A Recyclable House Could Help Us Contend with Crisis Housing

A Recyclable House Could Help Us Contend with Crisis Housing
Design & Architecture

Temporary structures that are easy to assemble could help resolve Europe's space woes

Rachel Pincus
  • 19 february 2016

With the refugee crisis adding additional challenges to the preservation of affordable housing in Europe, there is a higher-than-ever demand for attractive, inexpensive and somewhat temporary housing. Many architects and designers have seen this as an opportunity, but with several crises looming at once in the world, William McDonough + Partners has managed to tackle several at once. The ICEhouse, in which the ICE stands for Innovation For The Circular Economy, is a demonstration of how several of these missions can come together in architecture that can potentially serve the public good.

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The ICEhouse happens to look frosty only coincidentally: the primary materials used in its construction are aluminum (the structural frame), polycarbonate (LEXAN polycarbonate sheet and systems used for the walls and roof, and Kartell polycarbonate furniture and light fixtures), aerogel, and Nylon 6. With their high-tech air, they may not sound like it, but these are all materials that can be reused after the structure’s natural life and folded into a new building without any loss of quality. This expertise in choosing recyclable materials comes from the fact that McDonough is one of the founders of Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute, and they are all certified or on the way to being certified for his program.

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The underlying structural innovation of the ICEhouse is the WonderFrame, which has been trademarked by the firm and is designed to be constructed using simple tools from a variety of materials that may be available in a given location. A demonstration of the ICEhouse was erected over the course of four days in Davos, Switzerland during the World Economic Forum this year (where the refugee crisis was a looming topic of discussion), and this version used aluminum.

“The WonderFrame concept was designed with crisis situations in mind, where quick to assemble and stable structures are essential, but also as a system that can evolve into a permanent, dignified solution for affordable housing,” said William McDonough.

A future installation of the ICEhouse is planned for Amsterdam, at The Valley at Schiphol Trade Park, The Netherlands’ new National Hub for the Circular Economy (for which McDonough is a partner and master architect). As the structure follows McDonough around the world, it will continue to strengthen as a concept in each new place, bringing with it the potential for shelter and peace.


Lead Image: William McDonough + Partners Facebook


+Cradle to Cradle
+temporary housing
+William McDonough + Partners
+World Economic Forum

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