Friday, February 19, 2010

New Composite Building System for Haiti

Below is a guest post by James Bancroft discussing a new building technology:

Rexwall/Aqua Homes (Germany) has developed and is producing a lightweight composite honeycomb-core panels used in both houseboats and land based homes. These are large insulated wall panels, glued into place.

I am not a fan of prefabricated panelized housing systems. Each house needs to be individually engineered, offering limited styles and require special assembly skills. Panelization might offer certain benefits for large housing tracts where the houses are all identical but have limited value for custom construction.

The concept for the lightweight composite building blocks allows for a variety, different sizes and architectural styles of structures without detailed architectural plans. Using only three or four standard, off-the-shelf blocks almost any type of structure can be built--local unskilled labor can easily visualize how they "fit together" and can adapt structures to the local topography.

Key to the success of any high tech building material is its adaptability to incorporate local building finishes--creating structures which fit into the historical context, customs and local design traditions--the use of materials which people have grown accustomed to--houses people want and feel comfortable living in.

Below and above are several illustrations demonstrating how this can be achieved using the composite blocks, rough exterior finishes allowing them to be stuccoed with local cementitious materials (Haiti-colorful Caribbean colors), roof panels reflecting local materials and natural flooring coverings.

For building green issues, the central insulating core could use recycled EPS, the buildings can be easily adapted to changing needs (unstacking and rebuilding) or be completely "disassembled" and recycled into new structures.

The next step in exploring and testing potential of the blocks would be to have a composite manufacture produce a number of prototype blocks, assemble them into a model small garden type house--take it apart and reassemble it several times to work out the details.

For more information contact Jim Bancroft at

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