2011 // no specific location // house - prefabricated prototype // study
"How does one become a butterfly?" she asked. "You must want to fly so much that you are willing to give up being a caterpillar."
The Chenille House is common-sense and new: a house that can sustain its own water and power needs; a house that can survive the floodwaters generated by a storm the size of Hurricane Katrina; and perhaps most importantly, a house that can be manufactured cheaply enough to bring a new architecture to the low-income housing segment.
Chenille, through its different definitions, describes the thoughts and forms of this new kind of house. Chenille means “caterpillar” in French, and this fascinating creature was the initial inspiration for the structural definition of Chenille House. With many little legs that work all together, Chenille House stands storm-forward and maintains a perfect modular balance. The legs supporting the main volume of the house gracefully reach down to the ground, and in the interstitial spaces, dwelling programs complement those of the volumes above. Chenille also refers to a type of fabric, and Chenille House will be most recognized by its skin. All façades and bottom ceilings have been wrapped with a semi-translucent polycarbonate to enhance the building with a homogenous image and protect it from harsh weather. This skin will be of the owner’s choice of color, pattern or even module. Chenille may refer to a plant as well, and the house dodges and twists along the site limits as if the trees belonged there long before the consolidation of the house. This creates a unique sense of harmony between nature and the building.
A new approach to mass-producing low-cost homes that respond to local culture and climate. Chenille House optimizes the efficiency of mass-production, while respecting New Orleans’s unique culture and context. The Broadmoor neighborhood's colorful vernacular houses, which local residents have traditionally modified and personalized over time, reflect the community’s vibrant culture. Chenille House grows out of the indigenous typology of the shotgun house, predominant throughout New Orleans and Broadmoor. Like a typical shotgun house, Chenille House sits atop a raised base. This base sits ten feet above ground level to give the house a ground entrance level with exterior programs. Lifting the house overtakes the classical visual urban limits and expands them into the individual lots. The house thus is designed as two technical compound layers (1st floor and roof) that integrate all mechanical, electrical, plumbing and sustainable systems. The most important: the elevator. A house functions incorrectly if all people are not taken into consideration. If we are looking to increase the value of a home while adding convenience to our lifestyle the placement of a regulated elevator is necessary.
The house reduces its direct cost with several main targets:
- Reducing labor time on site by optimization of mass-production elements.
- Reducing the cost of sidings in the house.
- Eliminating ventilation and air conditioning installations.
- Reducing construction details on the entrance floor.
- Simple details in the overall construction.
“Small” would better be described here as “shrinking”, in the sense that basic living needs are compacted with architectural alterations such as juxtapositions of programs, duality of meanings for the programs, and appropriation of "useless" space into the program, etc. in order to economize without compromising the human desire for programmed space.
- Every bedroom would function as a Master Bedroom and vice versa, with no harm to the functions in the house.
- The spaces of the Living Room and Master Bedroom are variable, and expand or contract with the usage of the porch. When combined, these spaces are especially grand.
- The Dining area is an open space situated in the core of the house as a connector of programs. It could be a study room, an eating place, a meeting room, a reception room, etc.
- All areas in the ground level have a meaning that could be adapted to each occupant. Exterior dining or open gym, tea table area or tool shed, exterior laundry or entrance reception. There are storage spaces serving each area.
Entrance floor 24.2 SQ FT
First floor 775.8 SQ FT
Total 800 SQ FT
A high-performance house that generates and sustains its own water and power needs On track for a LEED Platinum Rating, Chenille House is an innovative model for affordable, net-zero annual energy consumption housing. High-performance systems sustain the home’s power, air, and water needs, and minimize resource consumption:
- Solar Power Generation: The roof supports solar panels that generate all of the house’s power, resulting in net-zero annual energy consumption. The ceilings incorporate electrical systems to store and convert solar power for daily use, and to give back to the electrical grid during the temperate fall and spring months.
- Rainwater Collection: The flat concave roof collects rainwater, and funnels it to cisterns housed in the top ceiling, where it is filtered and stored for daily use.
- Efficient Systems—including low-flow plumbing fixtures, low-energy appliances, high performance windows, and highly insulated SIPs (Structural Insulated Panel) walls and roof—minimize water and power consumption, and lower the lifecycle cost for the home owner.
- High-grade energy efficient kitchen, appliances and fixtures maximize durability and reduce the need for replacement.
- Geothermal Heating and Cooling: A geothermal mechanical system heats and cools the air via a ground source heat pump, which naturally conditions the air, minimizing the energy required to cool the house in the harsh summer months and heat it in winter.
Chenille House is something new, a selection of ideas reinterpreted for a city and a people in need of freshness and functionality as much as economy. This house can easily be mass-marketed, customized, and reinvigorated in the future. This house is a study in adaptation, for a city in need of something new.