A humanitarian project built with affordable, low-tech materials has won this year’s World Building of the Year at the tenth annual World Architecture Festival. Designed by The Chinese University of Hong Kong and Kunming University of Science and Technology, the award-winning Post-Earthquake Reconstruction Project is a prototype house located in China’s Guangming Village, an area devastated by the 2014 Ludian earthquake. The rammed-earth house was recognized for its innovative reconstruction strategy. The design merges modern strategies with local building materials to create an energy-efficient, earthquake-resistant home that can be affordably built by local residents.
The post-earthquake prototype home was built for an elderly couple and as a demonstration project to show villagers how rammed earth construction can be modern, economical, and earthquake resistant. After the 2014 earthquake flattened many traditional rammed-earth buildings, villagers sought brick-concrete construction as a safer alternative but found it cost-prohibitive. The designers and researchers developed an anti-seismic earth building strategy to turn the conversation back to the local building material, while introducing new construction components to reinforce building strength and thermal performance.
The walls of the home are built of local materials, such as clay, sand, and grass. Steel bars and concrete belts are embedded into the walls for structural integrity, while double-glazed windows and an insulated roof improve thermal performance. The building’s emphasis on comfort, natural light, and respect for local architecture forms has presumably helped the new building strategy (built to meet local seismic codes) gain acceptance among the community.
“The architects succeeded in translating ‘four walls and a roof’ into something which, through architectural commitment, becomes a project that is much more profound,” WAF Programme Director Paul Finch commented. “This building is a demonstration that architecture is just as relevant in the poorest of communities as it is in the richest.”