Breaking the mould with sustainable materials

by Darren
breaking the mould

“For us sustainability is an integral aspect of design. There is no compromising.” ¬– Robert van Kats, architect and director of Blok Kats van Veen Architects

The creators of the Lofthome share BASF’s pioneering spirit in providing the new way of thinking and working that sustainable construction demands. A Lofthome is a residential home that is both affordable and energy-efficient. It is available in the Netherlands and most recently, Belgium. Each Lofthome is built to order, with scope for the client to choose his own layout. The Lofthome is not only affordable and beautiful, but is also designed by using sustainable materials with BASF’s contribution. These homes are proving to be very popular.

The team behind the Lofthome has broken the mould, both in terms of its design and its conception. “In the Netherlands, the traditional process is that the architect comes up with the design, you find a contractor and the house gets built,” explains Robert van Kats, architect and director of Blok Kats van Veen Architects  and co-creator of the Lofthome. He says the Lofthome is the result of a collaboration of architects, a city marketer and the contractor.

Efficiency: a collaborative approach
This collaborative approach has allowed the Lofthome’s creators to make the entire construction process more efficient. The actual construction phase is reduced to two months because the whole structure of the home is engineered off-site. “That in itself is a form of sustainability as the process is so short,” says Van Kats. The Lofthome team also worked together to identify the most sustainable materials. Among these was BASF’s Elastopir, a polyurethane foam used in the sandwich panels that make up the facade of each Lofthome. BASF developed this durable, fire-resistant foam to offer the highest level of insulation possible, a major factor in developing low-energy buildings. The insulation level is almost double of that required by current Dutch building regulations in the case of the Lofthome. The design also includes heat-recovery ventilation units, solar water heaters and triple-glass walls to name a few sustainable features. Every material used in the Lofthome can be recycled.

The challenge of legislation
There is no doubt, the Lofthome’s sustainability credentials are impeccable – it is so good that in some instances it actually goes beyond what current legislation will allow. “The biggest challenge is actually regulations,” says Van Kats. “Most of the times we want to go further in sustainability than we are allowed to build.” He cites an example of a town in the Netherlands where residents of self-sufficient homes are still required to pay energy companies for an energy supply they do not need. It is an astonishing thought that in some cases regulation is actually limiting innovation in sustainable construction, but Van Kats thinks change is on the horizon. In the meantime, the Lofthome is proving to have mass-market appeal, something its creators never expected. He says when they launched the home two years ago they thought it was a niche market, but the demand is much higher than first expected.

A merger of design and sustainability
This marriage of sustainability with design aesthetic is important for Van Kats’ team. “For us sustainability is an integral aspect of design. There is no compromising.” It is an approach that many argue needs to be more widely adopted and Van Kats agrees. “I believe our professional field can contribute to a sustainable future in terms of constructing cities, but we need a lot of steps. If you arrange a good team of people that includes organisations and government, which really sets out a vision and a goal to have a low-energy city, you have already achieved a lot. Then you can start working on the future.”

BASF Holdings South Africa (Pty) Ltd.
Tel: 011 203 2422
Fax 011 203 2430
E-mail: petra.bezuidenhout@basf.com
Website: www.basf.co.za

Additional sources: http://www.basf.co.za/ecp1/About_us_South_Africa/index

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