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Maxwell Taylor Scholarship Winner 2016

Advisor. Janine Debanné

M.Arch Thesis Project 

7 Months/ 2016

This project is a response to a recent amendment to the City of Ottawa By-law that makes the construction of small houses within the lot lines of existing private yards legal. Prefabrication is a conventional form of production that can combine traditional materials with contemporary aesthetics in order to create innovative solutions and still be affordable. How is it relevant to today’s practices? Prefabrication offers economic benefits under controlled factory manufacturing, without disrupting a promised aesthetic expression. This thesis addresses the process of making architecture in controlled industrial setting and argues in favour of the off-the-shelf architectural artifact for affordable construction. It explores the possibility of building components of kit-built houses in a place where off-the-shelf materials abound: the Home Depot hardware store. Out of this research a proposal is made demonstrating how the kit-of-parts home as a prefabricated solution conforms to the zoning proposal of the coach housing requirements in Ontario.

Simply explained, Box Store Coach Houses uses modular prefabrication methods that can be customized to suit the needs of various family structures and lot types. Individual modular “pods” can be arranged in a variety of configurations, allowing for a high level of flexibility and individual customization. These modules are fitted with flexible pod furniture; when more space is needed a bed “cavity” can be hidden away (Murphy bed), kitchen storage and dining table can be pushed back. Dwellers can also take advantage of wall surfaces for a variety of uses.  Each house would also include a central core that holds all the mechanical systems. An exterior wall contains all the plumbing. While the kitchen and bathroom are usually placed against this exterior wall, these rooms can also plug into the mechanical core in cases when they are located internally, in the floor layout. 

The system here presented refers both to Walter Gropius and Adolf Meyer’s Toerten-Dessau system and to Kristian Gullischen and Juhani Pallasmaa’s sistema moduli. The system proposes a set of modular blocks that are developed based on basic living requirements for example: the entrance, mailbox, and the coat closet with the bike rack is one group. The blocks are limited in size to a modular size combination of (4 feet wide x 8 feet long x 8 feet high, 8 feet wide x 8 feet long x 8 feet high, 12 feet wide x 8 feet long x 8 feet high, & 8 feet wide x 8 feet long x 16 feet high). The size configuration of the modules is confined to the standard measurements of a flat-deck trailer of (8.6 feet wide x 48 feet long) and allows for an overload capacity of (48,000 lb).  So, in essence, this thesis proposes a ‘building block’ system of standardized, prefabricated materials.

A Block in Old Ottawa South with the Added Coach Houses & a Laneway

For the purpose of illustration, a corner lot located on the Southgate block was chosen. In this stage, the lot is excavated to be connected to the City water pipe and sewage system. The foundation system is put in place after and site is prepared for modules’ deployment.   

During this stage, a truck is required to deliver the modules. To access the lot, a crane is used to lift the modules and place them into the lot. A lift jack is used to move the modules around the lot, reducing the need for physical effort. 

The modules are assembled and located on the lot with proper orientation and required setbacks. The orientation of the modules is very crucial to determine elements such as access to sunlight, privacy, and public entry. 

Display of the Coach Houses
1:1 Scale - Bachelor Coach House
1:1 Scale - Bachelor Coach House
Arial View of the Coach House
Thesis Defense Set-up

© 2016 by Savannah Alhaj

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