The use of green building standards, the proliferation of off-grid technology and advances in 3D-printing all make this an exciting time for residential architecture and this is reflected in the homes we've covered during the past 12 months. A floating off-grid luxury pad, a 3D-printed house, and a sustainable home that can be built in a few days all feature in our pick of the best houses of 2017.
We've tried to be selective with our choice here and not just focus on enviable luxury houses (though to be fair there's at least one of those, too). Each home has something to appreciate – whether particularly affordable, groundbreaking, sustainable or just interesting.
Without further ado, have a look through our selection below before heading to the gallery for more photos and info.
3D-printed house – Apis Cor
This small and relatively simple home is not the first example of 3D-printed architecture we've reported on by any means, but it does point convincingly toward 3D-printed residential construction being affordable and widespread soon.
Developed by 3D-printing firm Apis Cor, in collaboration with PIK, the unnamed dwelling measures just 38 sq m (409 sq ft) and was made using a portable 3D-printer – to be clear, by portable we mean weighing 2 tons (1,814 kg) and transported on the back of a truck, not pocket-sized.
The actual printing process took place over 24 hours in Russia and involved extruding cement out of a nozzle, layer by layer, to create a structure. Human builders then finished the roof, insulation, windows, and other components. The total cost for the project came in at just US$10,134, not including furniture or appliances.
Kiss House – Adrian James, et al.
British Passivhaus expert Mike Jacob and architect Adrian James joined forces to create the Kiss House: a prefabricated home that takes less than a week to install and meets the exacting Passivhaus green building standard.
Each Kiss House has excellent insulation, as well as an almost airtight envelope and a design that takes passive solar heat gain into consideration. This results in a seriously efficient house that its owners will find very inexpensive to heat and cool year-round, whatever the local climate.
The Kiss House is available in multiple sizes but each model consists of an open-plan living area on the ground floor, with a large modern kitchen, wooden flooring and floor-to-ceiling glass windows. Bedrooms and bathrooms are located upstairs and exterior finishes like masonry, metal, and timber are available.
The cost for the Kiss House depends on size and options, but you're looking at around £2,000 (around $2,550) per sq m (10 sq ft).
Binh House – Vo Trong Nghia
The Binh House, by Vietnam-based Vo Trong Nghia Architects, is an oasis in tropical Ho Chi Minh City that doesn't need air-conditioning to keep its occupants cool. Its carefully-planned interior layout, comprising 233 sq m (2,507 sq ft) spread over three floors, allows three generations of the same family to live together in comfort.
Vo Trong Nghia positioned service areas like the kitchen, bathrooms, and so on in the west of the home. These act as buffer zones to keep more important areas further into the house cool, such as the living room, dining room and bedrooms. Binh House is also shaded by greenery and its layout creates a natural stack effect, causing air to be drawn in and improving ventilation. Multiple sliding glass doors aid ventilation, too.
Vegetation covers most of the exterior and helps soften the look of the textured concrete used. There are multiple gardens, such as a rooftop fruit tree garden, terraced vegetable garden, and another terrace next to the home's library, each of which opens to the outside with voids in the concrete facade. Planters offer privacy for an outdoor jacuzzi spa and there's an internal garden in the living room, plus yet another garden in a small courtyard area.
M.A.Di – Renato Vida
The M.A.Di, by Italian architect Renato Vida, is a flat-packed dwelling designed to withstand earthquakes that can be constructed in just a few hours. Made from CLT (cross-laminated timber), it comes in several sizes, from 27 sq m (290 sq ft), up to 84 sq m (904 sq ft). Each home is laid out over two levels and equipped with kitchen, dining area and bathroom on the ground floor, while bedrooms are located upstairs.
The home's A-frame structure allows it to be prefabricated off-site, then flat-packed and transported via truck or container to its designated build site. Installation is relatively simple and the entire process should take three workers around seven hours to complete.
The M.A.Di starts at €21,600 ($25,195) for the smallest model and €67,200 ($73,385) for the largest. Rooftop solar panels, LED lighting and a greywater system are all available at additional cost.
Tikku – Marco Casagrande
Demand for urban housing is only going to increase as populations continue to grow. Appropriately-named architect Marco Casagrande reckons he has a potential answer to this with the Tikku (which is Finnish for Stick). It has a footprint of just 2.5 x 5 m (8.2 x 16.4 ft), making it roughly the size of a standard car parking space.
The Tikku has a total floorspace of 37.5 sq m (403 sq ft), split over three floors. The prototype model shown is divided into a work area on the first floor, a bedroom upstairs, and a small greenhouse/living space on the top floor, but this is flexible.
Inside, it includes a dry toilet and electricity comes from solar power, but there's no running water or kitchen. The idea is that thanks to its location in a city, the occupant should be able to access water and food, as well as whatever else they need.
In addition to a house, Casagrande envisions the Tikku serving as an office, shop, workshop, hotel, and more, swapping out the interior and amenities to suit. Pricing for a basic model comes in at €35,000 ($41,500), not including transportation costs.
Villa Ypsilon – LASSA Architects
LASSA Architects did a splendid job blending Villa Ypsilon seamlessly into the hilltop it sits upon in a rural plot in Greece's southern Peloponnese.
Named after its green roof being shaped like the Greek letter Ypsilon – a Y-shape when capitalized – Villa Ypsilon comprises a total floorspace of 150 sq m (1,614 sq ft) spread over an entrance, master bedroom, two additional bedrooms, kitchen, breakfast area, living room, and a couple of bathrooms.
Inside, private areas, such as bedrooms and bathrooms, face the east, while common areas, like living room and kitchen, face the south and provide excellent views of the undulating landscape. Each of Villa Ypsilon's three courtyards offers shade at different times of the day.
Despite the high summer temperatures in that part of the world, the use of concrete, the green roof, and carefully-placed windows ensure the interior remains sufficiently cool without requiring air conditioning.
Casa Kwantes – MVRDV
High-profile Dutch firm MVRDV recently unveiled the enviable Casa Kwantes. A contemporary take on 1930s modernist design, the Rotterdam-based home boasts a curved glazed facade and energy-efficient tech.
The 480 sq m (5,166 sq ft) family house is spread over two main floors, plus a small basement. A two-car garage, kitchen, living room, dining room, and library are all on the first floor, while the second floor has two bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms. Naturally, the unusual shape of the glazed facade means the interior of the home is pretty unconventional. The curved shape also offers a visual link between different areas of the house and, in a nice touch, wraps around an olive tree.
Casa Kwantes' roof sports a large solar panel array. A ground-source heat pump transfers heat to and from the ground and, in conjunction with a heat exchanger, provides energy-efficient heating and cooling.
Gapahuk – Snøhetta
Living in a home designed by a leading architecture firm is usually out of reach for all but the wealthiest, but a recent collaboration between Snøhetta and Norwegian purveyor of leisure homes Rindalshytter means it's more affordable than you might expect.
The Gapahuk takes its name from a basic Norwegian shelter sometimes built by hikers to ride out rough weather. Inside, there's a total floorspace of 90 sq m (968 sq ft) available, all laid out on one floor. It includes three bedrooms, a bathroom with toilet, sink and shower, an additional WC, and a large common area with kitchen, lounge, and dining table. There's also a covered porch and plenty of storage space.
The Gapahuk is both flexible enough to be placed practically anywhere and tough enough to stand up to Norway's brutal weather. Its sloping roof provides protection from high winds and sun, and is also ideal for mounting solar panels for those who wish to go off-the-grid.
The Gapahuk is available to purchase now in kit form, starting at NOK 1,350,000 (roughly $156,600), not including construction.
SkinnyScar – Gwendolyn Huisman and Marijn Boterman
All towns and cities feature vacant plots usually considered unsuitable to build houses on, but the SkinnyScar house proves that some could be put to better use by squeezing a home in a space of just 3.7 m (12 ft)-wide.
Designed by architects Gwendolyn Huisman and Marijn Boterman, SkinnyScar's interior comprises a total floorspace of 140 sq m (1,506 sq ft) spread over three floors. Visitors are greeted with an entry space with bicycle storage, while the kitchen and dining area are located toward the rear and offer access to a shared garden. Climbing the stairs to the second floor reveals a small library facing the street and a lounge with a net hammock that overlooks the garden.
The third floor includes two small bedrooms and a clever bathroom unit squeezed in between that has a shower, bath and toilet. Access to the rooftop is gained via the third floor and there's a small garden space up there, as well as a solar panel array.
Off-grid floating home concept – Arkup
Imagine waking up to a different view every day. That's the dream Florida-based company Arkup promises with its off-grid luxury floating house. The cutting-edge home, which is still just a concept, would get all its electricity from solar power and have hydraulic legs capable of stabilizing it and lifting it out of the water.
A built-in communications suite would include 4G, Satellite TV, Wi-Fi and VHF radio, while a twin 136-horsepower electric azimuth thrusters could rotate 360 degrees to maneuver the house/vessel at a sedate 7 knots. Arkup reports that it could withstand a category 4 hurricane, too.
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