During my recent trip to Paris, amongst all the historic masonry buildings, I stumbled upon this modern freestanding prefab residence and was lucky enough to be given a (partially) translated tour of the house, Maisons be-Green. Similar to the Smart Home at the Museum of Science & Industry in Chicago, this Parisian prefab was built as a demonstration structure to show new ways of building, as the French would say, "écologique."I was surprised to find this structure because so much of the architecture in Paris, particularly the historic core, is old, masonry and dense. There are essentially no free-standing houses until you get to the outer perimeter of the city, and very few of the buildings I saw looked so modern. This idea of a free-standing structure was actually designed on purpose and was modeled after American residential architecture, with the primary concept being that this structure actually comprised of two residences (like a townhouse) with a shared central living space. This shared core housed the main entrance, patio, decks, bicycle storage, mechanical equipment, laundry and a green roof.
In addition to the concept of shared living spaces, the Maisons be-Green incorporated several other green elements:
- One residence is energy positive and the other meets the requirements of the local (BBC Low Consumption Building)
- Photovoltaic and thermal solar panels mounted on roof
- South-facing orientation with extensive amounts of glass for passive solar gain, with small triple-glazed windows on the north to prevent heat loss
- Natural light and ventilation, no air conditioning, radiator heating and a centrally located stove
- Heat pump systems for hybrid and natural gas
- A super efficient envelope with recycled cotton insulation, efficient windows, rain screen siding and a highly durable mesh exterior skin
- A green roof including a vegetable garden, compost system and vertical garden
- Intelligent, whole house automation system to monitor building energy use and consumption as well as control systems for the electronics throughout the residences.
- A super efficient powder room containing a self-cleaning (no toilet paper required!) TOTO toilet and a very small sink
Maisons be-Green was a collaboration between French magazines, Architectures à Vivre and Ecologik and architect Eric Wuilmot. The house will be on display until August 25 and guided tours are €4. For more information, photos and the building plans visit the project website here.
(Images by Rachel Wray)