Bridgette Meinhold

Daniel Libeskind's 'Sustainable' Prefab

by , 06/19/09

prefab, daniel libeskind, villa, prefab housing, prefab residence, prefab architecture, sustainable building, greenwashing architecture, greenwashing design

Daniel Libeskind‘s latest creation, The Villa, is a step back from his usual large-scale designs, and an attempt to get his foot into the prefab and sustainability design world. An impressive contemporary home, the home is touted as sustainable and energy-efficient. Unlike most humble and affordable prefabricated design, the 3-story home includes a shiny zinc facade and impressive angles — a far cry from the traditional boxy prefab we have grown so accustomed to seeing. And while Libeskind included several eco-friendly building techniques, some seem to be mighty skeptical.

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Modeled after the Jewish Museum in Berlin, Libeskind’s signature prefab is a shocking 5,500 square feet with a spacious layout, Great Room, 4 bedrooms, basement wine cellar, and office. Constructed from wood, with a zinc facade, Libeskind says that the recyclable wooden core offers maximum insulation and is comparable to the workings of a passive home. Solar hot water heating is “invisibly integrated into the zinc facade,” while a geothermal heat pump is used to help reduce the heating and cooling loads with the help of a radiant underfloor system. Additionally, a thin film photovolatic system and rainwater catchment can be installed.

At 5,500 square feet, Libeskind’s design is not a small house. Many would argue that no McMansion could ever be called sustainable, unless you have a a lot of people living inside. We enjoy prefabricated design because of its affordability and eco-friendliness, but we wonder about the  level of comfort offered by Libeskind’s model. We fear that this polished and sleek exterior is too much like an expensive, luxury home and if the design is really accessible to everyone.

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Libeskind says on the Villa’s website, that “This is a cutting edge house. A house that has the highest sustainability components in the world. From its insulation, from its geothermal power, from solar energy. It is the really highest level in the world. But, sustainability goes beyond just the technical aspects. A house which is memorable, a house which is beautifully built, with fine materials, a house which will remain for a 100 years. That’s what makes this house sustainable.”

We agree that a building which lasts 100 of years is more sustainable than one that doesn’t. We are glad he has integrated cutting-edge energy systems and insulation, but aren’t completely convinced. Design worthy – yes. Sustainable and affordable – maybe not.

+ Daniel Libeskind Studio

+ The Villa

via Archinect, Treehugger, LiveModern

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  13. fiwedding August 1, 2010 at 10:28 pm

    Here, the wasteful surface area to volume ratio is the first give away that energy was not really on Libeskind’s mind when he “designed” this. And not knowing the location, the siting, the orientation or the local climate, how responsible to energy needs can it be anyway. Take the very large window areas. Depending on the site they could end up facing north or south with potentially disastrous results for heat gain or heat loss.

    Read more: Daniel Libeskind’s ‘Sustainable’ Prefab | Inhabitat – Green Design Will Save the World

  14. Advocate June 27, 2009 at 5:40 pm

    For Libeskind, LEED is just another marketing ploy to sell the same old idea he has been cranking out for years. But I doubt Libeskind even knows what the LEED acronym signifies.

    In Manchester, Libeskind’s Imperial War Museum was singled out to receive the UK’s worst possible energy rating, and was declared an abysmal energy guzzler.

    Here, the wasteful surface area to volume ratio is the first give away that energy was not really on Libeskind’s mind when he “designed” this. And not knowing the location, the siting, the orientation or the local climate, how responsible to energy needs can it be anyway. Take the very large window areas. Depending on the site they could end up facing north or south with potentially disastrous results for heat gain or heat loss.

    This project is bogus on so many levels it is a joke. But then so is Libeskind himself.

  15. tnickel59 June 21, 2009 at 10:32 am

    If I were to morph all three (3) comments above I think the arguments outlined above would begin to touch on the heart of the subject that Liebeskinds project and it’s deficiencies. LEED, as David K. stated, “is not a design tool. It is a guideline, a standard.” Within that same vein, not unlike International Building Codes which all Architectural standards have to adhere to at a minimum, it is always at the discretion of the Architect to embue the project with social morality and environmental stewarship. Unfortunately I see more “Star Architects” discussing their social decorum and how their project are sustainable through the use of philosophical archi-marketing instead of actually evaluating the scale and quality of their building within the setting that it influences (home, neighbor, neighborhood, community, environment, and so on). More simply put, this is another knock off building that just looks nice with a few green facades and high-end energy saving fixtures.

    I would like to see more projects at the grass roots level, where real people (not just the wildly expressive and well-recognized) and architects are developing methods and strategies that truly approach a firmer understanding of how to apply the standards, LEED and IBC, and create beautiful architecture without having to “fake it up” with all the additional archi-marketing.

    Thomas Nickel, RA, AIA

  16. David Kuykendall June 19, 2009 at 6:25 pm

    While LEED has become a marketable brand, I don’t believe it is an exploitative marketing ploy. If it is, however, more power to them! At least it’s a far cry from giant SUV’s being trendy. As for the quality of design coming out of LEED certified projects, it is a pretty unfair to blame the LEED standards. Quality of design comes from the hand of the designer. LEED is not a design tool. It is a guideline, a standard. While notably, the standards greatly impact many design decisions, there are countless solutions to the LEED standards. Rather than comment on LEED’s impact on design, I am more concerned with the question of contextual relationships in prefabricated housing (especially with such radical forms).
    -David Kuykendall, LEED AP
    http://www.cleanedison.com

  17. artnnature June 19, 2009 at 11:10 am

    I have to say I agree with T.B.A.’s comments above. LEED seemed to be a great idea at the outset and still may be assisting on the sustainability front to a degree, but there are SO MANY BADLY DESIGNED homes out there that it’s really depressing. I think we need real imagination tempered by reality and affordability in sustainable architectural design. I am not an architect. I am an artist with an MFA from Yale, but I think I can appreciate fine architectural design and am passionate about eco-responsibility and sustainable living. I am trying hard to “do the right thing” on the 75 acres of land in NH that my family has owned since the early 1960s, but I am finding this extremely difficult. I’d love to hear from architects and others who might be interested in what I am attempting to do. I am not a developer in the traditional sense as I do not have the resources to be one, and I am 65 years old and retired (more or less), but I am trying to encourage architects, builders, landscape designers, and buyers to consider what it is that I am hoping to accomplish. I am putting together materials for my soon-to-be-town-approved sustainable subdivision in New Boston, NH hopefully to educate and inform professionals and potential buyers. I have a website that I’ve been working on that you may want to take a look at: http://buildagreenhome.wordpress.com/. The plan on the website has changed slightly and I hope to get a newer one online very soon. I am open to feedback and any help you might be able t offer. When I began this project I didn’t think of trying to make this a green COMMUNITY, though I did want the homes to be sustainable, and by the time I thought of its being a community and heard more about it, I was too far into the project to do so, but I still fervently believe that what I am trying to do has promise and will protect wildlife, vegetation, and the small-town character of the area, unlike some of the other developments more easily getting approval in the town. These are, for the most part, cluster-zoned. Those lots are tiny and the homes completely unimaginative and not especially sustainable. You can contact me directly at art.n.nature@gmail.com if you would like to know more or offer input, and I hope you will!

  18. T.B.A. June 19, 2009 at 10:41 am

    Not to defend the Libeskind project in any way, but I do not agree with the advise given above, “Next time Libeskind should consult … a LEED handbook first.”

    I contend that, unfortunately, LEED has become trite, superficial, and above all, an exploitative marketing ploy that is quietly leading us down a path of mediocrity in terms of our approach to sustainability. LEED projects, while perhaps a step in the right direction, are still nowhere near truly sustainable. I am quite sure that with very little effort, this project could easily qualify for some sort of LEED rating. For this reason, the above project makes for a very interesting conversation piece about the meaning of sustainability. I agree that it is not even close. However, I will not so easily dismiss the importance of building longevity or design quality, as is so often done by LEED practitioners.

    T.B.A.

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