I recently picked up a copy of Phyllis Richardson’s book NANO HOUSE (Thames & Hudson). Looking for some creative inspiration for my project, I figured there would be several great examples to borrow from, and as it turned out there certainly are.
The book breaks categorizes the projects by the following chapters:
1. Built Compact Houses
2. Small and Mobile
4. Big Ideas for Low Energy
5. Big Ideas Multiplied
The projects discussed range from 65 sq ft (“Soe Ker Tie Houses”, TYIN Tegnestue Architects) to 732 sq ft (“A Forest for a Moon Dazzler”, Benjamin Garcia Saxe). The projects use various materials including: concrete, reclaimed wood, bamboo, fibre-reinforced gypsum board, hand-crafted polyester, and aluminum finishes. The location of the projects span worldwide and the designs overall seem to compliment the sites in which they are placed. One project in particular, “Casa XS” (BAK Arquitectos) uses a minimal amount of materials that are cohesive with its surroundings, while designing a form that is both interesting and efficiently spaced.
The 2 most important chapters in this book are chapter 4, “Big Ideas for Low Energy” and chapter 5, “Big Ideas Multiplied”. Both of these chapters capture the true message behind micro-homes, and that is:
1. Less is more in relation to energy efficiency
2. Good and smart design should be multiplied
One could certainly argue with either of these points, however if you really believe in energy efficiency you cannot deny how inefficient and wasteful large homes are. The projects presented in chapter 4 integrate passive solar, thermal mass and solar power, and these systems are much more efficient in a home that has a smaller footprint. In chapter 4 several projects from previous Solar Decathlons are discussed. I recommend researching these projects if you have any interest in low energy consumption in homes. Chapter 5 discusses projects that are designed to be multiplied whether through a pod system or in mass pre-fabrication. The “Half-a-House” project (Elemental Chile Architects) is 194 sq ft unit that would ultimately be part of a public housing unit. The houses are built with pre-fabricated techniques and designed so that it can be repeated multiple times. The difference is that the Architects designed with the following principle: “…..humane in purpose, appearance and scale”. All under 200 sq ft!
One thing that can be said about this book is that there is no shortage of photographs of each project. I would have liked to see more plans and sections, but perhaps that’s because I was using this book for ideas. The only criticism that I have, and I see this with other design books, is that I see too many renderings and less actual built structures. I do understand that these designs are a work in progress or have been pulled from design competitions, but as a reader who is interested in designing and building a micro-home, I would like to reference finished projects.
Overall I recommend this book if you are thinking about designing and building a micro-home, studio, or office space. The information inside is very helpful and the projects might be the answer to any of your design problems.