IBA Soft House
The Soft House, designed by Kennedy & Violich Architecture, uses its dynamic textile façade to harness sunlight in a versatile and smart way, while its solid wood construction makes it a model of sustainable construction. Each of its four family-friendly, three-storey units has its own garden. The terrace on the first upper floor offers residents views over the Kanukanal and the Island Park.
The Soft House is an ‘active’ house that transforms timescales in architecture. In the Soft House , the architectural shell is simple, solid and enduring. Domestic clean energy, lighting, and spacemaking elements become more like furnishings—mobile, interactive, upgradable and connected to the wireless Soft House network, a smart building management system. The Soft House demonstrates how domestic infrastructure can become ‘soft’—engaging carbon-neutral solid wood (brettstapel) construction, design for flexible living, and wireless building controls with a responsive textile infrastructure which establishes the new public identity of the architecture. The Soft House meets–and exceeds–rigorous German PassiveHaus environmental standards—and transforms the rigid Passivehaus typology to create an adaptable carbon neutral dwelling that can be personalized to meet changing homeowner needs.
Dynamic and textile membrane Facade:
- A dynamic textile facade is a distinguishing feature of the Soft House from Kennedy & Violich Architects. Each of the four familyfriendly residential units has its own garden. From the patio on the first floor, the residents have a view of the canoe canal and of the Island Park opposite.
- The wooden building, built to passive standard and with its interior fitted with natural wood creates three-storey residential houses that are flooded with light and interconnected at all levels. The textile membrane on the south side of the house is architecturally distinguishing.
- The dynamic facade reacts flexibly, similar to the principle of the sunflower that follows the sunlight. In this way the residents can regulate the inflow of light and the view. In summer, the facade provides shade and in winter it minimises energy loss and allows daylight to flood the room.
- Mobile, translucent curtains structure the spacious inner rooms, support lighting and serve the residents as an individual regulator of heat and light. The textile shell of the Soft House is supplemented by flexible photovoltaic modules on membrane strips.
- Due to the possibility to twist the strips, the degree of opening the shell is controlled and the photovoltaic modules accordingly track the sun. in this way, the functions of shade and energy generation are meaningfully combined and the utilisation of the daylight optimised by the diffusive-transparent quality of the membrane as well as the rotating strips with their reflectance.
Sustainable Solid wood construction:
- The solid wood building method is gaining in significance as an alternative to brickwork buildings. The building material wood binds CO2 and, furthermore, its production consumes significantlyless CO2 than do conventional building materials.
- Moreover, wood is sustainably useful, as wood is one of the few constructively used renewable building materials. Wood is employed in the Soft House in the form of bracing board stack elements based on traditional building methods involving wood.
- With the exception of the foundations, the walls and ceilings of the Soft House are planned in the bracing board stacked method and will be left as wooden surfaces to achieve even greater CO2 reduction.
The Soft House offers home owners the flexibility to adapt their homes to fit changing needs and comfort preferences. The energy harvesting textile façade adjusts to follow the sun and shade the building, allowing generous views to the south overlooking the canal. The design establishes a natural ventilation chimney as a central vertical spatial feature that connects living levels, and brings natural daylight deep into the row house floor plan. Homeowners can move reflective interior curtains with energy efficient solid state lighting (LEDs) to sub-divide space, and create local thermal micro-climates. Programmable LED light moves through the Soft House curtains in relation to real- time exterior wind levels– creating a Visual Breeze— an ambient interior luminous expression of the external environment. The interior domestic ‘landscape’ of movable and luminous curtains is playful and engaging by design—allowing people to make new connections between the domestic and natural environments.
Kennedy & Violich Architecture:
The SOFT HOUSE project in Hamburg, Germany is a winning competition entry for the International BauAustellung (IBA), a prestigious German building tradition that dates to 1901. Completed in March of 2013, it is a set of live/work row house units which offer a new model for low carbon construction and an ecologically responsive lifestyle that can be personalized to meet homeowner needs. The Soft House demonstrates how domestic infrastructure can become ‘soft’—engaging flexible living concepts, carbon-neutral solid wood (brettstapel) construction, and wireless building controls with responsive and performative textiles which create the public identity of the architecture. Through the conceptual reframing of ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ materials and the integration of architecture, mobile textiles, and clean energy infrastructure the SOFT HOUSE transforms the German PassiveHaus typology, offering a more flexible living experience.
The Soft House structure is a traditional solid wood panel and deck construction with wood dowel joints. The wood construction is complimented by flexible solar nano-materials in a lightweight, smart energy-harvesting textile cladding which bends to respond to sun angle or to open views. The textile cladding shades a large glass curtain wall with views to the Parklands. A three-story air convection ‘atrium’ brings daylight deep into the ground floor and modulates the rise and fall of warm and cool air with a system of interior curtains and operable window vents.
LEDs in the movable curtains are playful and engaging—allowing people to make new connections between the domestic and natural environments. The Soft House smart curtain LED lighting system allows for real time monitoring and visualization of outside wind and climate conditions. The solid state light that moves along the Soft House curtain surface in relation to exterior wind levels creates a Visual Breeze— an ambient interior luminous expression of the external environment.
Project name: IBA Soft House
Location: Wilhelmsburg, Hamburg, Germany
Coordinates: 53.497098, 10.000927
- Type By Characteristic: Townhouse, Green & Sustainable House
- Type By Site: City House
- Type By Size: Small House – (51 sqm – 200 sqm)
- Type By Structural: Wooden House
Energy supply: Integrated mobile photovoltaic elements in the roof and facade membrane, heat pumps
Size of the utilisation units: 4 houses, each with 180 sqm, 3 storeys
Gross floor area: 900 sqm
Site Area: 1,050 sqm
Construction Start: February 2012
Cost: approx. 2.4 million Euro
Completion Year: 2013
Project Developers (IBA): IBA Hamburg GmbH (City of Hamburg)
Project Developers (SOFT House): PATRIZIA Projektentwicklung GmbH
Architects: Kennedy & Violich Architecture – 10 Farnham St, Boston, MA 02119, United States
- Sheila Kennedy AIA, Principal
- Frano Violich FAIA , Principal
- Veit Kugel, Dipl Ing, Senior Associate
- Kyle Altman, Jeremy Burke, Stephen Clipp, Iman Fayyad, Patricia Gruits, Katherine Heinrich, Heather Micka-Smith, Chris Popa, Shevy Rockcastle,Phillip Seaton, Alex Shelly, Nyima Smith, Sean Tang, Diana Tomova, Sasa Zivkovic
Site Supervision Architects: 360grad+ architekten
Landscape Architects: G2 Landschaft
Structural Engineer: Knippers Helbig Advanced Engineering
Climate Planning: Steinbeis Forschungsinstitut für Solare und Zukunftsfähige Thermische Energiesysteme
Heating, Ventilation & Mechanical Engineers: Buro Happold
Soft House Manufacturing Consortium: Global Solar Energy, Inc; Svensson Global, AG; Philips Color Kinetics Headquarters; Philips Eindhoven Lighting; Automatic Devices Company, Inc.; L-tronics, Inc.; Holzbau Merkle; Textilbau Gmbh.
Text Description: © Courtesy of Kennedy & Violich Architecture, IBA Hamburg, PATRIZIA Projektentwicklung
Images: © Kennedy & Violich Architecture, Michael Moser, Julian Lienhardt, PATRIZIA Projektentwicklung