The Adaptable House from Danish firm Henning Larsen Architects

Adaptable house by Henning Larsen Architects (Photo: Jesper Ray/Realdania Byg)

There are many examples of pre-fab and house incorporating elements of universal design to accommodate aging in place. The “Adaptable House” is designed to have the interior altered to meet the needs throughout the course of an entire life. Rooms are designed to be easily deconstructed and reconstructed with standard elements that can actually be reused. This article is well worth your time and if you like modern homes than this may be the design for you.

It uses sliding partitions and storage walls, extension modules and a puzzle of garden components. Danish architects Henning Larsen’s new Adaptable House is designed to accommodate the most common lifestyle changes, from having children to settling into retirement. The energy-efficient home can even be fairly separated in case of divorce.

Realized with developers Realdania Byg and contractors GXN, the Adaptable House not only offers flexible room arrangements, but has a built-in strategy for extending and separating volumes. The house has also been designed to consume 37 percent less energy than a standard home, with a significant reduction in overall carbon emissions.

The Adaptable House was conceived to help meet a range of lifestyle changes. For a growing family, bedrooms can be easily added or enlarged; when children leave home, spare rooms might be converted for other uses. There are also planned schemes for working from home, taking in boarders (in which some bedrooms would be separated from other private spaces), and aging inhabitants (for whom the garden decks and planters could be made step-free).

Perhaps the most innovative and coolly pragmatic gesture is in adapting for divorce. In this scenario, the house can be divided horizontally, separating the upper floor from the lower floor, adding a kitchen upstairs and creating separate entrances. This is, of course, the most extreme scenario (and assumes a rather amicable split). The lower floor could also be separated for use by an elderly couple who need to live on a single floor. In all cases, the idea is to adapt to changing circumstances without having to move house or tear down and start again.

Sliding partitions make flexible interiors (Photo: Jesper Ray/Realdania Byg)

The architects were determined that any new configurations meet their criteria for natural light, ventilation, plus noise and temperature control. This is perhaps what distinguishes this project from the kind of flexible open-plan living that has been around for decades. The new spaces are not just clever cut-outs, like making a bedroom out of a dark closet under the stairs. Future configurations have been thought through, so that creating the home-office space, for example, utilizes a glazed partition that allows ample light but blocks out noise.

Though the ground floor has some fixed walls, the services have been tucked into an aluminum bar in the ceiling structure, making it easier to change the floor plan as needed. Partition walls include their own doors and storage, and can be moved around to reconfigure the interior without worrying about electrical fittings. Sliding partitions can be used for an impromptu or daily basis, if say, you need to have a business meeting in your living room and want to close off the kitchen and kids play area from view.

Upstairs, the partition walls are designed as moveable cupboards, which can transform the layout from a single space covering the entire floor to four separate rooms, and other configurations in between.

The architects cite statistics which show that even when people decide to move house, most of them will choose to live in the same area. The Adaptable House will mean never having to leave the neighborhood. So you might say their motto is something like “plus a change” (“the more things change, [the more they stay the same]”) for the housing industry.

The Adaptable House was developed as one of six experimental houses on the Danish island of Fyn. These were built in collaboration with real estate developer Realdania Byg, that has an expressed interest in experimental construction, and builder GXN, which is developing strategies for reuse of building materials and components. Other housing in this group includes an “Upcycle House” and “Maintenance Free House.”

Source: Henning Larsen Architects

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