Architecture

Glass-encased Maintenance-Free House is built to last

The Maintenance-Free House (Photo: Jesper Ray)
The Maintenance-Free House (Photo: Jesper Ray)
View 19 Images
The Maintenance-Free House (Photo: Jesper Ray)
1/19
The Maintenance-Free House (Photo: Jesper Ray)
The home is raised 0.5 m (1.64 ft) off the ground by stilts (Photo: Jesper Ray)
2/19
The home is raised 0.5 m (1.64 ft) off the ground by stilts (Photo: Jesper Ray)
There's a small gap between the plywood shell and its glass shield (Photo: Jesper Ray)
3/19
There's a small gap between the plywood shell and its glass shield (Photo: Jesper Ray)
The home was built by Danish developers Realdania BYG and Arkitema Architects, with input from the Danish Technological Institute (Photo: Jesper Ray)
4/19
The home was built by Danish developers Realdania BYG and Arkitema Architects, with input from the Danish Technological Institute (Photo: Jesper Ray)
There's a large central space comprising a living area, and dining and kitchen area, flanked by a bathroom and technical room (Photo: Jesper Ray)
5/19
There's a large central space comprising a living area, and dining and kitchen area, flanked by a bathroom and technical room (Photo: Jesper Ray)
The Maintenance Free House sports a simple, open layout inside (Photo: Jesper Ray)
6/19
The Maintenance Free House sports a simple, open layout inside (Photo: Jesper Ray)
The Maintenance Free House was prefabricated in a factory and assembled on-site (Photo: Jesper Ray)
7/19
The Maintenance Free House was prefabricated in a factory and assembled on-site (Photo: Jesper Ray)
The home measures 156 sq m (1,679 sq ft) and is based on a traditional wooden Danish longhouse design (Photo: Jesper Ray)
8/19
The home measures 156 sq m (1,679 sq ft) and is based on a traditional wooden Danish longhouse design (Photo: Jesper Ray)
The Maintenance Free House sports a simple, open layout inside (Photo: Jesper Ray)
9/19
The Maintenance Free House sports a simple, open layout inside (Photo: Jesper Ray)
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 (Photo: Jesper Ray)
10/19
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 (Photo: Jesper Ray)
Stairs lead to a mezzanine with two loft spaces and there's a total of four bedrooms and one bathroom (Photo: Jesper Ray)
11/19
Stairs lead to a mezzanine with two loft spaces and there's a total of four bedrooms and one bathroom (Photo: Jesper Ray)
Since plywood wouldn't stand up to a battering from the elements, Arkitema Architects covered the home with a layer of glass (Photo: Jesper Ray)
12/19
Since plywood wouldn't stand up to a battering from the elements, Arkitema Architects covered the home with a layer of glass (Photo: Jesper Ray)
Stairs lead to a mezzanine with two loft spaces (Photo: Jesper Ray)
13/19
Stairs lead to a mezzanine with two loft spaces (Photo: Jesper Ray)
The home comprises 18 frames of bonded high-strength prefabricated plywood, and a steel skeleton (Photo: Jesper Ray)
14/19
The home comprises 18 frames of bonded high-strength prefabricated plywood, and a steel skeleton (Photo: Jesper Ray)
It sports a simple, open layout inside, with a large space flanked by a bathroom and technical room (Photo: Jesper Ray)
15/19
It sports a simple, open layout inside, with a large space flanked by a bathroom and technical room (Photo: Jesper Ray)
The home measures 156 sq m (1,679 sq ft) and is based on a traditional wooden Danish longhouse design (Photo: Jesper Ray)
16/19
The home measures 156 sq m (1,679 sq ft) and is based on a traditional wooden Danish longhouse design (Photo: Jesper Ray)
Stairs lead to a mezzanine with two loft spaces (Photo: Jesper Ray)
17/19
Stairs lead to a mezzanine with two loft spaces (Photo: Jesper Ray)
Architectural drawing of the Maintenance Free House (Image: Arkitema Architects)
18/19
Architectural drawing of the Maintenance Free House (Image: Arkitema Architects)
Architectural drawing of the Maintenance Free House (Image: Arkitema Architects)
19/19
Architectural drawing of the Maintenance Free House (Image: Arkitema Architects)

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.

Since plywood wouldn't stand up to a battering from the elements, Arkitema Architects covered the home with a layer of glass (Photo: Jesper Ray)
Since plywood wouldn't stand up to a battering from the elements, Arkitema Architects covered the home with a layer of glass (Photo: Jesper Ray)

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.

There's a small gap between the plywood shell and its glass shield (Photo: Jesper Ray)
There's a small gap between the plywood shell and its glass shield (Photo: Jesper Ray)

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.

Sources: Arkitema Architects, Realdania BYG via Arch Daily

18 comments
Jon Smith
"the Maintenance-Free House shouldn't need any significant maintenance for at least 50 years" unless a bird flies into it.
Bob Flint
Maintenance free, is a lie, there is no such thing, even granite has a lifespan, and pitted against mother nature, look around at the landscape to see how it changes yearly. Glass panels need sealing in the joints, even the best quality materials will eventually break down possible in as little as 20 years. Not to mention one hailstorm and there goes a major expense.
Phreqd
And of course these houses won't be seen anywhere but the one shown here.
Gadgeteer
@Bob Flint, "Not to mention one hailstorm and there goes a major expense." Note that the article mentions "toughened recycled glass sheets." Tempered glass is actually quite resistant to hail, especially since they're tilted at a fairly steep angle on this roof. As for the maintenance, the article says, "shouldn't need any significant maintenance for at least 50 years." It never said the house would be maintenance free forever.
Ozuzi
I agree with Bob That is a huge amount of vertical butt-joints in the roof, and a single leak will warp most plywood
zevulon
instead of 'maintanance free' which is a nonsense hook----designers should strive for simplicity of maintanance using minimal parts that are not only reasonable cost , but a design that allows for cheap easy and FAST maintanance on a routine basis. that is a lot harder than you think. and there's no money in it as you're essentially building a house meant to kill the market for home depot products. theres'a reason car companies don't want to sell electric cars even if they could-----low parts -----fewer profits to be made off servicing the vehicle.
wle
seems like this would heat the plywood to about 250F in summer sun, and that would warp and unglue it.. also seems like the whole thing would get too hot in a southern climate, 'natural chimney effect' notwithstanding... also wouldn;t metal siding or almost anything be cheaper than tempered glass? wle
ezeflyer
Cover it with photovoltaic cells to generate power as well as to prevent bird strikes.
Bruce H. Anderson
@Gadgeteer. Only someone who hasn't been through a hailstorm would suggest the pitch of the roof would make a difference. Hail does not fall in a soft vertical shower, but often violently and almost sideways. In an area with no hail this house might stand a chance. But then there is the problem of all those joints and the propensity of such things to leak.
Phyzzi
I don't see how anyone would assume a house made of glass and plywood, two of the most expensive building materials available, would be "around the same cost" of equivalently sized houses. Yikes. If you're going to bother with the glass, then it seems like there should be some return on it (like extra light, or solar panels). If the point of the plywood is cheep, sturdy material, then use it for the floor and put lacquered OSB on the walls. If you are really serious about having the home last, then aluminum sheet can be purchased for around the cost of glass panels and can be powder coated for a reasonable price. You won't be able to use your cell phone, but it will still be there in 50 years, or until someone decides it's too ugly to keep!