Architecture

This rooftop air duct is actually a micro-house in disguise

This rooftop air duct is actua...
H-VAC is based atop an existing building in London's Hoxton Docks
H-VAC is based atop an existing building in London's Hoxton Docks
View 13 Images
H-VAC comprises a wooden frame and includes a couple of benches inside
1/13
H-VAC comprises a wooden frame and includes a couple of benches inside
H-VAC is based atop an existing building in London's Hoxton Docks
2/13
H-VAC is based atop an existing building in London's Hoxton Docks
H-VAC is clad in Tetra Pak, a food and drink packaging
3/13
H-VAC is clad in Tetra Pak, a food and drink packaging
H-VAC is designed to look like a heating, ventilation and air-conditioning unit
4/13
H-VAC is designed to look like a heating, ventilation and air-conditioning unit
H-VAC is raised atop small stilts 
5/13
H-VAC is raised atop small stilts 
H-VAC is accessed from below via this staircase
6/13
H-VAC is accessed from below via this staircase
Inside H-VAC
7/13
Inside H-VAC
H-VAC has room for up to six people
8/13
H-VAC has room for up to six people
H-VAC will be open to the public on September 17 and 18 in London's Hoxton Docks
9/13
H-VAC will be open to the public on September 17 and 18 in London's Hoxton Docks
H-VAC is based atop an existing roof
10/13
H-VAC is based atop an existing roof
Shot of H-VAC under construction
11/13
Shot of H-VAC under construction
Shot of H-VAC under construction
12/13
Shot of H-VAC under construction
Shot of H-VAC under construction
13/13
Shot of H-VAC under construction

Like many major cities, London can be a very expensive place to live. However, local firm PUP Architects has a novel idea for low-cost housing in the form of a micro-house disguised as an air duct unit. The project, called H-VAC, skirts planning laws and could be installed atop existing rooftops.

H-VAC won a competition hosted by the Architecture Foundation charity calling for alternative low-cost housing ideas for London. According to PUP Architects, the impetus for the project came from the realization that local planning laws include a loophole for mechanical rooftop equipment to be built without planning permission.

Duly inspired, the firm set about constructing the cheeky shelter with help from structural engineers AKTii, some carpenters, and a team of willing volunteers.

The two-story structure gets its name from – and is styled to look like – the HVAC (or heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) units installed on some buildings, and is constructed from wood. Its silver cladding is made from Tetra Pak food and drink packaging. Though hardly a standard building material, the firm reports that Tetra Pak is actually pretty hard-wearing – a previous project using the stuff has been installed in Latvia since 2013 and still looks as good as new.

H-VAC has room for up to six people
H-VAC has room for up to six people

There's room for up to six people inside, though the interior is very simple and doesn't appear to function as a proper home as far as we can tell (no running water or toilet for example). It's clear that the architects intend the project more as food for thought rather than a practical dwelling anyway, much like the similar Tubular Living project we highlighted.

"The pavilion invites discussion about the occupation of the city's rooftops by highlighting relaxed permitted development rights," says the firm's press release. "It suggests that if dwellings could be disguised as air conditioning equipment, thousands of micro houses could be built across the city providing new homes."

If you'd like to check out H-VAC in person, it will be open to the public on September 17 and 18 in London's Hoxton Docks.

Sources: PUP Architects, Architecture Foundation

5 comments
Julien Couvreur
I'm glad you raise this topic. There is no secret to making housing more affordable: allow the supply to increase. As much as I appreciate those architects ingenuity, I find it sad and wasteful that we have to work around avoidable and man-made problems such as overly restrictive and costly local planning laws.
Tom Lee Mullins
I think that is really cool. It is like a penthouse but in disguise. Perhaps it could be someone's secret lair?
Nik
It would be a lot simpler, and probably more effective, to just dump a couple of shipping containers on the roof, and convert them into habitation. Its been done many times and the results can be much more effective than this, architects fantasy. They could then be disguised in any number of ways, or set back sufficiently from view, to be nearly invisible.
ljaques
The H-VAC room looks just like an HVAC unit. And this costume looks just like bacon: http://tinyurl.com/yd4mapod . Right. C'mon, that is so outsized that it makes the building look like it has Stage 4 melanoma. Oh, and the lack of insulation and plumbing in the thing _might_ be a problem in London during summer and winter months, foggy days/nights, and stormy weather. Just a hunch. 100:1 that most cities' regulations won't like them in actuality, either. Without plumbing, they're not habitable nor are they suitable even for 3rd world refugees. Why do people in cities want to stuff more and more people in them, anyway? (I'm a rural county resident near a small town)
Magnetron
It isn't an HVAC system and therefore would not be granted planning permission. Period.