Many of the new buildings being constructed today are designed with the planet in mind, and while that may help humanity shrink its carbon footprint, the reality is that the number of old buildings will continue to outnumber new buildings well into the future. Keeping an old building up and running is environmentally taxing, but because we still need them to house people and businesses, these buildings will have to be renovated in order to help save the environment.
Of course, renovating an old building is no cheap or simple matter, which is why the Danish architecture firm Henning Larsen has come up with an innovative solution for renovating the outside of a building. In essence, what the firm has come up with is a prefab, modular facade that can be rapidly installed on top of an existing facade to instantly help the building save energy while giving it an aesthetic lift. Henning Larsen came up with the modular design while trying to find a renovation solution for social housing projects in Denmark that were constructed in the middle of the 20th century.
“The point of departure was this very particular typology of social housing that we have from the 1960s and ’70s: long blocks of housing that, after a half-century of use, are in need of some attention,” said Martin Vraa Nielsen, who is co-leading the project.
According to the designers, the new system of panels is a little like the Ikea kitchen of facades: easy to use and scale-up. In fact, the designers say, depending on the layout, an entire housing block could be renovated in as little as a week.
“The panels work by clipping onto the existing structure, so you’re actually not pulling the old walls down, you’re just adding this new outer layer,” says Nielsen. “It adds another layer of insulation to the often not-so-well-insulated structures, thus helping reduce heat loss.”
There are a number of other great benefits that come with this prefab design. To start with, residents don’t have to move out while they’re being installed. On top of that, residents have the power to choose from a catalog of different windows or balconies when it comes to the outside of their building. They might, for instance, opt for a deeper window well that creates a window seat filled with daylight, or perhaps a balcony that can fill the entire apartment with more light.
Although the project was designed in Denmark, the system is perfectly suited for social housing all across Europe as these types of buildings are quite common. Henning Larsen also points out that the design can be adapted for other types of buildings as well. The pandemic has forced the first installation to be delayed, but we hope to see this new renovation system in action very soon.
Image source: Henning Larsen