Policy 
Open Access
Type 
Project
Authors 
Mariagiulia Bennicelli Pasqualis
doi 
10.15274/tpj.2016.01.02.11
ABSTRACT -

The research focuses on the theme of the resolution of the problem of emergency housing in urban and metropolitan areas, and on how to house about ten thousand of people within a short time, with comfortable and low cost dwellings, following a catastrophic event or a social emergency.

The aim of the research is defining a model of open residential building system, based on high density and reversibility strategies.

On one hand the research analyses the actions undertaken during the earthquake occurred in L’Aquila on April 2009, focusing on the “mistakes” which were clear since the beginning but only today clear to everyone, and the “merits” of what is an extraordinary operation, never seen before, of building in few months a very large number of dwellings, through a wide repertoire of procedures and technologies.

On the other hand the research analyses the need of creating new temporary dwellings to allow heavy interventions of urban development.

The combinations of these two realities, post-catastrophe and social emergency housing, will create, in time of peace, a supply chain for temporary, reversible and low cost dwellings.

The research entitled “Temporary High Density Dwellings for Post-Disaster and Social Emergency” focuses on the resolution of the problem of the housing emergency in urban and metropolitan centers, and tries to answer the question: “how to temporarily accommodate about ten thousands of people within a short time, in a comfortable way and with low-cost building systems, following a catastrophic or social nature event.”

In fact, in case of natural-disaster events, people must cope, on the one hand, with the loss of their houses and belongings, and, on the other hand, on the dislocation for an undetermined period of time in provisional dwellings, often uncomfortable (such as container units) and/or far from their territories, causing the abandonment of the struck urban centers, thus one's own history and memories.

Furthermore, when provisional dwellings are designed as permanent, no specific uses are usually defined for the future; when conceived as temporary, usually is not foreseen any clear specification about their dismantlement. In the latter case, indeed, it is not rare to find cases where these structures – after the emergency purposes use – are still occupied or reused for tourism, even though they do not fulfil the minimum residential standard, with high costs in terms of environmental sustainability and a waste of money, essentially due to the continuous adaptations. As a key example, in Birmingham, UK, there is a complex of lodgings realised in 1946 after World War II to solve the lack of houses; the government provided the population with 156,600 provisional residential units, designed and produced on the basis of the American prefabricated housing modules (UN-HABITAT/IFRC, 2009). These lodgings were designed to last ten years, but they are still there and still occupied, after seventy years.

 

Then, the general objective of the research is to define temporary housing systems to answer to situations of high-density housing emergency, able to keep the population in its own territories next to its own houses, where temporariness means a period of three to five years on average.

In particular, the research proposes the development of an advanced model of residential, temporary and reversible, low cost system, with a “zero impact” on the territory. Such system should be able to welcome thousands of evacuated people, adaptable to different technologies selected on the basis of a dry-assembly repertoire. Finally, the study is aimed at defining an open system that can continually update itself and, above all, is available to a market as wide as possible.

The starting point of the study is the earthquake which hit L’Aquila (Italy) on April 6, 2009. The research started analysing the actions undertaken, focusing on the “mistakes” which were clear since the beginning (but clearer to everyone as of today), and the “merits” of what it is an extraordinary operation, never seen before, of building a very large number of dwellings in few months through a wide repertoire of procedures and technologies.

 

Firstly, the main error made was the realisation of permanent and traditional residential buildings in available areas around L’Aquila urban centre, creating criticalities in terms of traffic congestion, rupture of the social tissue due to the dislocation of the population, difficulties for the local enterprises and economic conditions linked to the real estate market sector. Secondly, the costs of interventions were consequently high, due to the durability of the buildings and the creation of the concrete anti-seismic platforms with consequences for the financing of the reconstruction. Last but not least, the high risk of definitive depopulation of the historical centre of L’Aquila, as new towns make really hard the return of the inhabitants (mainly students, strangers and young couple) to the former houses.

Therefore, the specific objective of the research is the development of an open residential building system – from the design concept up to a virtual prototype – based on a high-density and reversibility strategy able to offer opportunities for development not only within the emergency post-catastrophe scope, but also within the social housing emergency one, in particular for the production of temporary, reversible, low-cost and comfortable dwellings to house the end-users of the public residential building stock to undergo retrofit operations, which represents one of the main current strategies of urban development.

At the same time, the above-mentioned open system should be adaptable to the requirements of a permanent residence as a strategy for new construction housing interventions characterised by a high degree of reversibility and then durability (Fig. 1).

Figure 1.
1

The emergency process: comparison between the different processes defined by the Italian Civil Protection, the CASE project and the SATOR project.

 

Starting from these two realities – the housing emergency following catastrophes and/or social issues – the design and management strategies are defined to create, in time of “peace,” a productive supply-chain aimed at realizing a product more and more suitable for the necessities of a temporary and reversible residence and, in this way, checked, which means to limit not as much the mistakes – often unavoidable due to the urgency of interventions – but rather the permanent effects of mistakes on the territory.

In this sense, it is necessary to generate a double innovation approach for both the procedures and the architectural product based on the criticalities of the current strategies. This means also to set the basis for a wider and more general consideration, according with the actions to undertake for defining an innovative product and to provide a new regulation (currently missing) related to the temporary housing interventions.

Such necessity can be clarified, for instance, by adopting the “low-cost” objective, one of the most strategic for the operation sustainability. This is due to the fact that, as mentioned before, high costs create difficulties both during the realisation and decommissioning phase of the building systems. How to create low-cost and comfortable dwellings? Low-cost can be determined through qualitative and quantitative choices, where “qualitative” means the selection of materials and finishes characterised by a smaller durability due to the temporariness of interventions, whilst “quantitative” means the rationalisation of the dwelling space in typological and dimensional terms.

 

Furthermore, the fact that the emergency housing end-users have neither furniture nor wardrobe, allows the contraction of the individual space through the integration of furniture by means of a careful meta-design study aimed to guarantee a suitable level of comfort.

Nevertheless, this entails a rationalisation of spaces, which is practicable through the revision of the building standards (in Italy expressed by the DM - ministerial decree - 1975). This is possible only through the introduction of the already mentioned national discipline for the realisation of temporary residential building systems for emergency scopes. In fact, it is necessary to foresee simplified procedures to speed up the process and contain costs.

The necessity to operate in the emergency field implies, in fact, the definition of parameters, which – even though they are present within ordinary planning guidelines – here acquire a strategic importance to answer with urgent actions but at the same time to preserve the territory. Therefore, such parameters require a complex answer dealing with manifold aspects of the design process and a careful procedural planning, besides a careful definition of the architectural product.

From the product realisation process point of view, the idea is to identify the most efficient answers within the industrialised processes and create the basis for a direct relationship with the construction sector. In fact, one of the aspects that characterises more the answer to the housing emergency post-catastrophe, is the contemporariness of multiple interventions. This issue can be tackled only by facilitating the widest participation of the building sector enterprises, in order to absorb the necessary production avoiding sudden halt during the building process.

INNOVATION OF THE ARCHITECTURAL PRODUCT AND THE BUILDING PROCESS

Starting from these considerations, the research is aimed at setting a verified method constituted by a system of procedures and an architectural product, addressing both the Italian Civil Protection and the Local Public Administrations – as the bodies primarily involved in the management of emergencies on their territories – as well as the building sector enterprises – as stakeholders of the development of new productive supply-chain.

From the product perspective, the introduced innovations concern the definition of an advanced model for the realisation of a temporary and reversible residential building system for the housing emergency, which is also able to welcome the know-how of the building sector.

At the same time, it is necessary to proceed to the revision of the whole building process procedures, starting from the identification of the emergency building areas, the definition of procurement procedures for the urbanisation operations, and finally the definition of the design-build procurement models for the realisation and the following decommissioning of the temporary dwellings.

Instead, it is also necessary to define an intervention referring the still missing building standards for temporary building to discipline the temporary occupation of private areas. In fact, this step could be relevant in order to allow an easier occupation of areas, as in the case of emergencies the occupation of private areas is usually an option, and temporariness would avoid dispossessions.

Furthermore, the analysis of the best practices highlights the need for the institution of a technical structure within the Italian Civil Protection Agency and linked to the local administrative set up for the management of the emergency, as well as research institutes. This technical structure is aimed at supervising the whole management of the emergency process in times of “peace” – before the event occurs. This assumption means that such systems are not designed for a specific social and geographical context, and therefore it is needed to define building systems able to “accept” the different solutions available on the building market sector and, at the same time, be “adaptable” to the specific conditions of the emergency context. Thus, this is meant to be a global project as a result, but also able to adapt according to the local characteristics of the site it must be realized into.

The answer to such matters is identified in the project SATOR 1 a temporary organised and reversible housing system, which takes the name from the famous palindrome 2 as a symbol of total reversibility.

The Building Process Innovation

From a procedural perspective, many aspects should be redefined.

Some of them are the following issues:

- the emergency areas 3 localisation

- the timing of the emergency process

- the procurement procedures for the realisation of the interventions

- the procurement procedures for the dismantling phase

- the definition of the technical specification of the global project as a tool to control the appointment of the building design and realisation during the procurement procedures

 

Concerning the timing of the emergency process, the first assumption is to validate the strategy used for L’Aquila, which consists in skipping the container phase to provide the provisional dwellings immediately after the tent camps. Firstly, this allows saving costs for both the emergency houses and the reconstruction, at the same time. Secondly, former experiences, i.e. the Umbria earthquake, which stroke in 1997, showed how containers were used as “the” provisional dwelling and some of them still last nowadays in those territories.

 

The innovation introduced in this aspect is, then, to keep this step within a reasonable time, as the Civil Protection guidelines specify that the maximum time to spend in tents should not exceed three months. And this is even more critical depending on the season in which the events occur: the L'Aquila earthquake hit the city in April, during springtime, and this crucially affects the decision process put in place afterwards. In fact, in the L'Aquila case, the evacuated population lived in tents for eight months, during the realisation of the first new housing complexes.

Therefore, how to shorten this time to the suitable one of three months? How to assure a correct evaluation of the design characteristics, and of the site plan? How to correctly and efficiently accomplish the procurement procedures and the building processes in line with this goal?

These questions are fundamental and the answer substantially depends on one main move: rescheduling some of the emergency actions before the disaster events occur, which is subsequent to the definition of the technical structure. Such structure will act as a research body in charge of the global design process of the emergency temporary dwellings, on the one hand, and as a sort of general contractor during the building process, on the other hand, in order to assure the development of the entire process.

Through this, it is possible to define the following actions prior to the 77 event:

 

- the design and update of the provisional dwellings and their possible aggregations

- the emergency areas localisation

 

which will allow to immediately start the procurement procedure, on the management side, and the site arrangement and the construction design of the buildings on the production side (Figs. 1, 2).

Figure 2.
2

The emergency process: moving upfront the design process due to the introduction of the Technical Organisation and the effect on the production process of the temporary dwelling solutions. The temporariness quality of the system allows the precise definition of dismantling scenarios.

 

Regarding the procedural actions, the strategy is to split the procedures into three main categories:

 

- site areas arrangement and urbanisation

- foundation systems

- construction design and realisation of the building systems

 

The former two categories will be carried out through the MEAT– Most Economically Advantageous Tender - criterion, based on a concept design. The latter, instead, is expected to be fulfilled through the Design-Build procedure based on a developed design and with a highly performance-based procurement model. As well as for the former categories, the selection criterion will be the MEAT one.

The tool, which will assure the respect of the performance indicators, is the Technical Specification document. The Technical Structure would elaborate this document and it illustrates:

 

  1. the specifications related to the Space Units, thus the minimum dimensions and the specific performances for the definition of the internal spaces of the dwellings
  2. the description and specifications related to the technical components of the buildings, i.e. horizontal and vertical/internal and external components, doors, windows, etc.
  3. the specifications of the tender procedure, thus the definition of the documents participants should submit
  4. the judging criteria to which the offers would undergo

 

The judging criteria are defined to guarantee, among others, the temporariness and the reversibility of the building systems, as those indicators can limit the negative effects of the interventions on the territory and on the reconstruction of the former urban centres.

Figure 3.
3

The concept design of the elementary unit of SATOR project.

 

The Housing System Design

As stated before, the so-called project SATOR represents a high-density, multi-storey and anti-seismic building system, characterised by the contraction of the individual living space and by the rationalisation of the fundamental components (i.e. services, supply networks). Such aspects are implicit in the general concept of the high-density residential strategy. Thus, it is possible to state that the high-density strategy is “the” answer in case of medium-large urban centers, to avoid both an excessive dispersion of the emergency districts on the territory, and to reconstitute – also during the emergency – a social tissue. The reasons to adopt this strategy lie on the willing to avoid an increase of the urban functional criticalities (Properzi 2009) and, on the social perspective, the isolation, abandonment and impotence of the residents (Alexander 2011) a low-density approach could procure.

 

The high-density strategy entails, however, an increase of the complexity of the building site operations, especially in the case of reversible residential systems.

Studies and researches conducted on the theme of the post-catastrophe housing emergency usually concern the emergency process management and are based mainly on the low-density strategy and approaches linked to the “container” unit – in typological and technological terms – or, in general, on the object-ready-to-use. Indeed, this strategy has already shown wide limits of production and quality, introducing several issues inherent to the environmental and functional comfort, on the one side, and to the storage when not in use, on the other.

 

In fact, looking at the best practices in terms of housing emergency, the “container” strategy is the most frequently adopted. This is evident when looking at the many examples related to post-catastrophe shelters and student housing buildings. However, this strategy entails the use of pre-assembled dwelling units – i.e. the container units – which generally come with (a) technological and (b) typological limits.

On the technological side (a), it doubles the structure and/or insulation of the “containers”/dwelling units, increasing the use of resources; on the typological one (b) it entails more than usual to align the dwelling units alongside a shared balcony. If the former one implies the increase of costs, the latter one results in a lack of comfort.

Some examples of this strategy are the student housing systems realised in Northern Europe:

 

- the student housing in Amsterdam, realised by Tempohousing

- the student housing in Le Havre, realised by Studio Cattani Architect

- the housing systems for the post-earthquake emergency in Japan realised by Shigeru Ban

 

The last one displays a smart way to avoid the doubling of the insulation components, but not that of the structural components, nor the “balcony”-aggregation.

Then, the question is: how to ease the building operations, both for the assembly and dismantling ones, avoiding the “container” or the “cottage” model?

The answer proposed through SATOR is an open building system, which is composed of invariant elements (a) and of a complex of variables elements (b).

The invariant elements (a) constitute the “hardware” of the system itself – the technical, structural and technological core; the variable ones (b) instead, constitute the adaptability of the system to the specific climate, as well as to its geographical and social contexts.

Such structure realise an “open” system, as it allows: changes within a defined range of possibility according to different dwelling sizes; aggregations (e.g. line or gallery); and geometrical characteristics of the site (i.e. altimetry characteristics).

The Typological Design: the Elementary Module

One of the main purposes of the present study is the definition of the “elementary module” conceived on the four following elements:

 

1 - the structural “core”

2 - the living space unit

3 - the vertical connection unit

4 - the envelope system

 

These four elements (Figs. 4a and 4b) constitute the building system and confer the system both the “adaptability” to the specific context of the emergency and the “functional” and “architectural variability,” as the morphological quality of the emergency compounds is a highly important aspect to tend to, even for emergency temporary buildings. The structural core (1) is namely the invariant element of the building system, which contains the dwelling services (the entrance and the “wet parts” of the housing unit – i.e. the bathroom and the kitchen). Thus, this element is both the technical and the structural component of the housing unit. Two cores placed at a distance of 7.2-9 m from one another realise the building span. The span between the technical cores identifies the living space units (2), namely the dining and living room and the bedrooms. The living space unit is dimensioned to host two minimum dwelling units, made up of one bedroom, one living and dining room, the kitchen and one bathroom. The range of the dwelling size variation above indicated is 1.8 m wide. This distance is the one the building system can admit and it is set in order to implement the dwelling of one more bedroom (Figs. 4a and 4b).

Figures 4a and 4b.
41

Scheme of the dwellings variability: the scheme of the dwelling plan extension and the different dwelling size.

Figure 4b.
42

See caption for Fig. 4a - Ed.

 

The second level of the dwelling extension is represented by the façade, namely the space between the external wall of the building and the envelope system. This extension-area admits to expand the dwelling both punctually and linearly, through the enlargement respectively of the single space units, on the one side, and the occupation of the all-area to implement the living room, on the other. The punctual extension allows the implementation of the double bedroom with a baby-room space unit and the living room with a small study space unit.

The concept is conceived in order to concentrate the structural and plants constraints in the structural core, thus conferring the maximum variability of the living space units internal layout.

All the space units, both those contained in the structural core and the living space ones, have been re-dimensioned through an attentive meta-design study – based on the activities to carry out in them and the minimum equipment of those spaces – in order to rationalize the internal space to preserve the territory and save costs for the reconstruction of the urban centers (Figs. 5, 6a, 6b, 7).

Figure 5.
5

The study for the rationalisation of the dwelling space units: sketch of the bathroom plan, section and minimum equipment.

Figures 6a and 6b.
61

The virtual prototype: schematic design of the dwelling units illustrating a range of possible layout variations. Fig. 6a: combination of minimum and medium dwelling units.

Figure 6b.
62

The maximum dwelling size. See caption for Fig. 6a - Ed.

Figure 7.
7

Two internal views of the minimum dwelling size and its possible layout variation through the introduction of a partition furniture.

 

The vertical connection unit (3) is that part of the building which permits the vertical aggregation of the system and the adaptability to the geometrical characteristics of the site, as it can “assimilate” the horizontal (geometry) and vertical (altimetry) variations of the area. This is possible by modifying the shape and the position of this unit in relation to the elementary module. Thanks to this quality of the vertical connection unit, it is possible to achieve variations in the plan geometry of the building system, defining linear or curvilinear, simple multi-storey building or more complex aggregations like courtyard buildings; balcony-served buildings and others.

 

Finally, the envelope system (4) is the outer part of the building, which confers the adaptability to the climatic conditions of the context and the building morphological feature, thus, at the same time, the variability and the identity of the emergency quarters. In fact, the system is conceived as juxtaposed, to be moved according to different configurations with respect to the building body. The envelope system realises – according to the different requirements – the facade of the building or an inside / external habitable space, both as a place of addition of space units to create the different dwelling size and to guarantee the morphological variability of the system. Such aspect is necessary to avoid the realisation of a multiplicity of all equal zones with the result of a substantial alienation of people who lives in them. The variability is a quality of the building system aimed at creating an architectural landscape also in temporary emergency districts (Fig. 8).

Figure 8.
8

Possible external views of the SATOR project, depending on the shell definition.

 

The present study is based mainly on the following criteria:

 

1. the comfort of the residential units

2. the temporariness of the building systems

3. the low-cost

 

The comfort of the residential units (1) is one critical requirement, but firstly it is important to set which level of comfort we should intend. In fact, in the case of temporariness, the comfort assumes a different connotation in comparison with the permanent houses. This assumption is based on the fact that (a) reducing the comfort of the provisional dwellings allows saving money to reinvest into the reconstruction, and (b) it helps people to push for going back to their former houses. Reducing the comfort, thus, entails operating on the environmental requirements, which means the surface rationalisation and the selection of proper internal and external finishes. This is applicable only in case of – and thanks to – the temporariness of interventions. Furthermore, low cost is the requirement which makes the temporariness sustainable, thus possible.

The present study, then, operates the rationalisation of the dwelling surfaces through an attentive design process, applying the meta-design principles and through a “trial and error” approach (Bisig and Pfeifer 2008).

The concept design of the elementary module presents a “strip” dwelling organisation, where each strip is related to a specific function. The concept is formulated taking into consideration respectively: the single dwelling layout; the aggregation of dwellings, both horizontally and vertically; the adaptability of the building systems to the specific context.

Regarding the internal layout, the design process starts with the assessment of each single space unit and the reconsideration of the activities each space unit is allocated to. As stated before, the design process should also consider the minimum furniture needed to equip each space with, considering that emergency end-users do not hold any belongings. Then, the furniture must be provided with the dwelling. This fact offers one more opportunity of reconsidering the internal layout and designing the container elements in order to ease the dwelling unit usability, on the one side, and to save space and then costs, on the other. At the same time, the space unit definition cannot leave the construction and transportation requirements out of consideration. Those requirements, however, should be combined with the ergonomic criteria, thus the usability of spaces.

 

For example, the design of the bathroom space unit should consider: (a) the minimum width to comfortably use the bathroom fixtures; (b) the minimum length to put the bathroom fixture in line on the same wall, in order to rationalise the environmental building systems and to correctly use them; (c) the possibility to bring the bathroom unit as a 3D component on site, thus to keep the space unit into the regular transportation measures; (d) the need to combine the bathroom space unit with the kitchen one to keep the technological complexity together and to free the living space units from structural and technological constraints. All these aspects bring to the definition of a space unit characterised by a dimensional range of a minimum of 1.8 m large (internally), a maximum of 2.4 m large (externally) and a maximum of 12 m in length. The unit space design should, then, comply with those dimensions to reach the requirements set above.

Furthermore, the width gap of 0.6 m allows the positioning of the plant system and the definition of the construction model, thus the structural system of the emergency building system.

 

The same process is applied to all the space units composing the dwelling, taking into consideration the minimum and maximum building span, which should also allow the use of standard components for its realisation. Thus, the dimensional coordination of the elementary module considers the bedrooms minimum internal proportions and the living/dining space layout, on the one side, and the technological dimensional standards to allow the use of standard building components, on the other side.

The result is the possibility to place two minimum dwellings suitable for a couple or for a couple with a child, in the 7.2 m building span. Indeed, the 9 m span can host a minimum and a medium dwelling, suitable for 3 or 4 people (a double bedroom with a single one) or the biggest dwelling size, suitable for 5/6 people distributed in 3 double bedrooms.

 

The SATOR virtual prototype eventually realises the following different dwelling size:

 

- A1_40: 40 m2 for two people (one master bedroom)

- A1_50: 50 m2 for two people and a child (one master bedroom + the baby-room space unit)

- A2_56: 56 m2 for three people (one master bedroom and a single one)

- A2_59: 59 m2 for three people (one master bedroom and a single one + the study space unit)

- A2_64: 64 m2 for four people (one master bedroom and a double one)

- A3_100: 100 m2 for five people (one master room, a double bedroom and a single one)

- A3_117: 117 m2 for six people (one master room and two double bedroom)

 

These result from the combination of the elementary module and the punctual and linear dwelling extension level.

The Detailed and the Environmental System Design

The present study is based mainly on the following criteria:

 

1. the comfort of the residential units

2. the temporariness of the building systems

3. the low-cost

 

The comfort of the residential units (1) is one critical requirement, but firstly it is important to set which level of comfort we should intend. In fact, in the case of temporariness, the comfort assumes a different connotation in comparison with the permanent houses. This assumption is based on the fact that (a) reducing the comfort of the provisional dwellings allows saving money to reinvest into the reconstruction, and (b) it helps people to push for going back to their former houses. Reducing the comfort, thus, entails operating on the environmental requirements, which means the surface rationalisation and the selection of proper internal and external finishes. This is applicable only in case of – and thanks to – the temporariness of interventions. Furthermore, low cost is the requirement which makes the temporariness sustainable, thus possible.

The present study, then, operates the rationalisation of the dwelling surfaces through an attentive design process, applying the meta-design principles and through a “trial and error” approach (Bisig and Pfeifer 2008).

The concept design of the elementary module presents a “strip” dwelling organisation, where each strip is related to a specific function. The concept is formulated taking into consideration respectively: the single dwelling layout; the aggregation of dwellings, both horizontally and vertically; the adaptability of the building systems to the specific context.

Regarding the internal layout, the design process starts with the assessment of each single space unit and the reconsideration of the activities each space unit is allocated to. As stated before, the design process should also consider the minimum furniture needed to equip each space with, considering that emergency end-users do not hold any belongings. Then, the furniture must be provided with the dwelling. This fact offers one more opportunity of reconsidering the internal layout and designing the container elements in order to ease the dwelling unit usability, on the one side, and to save space and then costs, on the other. At the same time, the space unit definition cannot leave the construction and transportation requirements out of consideration. Those requirements, however, should be combined with the ergonomic criteria, thus the usability of spaces.

 

For example, the design of the bathroom space unit should consider: (a) the minimum width to comfortably use the bathroom fixtures; (b) the minimum length to put the bathroom fixture in line on the same wall, in order to rationalise the environmental building systems and to correctly use them; (c) the possibility to bring the bathroom unit as a 3D component on site, thus to keep the space unit into the regular transportation measures; (d) the need to combine the bathroom space unit with the kitchen one to keep the technological complexity together and to free the living space units from structural and technological constraints. All these aspects bring to the definition of a space unit characterised by a dimensional range of a minimum of 1.8 m large (internally), a maximum of 2.4 m large (externally) and a maximum of 12 m in length. The unit space design should, then, comply with those dimensions to reach the requirements set above.

Furthermore, the width gap of 0.6 m allows the positioning of the plant system and the definition of the construction model, thus the structural system of the emergency building system.

 

The same process is applied to all the space units composing the dwelling, taking into consideration the minimum and maximum building span, which should also allow the use of standard components for its realisation. Thus, the dimensional coordination of the elementary module considers the bedrooms minimum internal proportions and the living/dining space layout, on the one side, and the technological dimensional standards to allow the use of standard building components, on the other side.

The result is the possibility to place two minimum dwellings suitable for a couple or for a couple with a child, in the 7.2 m building span. Indeed, the 9 m span can host a minimum and a medium dwelling, suitable for 3 or 4 people (a double bedroom with a single one) or the biggest dwelling size, suitable for 5/6 people distributed in 3 double bedrooms.

 

The SATOR virtual prototype eventually realises the following different dwelling size:

 

- A1_40: 40 m2 for two people (one master bedroom)

- A1_50: 50 m2 for two people and a child (one master bedroom + the baby-room space unit)

- A2_56: 56 m2 for three people (one master bedroom and a single one)

- A2_59: 59 m2 for three people (one master bedroom and a single one + the study space unit)

- A2_64: 64 m2 for four people (one master bedroom and a double one)

- A3_100: 100 m2 for five people (one master room, a double bedroom and a single one)

- A3_117: 117 m2 for six people (one master room and two double bedroom)

 

These result from the combination of the elementary module and the punctual and linear dwelling extension level.

The Detailed and the Environmental System Design

The construction system is one crucial aspect to define high-density, temporary and reversible building systems.

Thus, the study analyses the different requirements needed to achieve all the above-mentioned building system features.

These requirements, which form the reference indicators for the contractors to spell out in the tender briefing, have been defined based, on the one hand, on their “weight” on the environment, and on the other, to guarantee the real temporariness of the building systems.

Due to the temporary quality of the building systems, the technological choices have fallen in the only field of dry-assembly construction systems, which guarantee a rapid assembly and dismantling of the system and, through stratified constructive solutions, the reversibility of the system itself.

 

These indicators are here synthesised:

 

- Portability - This means that the component should be shaped and assembled in order to be easily transported and moved on site.

- Impact on the ground - This depends on the foundation typology and on the foundation material impact.

- Imprint on the ground - The tight relationship between the shape and the ground occupation of the building systems. This footprint can be, for example, compact, linear, crooked or fragmented.

- Construction speed - This indicates the quality of the building system to be assembled rapidly and with the smallest number of operations. This quality is conferred through a rationalisation and simplification of the building system during the design phase and it acquires a crucial role in emergency situations, being the strategy to both save costs and give a rapid answer to the housing need.

- Flexibility - This refers to the availability of the building system to adapt itself to the needs of the end-users (once identified) and the context, and to offer a certain range of variability, thus to confer an architectural quality to the emergency districts.

- Dismission - This is a fundamental indicator, as it makes the temporariness and the reversibility of the building system real. These qualities, in fact, depend on the attitude to reverse the building operations and derive from an attentive design process and the use of proper technologies and construction systems. Furthermore, the building system should be layered, in order to separate materials based on their recycling property.

- Recycle/reuse - This ndicates that materials and components should be chosen based on the life-cycle of the building system to realise and guarantee the maximum "availability" to be recycled and/or reused.

- Anti-seismic - This indicator, above all in the case of a natural disaster situation, covers a key role, even for the psychological equilibrium of evacuated people. Due to the temporariness strategy, it is possible to expect the building systems to undergo earthquakes of minor intensity in comparison with long-lasting structures. This does not mean to minimise the seismic aspect, but to intervene through specific strategies and technologies, both during the design and the realisation process, to guarantee the appropriate resistance of structures in case of earthquake based on their limited life-cycle.

- Low-cost - This indicates the quality of the system of guaranteeing the suitable safety and the maximum of the comfort with the minimum costs of the building systems. This parameter means to operate: rationalising the dwelling surfaces; simplifying procedures; choosing materials and technologies available to the building market sector able to ease the realisation process. This requirement is critical as it makes the temporariness strategy possible, on the one side, and maximally employ resources into the reconstruction of the urban centres, on the other side.

 

In synthesis, the building systems should be conceived based on the available technologies and dry-assembly construction models, assuring their total reversibility, once the emergency will end. Finally, to ease the building process, above all during an emergency process, it is important to prefer industrialised processes, minimizing the site operations. This latter requirement is crucial due to the contemporaneity of interventions in case of a post-disaster housing emergency.

Then, the SATOR project represents the possible answer to the above-mentioned issues, as it is conceived as an open-system to be realized through dry-assembly construction models, chosen from those currently available on the market, and to be updated to the brand-new ones.

 

Among the construction aspects, the foundation system represents one of the most critical points: as usually, it is the element entailing the heavier impact on the ground, thus the footprint on the environment.

The most part of the samples often presents concrete foundations directly realised on-site. This kind of structures is normally intended to be reused after the emergency, usually without defining a real destination (i.e. platforms for market stands, is one of the most recurring ones) and producing, as a result, the permanent occupation of an area. On the contrary, the present study wants to define temporary and totally reversible systems, which produce a “zero impact” on the environment, thus it designs a specific foundation system completely pre-fabricated and assembled on site.

This is constituted of three classes of the pre-cast beam produced in blocks, depending on the weight – thus the transportability – of each one. Furthermore, it presents an integrated hook system and pre-configured holes, to assemble the beams by means of metal tie-ropes.

At the same time, also the elementary module is conceived in different components, each one with its own construction strategies based on the specific morphological and technological characteristics:

 

1. the structural “core”

2. the living space unit

 

The structural core (1) is a self-standing system, which admits a total prefabrication; thus this component could be transported on-site as a 2D panel system to be assembled on site, as well as a preassembled 3D volume – in case also completed with the equipment – depending on the specific convenience in terms of transportation and site conditions.

The living space unit (1), instead, is realised with a framed structure supported by the structural core vertical elements.

The dimensional organisation of the elementary module, thus the entire building system, is achieved through a “tartan knit,” which allows defining the internal layout of the dwellings, regardless of the available materials and construction technologies to choose during the procurement procedures (Figs. 9a and 9b).

Figures 9a and 9b.
91

An early scheme of the tartan knit with the definition of the different dimensional modules for the elementary unit elements.

Figure. 9b.
92

See caption for Fig. 9a - Ed.

 

In fact, the tartan knit puts its axis on the internal and external edge of the structural element, in order to control the internal dimensions of the space units. The flexibility of the system is assured giving to each different component its specific dimensional module based on the component specialisation. The SATOR project case presents a different dimensional module for the structural core and the living space unit, to fit with the specific space, technological, structural and plants needs.

 

Regarding the environmental building systems, they also follow the temporariness strategy, which admits defining specific environmental performances for the emergency dwelling. Literature shows how in the case of a short-term stay – temporariness – it is possible to reduce some of the reference values required for the environmental building systems design, defining standard fitting with provisional situations.

Concerning the environmental building systems design, it follows the same requirements defined for the construction system. Thus, the systems should be conceived in order to allow their total reversibility and recycle/reuse of the single components.

 

In conclusion, to test the building system, the research provides a virtual prototype with a wood-combined technology system: X-Lam for the structural core and balloon-frame for the living space unit (Fig. 10). Being a virtual prototype, the test was conducted producing a developed design of a 3-storey housing system, in analogy with those of the CASE project built in L’Aquila in 2009, to demonstrate that it is possible to realise quality residential districts, even in case of temporary building system for a post-disaster emergency.

Figure 10.
10

A sectional perspective of the structure of the SATOR project virtual prototype illustrating the balloon frame construction system of the living space unit.

 

CONCLUSIONS

The SATOR project is the development of a clear and slender complex of procedures and tools (the special specification) that makes efficient, and therefore effective, any process referable to the resolution of the housing emergency. These tools surely represent the basic conditions to reach the other central objectives: the constructive rapidity which solves, in addition to an evident saving of times and costs, the lodging of the evacuees in the shortest time possible. To reach this aim the management of the necessary procurement procedures and the specific indicators to be fulfilled have been provided, in order to make the objectives of the public administration and the productive sector converge.

 

The research, nevertheless, leaves some open questions, among which the low-cost and the decommissioning objectives. Currently, the cost estimated of the project SATOR stands around 950€/m2. Such figure represents an interesting objective for what concerns the whole sector of the so-called low-cost building systems.

However, the realization of the objective needs to aim more decidedly to the further contraction of the geometric aspects, specifically on the quantities - height, surfaces, among others - and contemporarily, on a complex of low-cost finishes, according to the temporariness of the building systems and in correspondence to an acceptable comfort performance for the inhabitants. This means to limit the use of resources reducing the cost of the provisional dwellings and saving the most of the financing for the reconstruction.

 

In synthesis, the principal goal is surely reachable with a further examination of the building system design, preferably in collaboration with the productive compartment and through a wide and deep investigation of the building products market.

The concept of decommissioning certainly represents a very critical goal to reach because it is evident that this not only concerns the present study but also the future of the architectural design culture and of the overall building market sector. The present research has intended to frame an adequate repertoire of components and elements that can be devoted to the reversibility and recyclability principles of components and materials which compose the building system. At the same time, it is necessary to develop a further and careful evaluation of the material nature, through a comparative system both for a performance, productive and economic assessment of the different opportunities currently offered by the market sector of the building materials and technologies. The present research opts, instead, for the timber/wood technology, as it was the most suitable for the verification of the system.

In conclusion, one of the central points at the base of the present study is primarily to show that through a symbiotic relationship among the authorities in-charge, universities, civil protection agencies, contractors and industrial suppliers within the building sector – along with a careful design activity – it is possible to realize comfortable, sustainable, agreeable interventions of temporary high-density building systems.

Notes 
1.

Sistemi Abitativi Temporanei Organizzati Reversibili.

2.

SATOR AREPO TENET OPERA ROTAS is a Latin palindrome, namely an inscription (typically in a square, the "Sator Square") legible in all directions (from right to left and the opposite, as well as from the top to the bottom and vice-versa. (The earliest version of this precursor of the modern crosswords was found in Herculaneum, an ancient Roman town south of Naples, which was buried with ash during Mt. Vesuvius' eruption in 79 AD. The Sator Square may then predate the Christian era. - Ed.)

3.

With the terms “emergency areas” is here intended the site for the provisional dwellings as defined in the “Metodo Augustus” document (Galanti, 2007), not those areas for the first emergency operations, or those of the tents camps.

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Mariagiulia Bennicelli Pasqualis was born in Genoa. She earned her professional degree in architecture and her PhD in Technology of Architecture from the School of Architecture, University of Florence. She has been working with Ipostudio (Florence, It.) since 2007, becoming an associate partner in 2014. She is an Adjunct Professor in Building Systems Design at the Department of Architecture, University of Florence. In 2014 she turned her PhD dissertation into a book, published by FrancoAngeli, Milan: Case temporanee. Strategie innovative per l’emergenza abitativa post-terremoto (2014).

E-mail: mariagiulia.bennicelli@gmail.com

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