House is in model form, it is easier to envision the next steps that need to be taken to see if it will ever become a reality. At the time of writing (July 2018), these steps are:
- Undertake build and cost feasibility studies with architects and engineers to understand how viable the Z-House is as a constructed dwelling.
- Set up the Z-House Company to oversee and protect development and iteration of the Z-House and its iterations.
- Work towards building a full-scale Z-House prototype that can test the construction methods, new technologies, etc.
If you are interested in funding this process, please do get in touch.