Houzz Tour: House Stays on Budget Thanks to Industrial Materials
Architects choose corrugated sheet metal and polycarbonate sheeting to cover a new family home in Germany
They could have built a home with a flat roof, but then the house would have looked out of place in its environment. So the architects explored other ways to save and eventually found the answer in industrial construction, which has the lowest cost per square foot. With a lot of brain work and some unexpected materials like polycarbonate sheeting and corrugated sheet metal, they created a three-section house entirely within the budget for pure construction costs.
House at a Glance
Who lives here: A family of three
Location: Pirna, Germany
Size: 1,938 square feet (180 square meters); three bedrooms, 2½ bathrooms
Architect: Büro für Bauform
This home consists of three gabled sections standing side by side, with each one rising to a different height and featuring an eye-catching facade. The section on the left and the garage on the right are covered in a rain screen made of corrugated sheet metal. The walls and roof of the central section, which hosts the living room, are polycarbonate, making it look like a sunroom. A wooden structure supports the sheets, which are about 2⅓ inches thick and fixed in place with thermally broken frames — that is, frames in which thermally nonconductive material separates the indoor and the outdoor parts to stop heat from escaping.
Polycarbonate is a relatively cheap material often used for building industrial warehouses. “The sheets are very light. We fastened them with wind anchors to prevent them from being blown away, even in strong winds,” says Jürgen Lehmeier, one of the architects on the project.
If there is enough sun, the air warms up to a comfortable temperature even in winter, while in summer, roof windows installed on the north side ensure that it doesn’t get too hot. The windows are equipped with a temperature sensor and open automatically when ventilation is needed. Thanks to a rain and wind monitor, they close on their own when it starts to rain or the wind is too strong. “Even in the technical aspects, we went for high comfort at low costs,” Lehmeier says.
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The garage is nestled to one side of the sunroom and is the lowest and longest part of the building. The garage door is covered in polycarbonate sheeting. “At first, we wanted to install skylights into the corrugated sheet metal, but we found we didn’t like it that much. To let daylight into the garage, we chose a customizable standard garage door and mounted polycarbonate sheets onto it, so we immediately had insulation,” the architect says. In addition, this allowed them to save even more on cost.
At the end of the entryway, in the garage section, is the guest bathroom.
“Designing stairs is a hobby of mine,” Lehmeier says. “This handrail here is probably the cheapest I’ve ever come up with.”
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As with many industrial buildings, the floor slab in this house is, in fact, the finished floor, so they placed insulation inside the outer formwork to protect the slab. “Using cables, string and paint, we made markings for the placement of the walls and all the plumbing. It took a lot of persuasion to bring in the workmen in charge of these features because they normally only come to a construction site when the walls of the house are already up,” Lehmeier says.
The builders glued artificial turf on the back wall of the platform to create an opaque privacy screen.
“We tried our hand at a lot of things that are actually only done in industrial construction, a form of construction in which people have little aspiration to aesthetics,” Lehmeier says. “Architects have to learn to transfer these methods over in an aesthetic way, to make housing construction cheaper.”
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The north side of the ground floor has windows. So the laundry room, utility room and guest bathroom, all of which are in the garage section, get daylight.
The box we saw in the sunroom serves as a library on the second floor. The ceilings of the two bedrooms open all the way up to the roof level. The bathroom (between the two rooms) has a dropped ceiling that provides additional storage space.
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