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)