German engineering has long been heralded as innovative and forward-thinking. And with the help of German innovator, acclaimed architect and structural engineer, Werner Sobek, the ingenuity also appears to be pushing the prefab movement. Werner Sobek and his engineering and design firm have conceived a modern, modular, and minimal series of prefab homes: the R128, H16 and R129. Engineered to be sleek and sustainable, the R128 and H16 are custom designed using prefabricated lightweight, modular parts and special systems designed to be energy-efficient and off-the-grid. The R129, on the other hand, is a complete departure from the traditional notion of a house – or a box- in fact, it’s an elliptical globe.
The R128 is a glass-and-steel home whose materials were planned to be 100% environmentally friendly and recyclable. Its parts are lightweight and modular so that the experimental home that sits right outside of Stuttgart, Germany was constructed in just 11 weeks. Inside, the home has no doors or walls and is controlled by motion sensors and voice commands. The home is also energy-efficient with solar panels on the roof and glass panels (triple-glazed!) that help maintain comfortable room temperatures all year round.
The cubist H16 is constructed from contrasting cubes. Open glass cubes house the public functions while black concrete cubes surround the private spaces. The ensemble is highlighted by a light-colored cube. Heated by a specially designed geothermal system and powered by photovoltaics, the H16 is able to collect the energy that its inhabitants uses. Recently named a Record House by Architectural Record, the home is garnering international attention.
Next up from Werner, an addition to the R series, the R129. With no traditional ‘bones,’ this structure is enclosed by a plastic material which is very light and transparent. The frame is constructed from carbon box sections. Its futuristic engineering is also characterized by the electrochromatic foil that allows the plastic envelope to be darkened or made completely opaque in sections or as a whole. (Who needs curtains in the future?) Wired into the flooring, called a ‘foundation raft’, are connections for electrical energy, water, compressed air, and communication lines. There are no partitions or walls between the functional areas in the experimental R129 which is slated for completion in 2009.