A while back Michael Bergin from the Autodesk Design Research group worked on something called the Housing Agency System (HAS) with the goal of making mass-produced housing more exciting and personal. This builds nicely on our previous Dreamcatcher post called the End of Design as We Know It? as it discusses the possibility of bringing design back to a process that would benefit homeowners and society at large.
The design of houses has become a highly mechanized process with few houses having direct involvement with an architect or licensed design professional. A few home plans are created and then copied, mirrored and rotated to create standardized communities.
The Housing Agency System as outlined would take design criteria such as family needs and climate conditions as goals and create homes from components defined in a parametric Building Information Model (BIM). This would both increase the number of options available and increase the viability of mass customization, it may even help to avoid the standardized blandness that has enveloped our suburbs and exurbs.
With the HAS, the following criteria could be considered in the generation of home plans:
- Site Model: Topography, obstructions and trees, market value of adjacent homes and location of utility inputs are examples of required information for the site model.
- Planning Strategies: Planning for one or more houses simultaneously and account for interaction between the various units, the frequency of pedestrian pathways, parks setbacks and density standards.
- Construction Systems: Construction systems such as light frame, heavy timber and light gauge steel construction systems.
- Building Components: Pre-fabricated or manufactured elements like windows, doors, stairs and mechanical equipment.
Once solutions are created, shareholders can review and decide if they are happy with the results. If they are happy, planning documents can be created.
In the simulation phase outlined above, there are a number of things that could be evaluated, including:
- Structural Simulations: Determine if the solutions meet requirements for gravity, wind and seismic loading.
- Cost and Schedule Simulations: Cost simulations evaluate the first and approximate lifecycle costs of a building.
- Flood, Fire and Code Simulations: Analyze the risk of flood and fire in addition to tests for code violations.
Stakeholders - including designers, contractors, and clients - could adjust design criteria to explore the space as shown below.
The HAS is not a simple system to create but it can be helped through simplified mobile computing, public interest in design, increased industry collaboration through BIM and elastic cloud computing. Such a system could help to inform the general public of the value that architects add to the design of homes and provides a venue for interaction and advertisement can help architects regain some of their involvement in this market.