Given a brief to design 13 individual social houses for a site in nogent-le-rotrou, france, NZI architectes took the opportunity to explore innovative and ecological construction techniques. with this in mind, the resulting project uses wood and straw – providing the possibility to completely prefabricate large areas of walls in the factory. utilizing these methods and materials allowed for reduction in costs and time spent on-site, all the while limiting the use of unsustainable resources.
The program of the site is split into three blocks – a, b and c – each comprising of 4, 5 and 4 houses respectively. connected by a pedestrian access path, the middle set of buildings is designed by NZI to be stepped back slightly, breaking up the development and giving residents more distance from the street. within the blocks, the houses are also arranged in staggered rows, in order to avoid sudden repetition and a severe alignment.
The houses are formed in a typical pitched roof profile, evoking the symbolic image of ‘home’. sloped to varying gradients, a dynamic rhythm is created by the diversity in style. clad in timber, the potential monotony of the 13 houses is also broken up thanks to the variation in finishes. from natural, charred to white-stained wood, the combination makes for an interesting visual display and helps to form a relationship between the urban and natural environment.
Straw has long been used as a natural insulation material. with its durability and power efficiency, NZI chose to pack straw in-between the timber frame, making for a very lightweight structure. the low weight allowed the large areas to be safely prefabricated and then easily handled on site without the use of heavy duty cranes. overall, with the use of more sustainable materials, the project proves the benefits of forming social housing with innovative techniques and quality design.