Glass-encased Maintenance-Free House is built to last

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The Maintenance-Free House (Photo: Jesper Ray)

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Danish developers Realdania BYG and Arkitema Architects, working with the Danish Technological Institute, have designed and constructed an experimental prefabricated home that's made primarily from plywood. Despite this, the Maintenance-Free House shouldn't need any significant maintenance for at least 50 years, thanks to a glass "shield" that keeps it safe from the elements. The overall lifetime of the home is also expected to be at least 150 years.

Completed in 2013, the Maintenance-Free House is part of the same six-house experimental development on the Denmark's island of Fyn that includes the Adaptable House we reported on earlier this year. Somewhat confusingly, the development also contains another "Maintenance-Free House" that's built from brick.

The home has a total floorspace of 156 sq m (1,679 sq ft) and draws design cues from a traditional wooden Danish longhouse. It features a simple, open layout inside, with a large central space comprising a living area, and dining and kitchen area, flanked by a bathroom and technical room. Four skylights increase the already ample available natural light, and stairs lead to a mezzanine with two loft spaces. There's also a total of four bedrooms and one bathroom.

The Maintenance-Free House was prefabricated in a factory and transported by truck to Fyn. The basic structure was assembled over a couple of days using screwdrivers, with the total on-site build time being under two weeks. It comprises 18 frames of bonded high-strength prefabricated plywood, with a steel skeleton.

Since plywood won't stand up to a battering from the elements however, Arkitema Architects covered the entire envelope with a layer of toughened recycled glass sheets, fitted to provide an unbroken surface. In this way, the vulnerable plywood shell is protected from the weather.

The Maintenance-Free House is also raised off the ground by 30 cm (1 ft) on stilts, and there's a small gap between the plywood roof and its glass shield. This creates a natural chimney effect and draws in air from underneath the home, pushing it up to the gap between the plywood and glass shield, before it is expelled out at the top of the roof without any need for complicated mechanical ventilation.

We've no exact figure on its price, but are assured it's around the Danish norm for a home of its size and type. Though it's still an ongoing experiment, the Maintenance-Free House will eventually be sold once it has proven itself reliable.

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