Joseph Di Pasquale

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This position paper has been selected for publication on Magazine "Techne" n. 13ABSTRACTThe research tools used in the field of technology to elaborate development trend data in prefigurate terms and the undertaking  of construction of planning scenarios are here applied to the evolution of housing demands and to the rapidly changing, correlated requirement framework. Thus, the development of a research that, in the first phase proposes a theoretical framework of reference for the development of building construction, aims to reduce critical issues related to actual production models. This basis  has then led to the establishment of a second  step in research that, instead, aims to identifying potential practical ramifications and  operative opportunities to innovate both process and product.KeywordsInnovation project and building production, project culture and evolution of housing demands, hybrid technologies.Technological culture and evolutionary scenarios: crisis of  the production system  and new housing paradigmsTechnological culture  of architectural design has always been characterized by anticipary and prognostic capability, with the development of visions and theoretical evolutionary scenarios that have been then confirmed and validated  and have had ramifications in the innovational approach to both procedures and design systems, considering  that  housing design culture, in which the capability to interpret and re-elaborate data in prefigurate terms, developed only “with the launch of the decennial Plan for public housing (law 547/1978) in the seventies”, and the institutional residential housing committee CER at  the Ministry of Public Works (Schiaffonati (1)  2014:22).  In the wake of cultural tradition that makes living a significant incentive for reorganizational  procedures, the  hereby presented “Hybrid systems and technologies for architectural designs ”[1] research proposes to investigate possible alternatives to meet housing needs and to verify that typological models satisfy  new requirement frameworks.  In the last decades, researchers have made advances in  architectural technology in terms of technological and typological innovation related to new housing models (Schiaffonati and others 1994; Schiaffonati (2) 2014) as well as research in prefabrication and industrialization of building systems, on management, maintenance and upgrading issues of residential housing that represent the operative and theoretical basis on which the resulting scenarios of this research are based[2].Certainly, with the nineties and the end of the long social housing cycle  in Italy , applied research projects and construction have lacked a relevant stimulus in terms of  growing inadequacy in both built heritage and new construction compared to dynamics in demand, which still represent a challenge for the technology culture of design. The actual trend scenario highlights the limitations of the construction system in meeting  the global housing needs expected in the next years, and the technological and typological inability to match new  housing needs of contemporary society.[1] The research, developed by the Research Group "Governance project and built environment enhancement" coordinated by Elena Mussinelli, is supported by - in addition to a Doctoral Research scholarship in Architecture, Built environment and Building Engineering at  Politecnico di Milano - three important companies that deal in the construction sector (Gewiss Ltd, Progress Ltd, Valsir Ltd.).[2] Cf. Lucarelli M.T., Mussinelli E., Trombetta C. (edited by) (2015), “Cluster in Progress. La Tecnologia dell'architettura in rete per l'innovazione”, Maggioli Editore. This publication presents eight thematic clusters launched by the Scientific company SitdA in 2012. In particular, the aim of the “Construction production- construction product” cluster is deal with technical and organizational conditions within which construction processes are realized to optimize the capacity of structures to meet market and users’ needs adequately, to develop product and process innovations and to promote the application of effective practices and methodologies.Urbanization and global demographic trendsAccording to the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs’ estimates, the world population figure in 2050 will be 9,5 billion, compared to the current 7, and the average urbanization rate will attest at approximately 65%, compared to the current 50% (UN-Habitat,2006). It is forecasted that one million new housing units will be necessary by 2025 (UN Habitat,2016). Differently from widespread perception among public views, the demographic growth of the last decades has coincided with an increase in global wealth on the planet. The percentage of the global population that lives in extreme poverty (less than one dollar a day) has essentially halved in the last thirty years. The decline in birthrates will continue also in developing countries and in a manner that is inversely proportional to the rise in the spread of wealth and to the increase in education levels until the number of inhabitants of the planet stabilizes (at approximately 10 or 11 billion), which will not occur before the end of the century (Gerland Raffery,2014). The urbanization process will thus continue to be related to economic growth.  As for land use, it must be kept in mind that, according to urbanization models realized to this day, the  recorded growth rate of urbanized soil has more than doubled in comparison to the rate of urbanization among the population(Seto and others, 2012). On average, a city that has experienced a 20% growth in population has required a 46% increase in urbanized soil.Productive capacity of the industrialized building sectorThe rise in workforce costs and the progressive decline in competency levels of mastery in developed countries has highlighted the advantages of off-site building and of a greater industrialization of the building process. The use of prefabrication/modularization has risen in the American market in the first decade of the century and an additional increase is expected in the next years. Operators who in 2011 made use of prefabrication/modularization technologies for at least 50% of their commissions have increased by 37% since 2009, with a trending growth of 45% in 2013 (AA.VV 2011). However, the actual production capacity of the industrialized/modularized construction sector is far from being sufficient to satisfy the global housing demand. It is expected that the production capacity of prefabricated/modularized houses may reach a figure of 829.000 housing units withing 2017, and that this number may reach 3,4 million produced units in 2050 (Kieran, Timberlake 2004) in the face of the aforementioned demand estimated to be a billion units in 2025 (UN Habitat 2016). Thus, according to assumptions based on these predictions, the result is that the actual  entire  industrialization system of prefabricated/modularized construction of buildings will be able to provide for only a minimal share of all housing needs forecasted for the next years (Wallance, 2015).Real estate market trendsWith the beginning of the Great Recession in 2007, the number of  global accommodation purchases has significantly diminished. At the same time, however, the already increasing trend  taking place in investments on renovations and in technological and typological adaptations has risen additionally. Owner expenses on improvements and technologic upgrades in the United States have increased by 40% in the last fifteen years (AA.VV 2015).The main objective of renovation strategies for social housing estates in Europe are directed towards the reduction of management costs, the increase in energy performance, the improvement of  building capacity to satisfy users’ new needs and the rise in the rate of property use. Typological upgrades mainly result from an increase in the number of family members (Gaspari Antonini 2013). Furthermore, consumers are inclined to using housing services rather than purchasing new accommodations.  As evidenced in the rentals Report of 2015 by Nomisma- SoloAffitti , the increase in home rentals in Italy is consistent, with a rise by about 10% in families  that use a rental property as a living accommodation in 2015  as compared to 2014. This also reflects a modification in the concept of property that, especially among the more recent generations, is strongly influenced by the sharing economy on many levels of contemporary living, in which temporariness is taken on as a permanent condition (Di Pasquale and others 2014).  Many real estate agents are attempting to innovate the business model towards identifying and satisfying new needs that emerge from the spreading of a new housing paradigm, above all in terms of providing housing services throughout the life cycle rather than selling square meters of accommodation.MEDIUM TO LONG-TERM SCENARIOSThe above-mentioned data picture a medium-term scenario with some manifest critical points. The underdevelopment of the industrialization level in the construction sector and its yielding deficiency compared with the expected requirements will determine the persistence of the traditional building processes characterized by a low-tech content and a high environmental impact.  The essential part of the environmental footprint produced by the urbanization process derives from the actualizing models of the transformations of the environment, from the production and the realization of lodgings, infrastructures, services, etc. In this sense, both the typologies and the technologies adopted in the productive processes are decisive. Notably, the outcomes of the adoption of different models of urban development have some relevant consequences not only in the occupancy of the soil, but also and above all in the consumptions and in the efficiency of energy and transportation.  The typology of accommodation has a strong impact on the energetic consumptions, regardless of the adoption of building technologies characterized by a low environmental impact. Multistoried buildings in dense urban contexts require less electricity than those of low-density districts. It has been estimated that an apartment of a multistoried building constructed with traditional technologies consumes on average 40% less than an equivalent lodging in a single-family accommodation built with highly energy-saving constructive technologies. The differential increases until 53%, even though the multistoried building adopts the same technologies (Jonathan Rose Companies, 2011). The same applies to the emissions due to the necessities of private transportation. If we consider in general the three main components of the emissions - transportation, heating, cooling and electricity - a dense urban district will produce 30% fewer emissions than a low-density district. The biggest discrepancy is represented by the emissions due to heating and cooling - 34% less - followed by the emissions due to electricity - 25% less - and by the emissions due to transportation - 17% less (Glaeser Edward 2009).In addition to this, it is necessary to consider the issue of the land-use. Always in the perspective of a future scenario, if the increase of the urban population by 2050 is considered and if  a constant level of growth in the current urban density is maintained, the urban land-use rises up to 150%.  It will go from the current 2.6% of the whole surface (3.6 million square kilometers) to about 6.5% (9.6 million square kilometers).  Thus, a marked discrepancy exists between the expectations of the demand, which is both quantitative and qualitative, and the supply currently available. Very briefly, the main elements in terms of risk evaluation that explain this divergence are:  ·    deficiency of the current industrialized production system in the quantitative satisfaction of the expected demand;  ·    strong environmental pressure linked to the phenomenon of urbanization on a global scale;  ·    excessive soil occupancy;  ·    obsolescence of the typological models no longer able to interpret the new paradigms of the contemporary living.  The aim of this research is to take on the scenario of transformation of the housing demand in the long term, in order to build an alternative theoretical model as a response, which then  will be  actualized in terms of techno-typological innovation, as well as of innovation of the constructional process.A new theoretical frame for the innovation of the constructional productionThe fact that the housing demand expected in the next years is mainly urban and the consideration that 70% of the urbanized land is occupied by houses (UN- Habitat, 2016) make the identification of the multistoried building typology a strategic option, by now ineluctable. The population density produced by the urbanization is “probably essential for the conservation of the remainig rural ecosystems” (Martine et al. 2008: 3). Based on this assumption, this research has identified the hypothesis of new buildings for residential use conceived as dynamic and technologically “hybrid” organisms as an alternative scenario. In the planning concept of these, the half-permanent subsystems having a long life cycle are separated from the half-permanent subsystems having a stronger technological content, which are subject to a faster obsolescence. This allows the interchangeability of the two in time and it reduces the environmental footprint of the building. This vision has been developed also through the analysis of the production industry and of the real estate, as well as through the direct involvement of some important stakeholders in seminars and workshops in which people in charge for the research and innovation divisions of Gewiss S.p.A. (electric plant design sector), of Valsir S.p.A. (hydro sanitary and mechanical plant design sector), and of Progress S.p.A. (advanced concrete prefabrication plant design sector) have been involved and confronted with each other.  The building has been sectioned in a mother structure hosting the main backbones of the system, which is supposed to have a life cycle of about one hundred years. Some interchangeable units have been inserted to integrate the whole electric, hydraulic and mechanical system with a ten-year life cycle, so as to guarantee a complete flexibility and adaptability to the changes in the housing demand. Such a structured model can have multiple applications also to the affordable housing, to the temporary housing demand and to the new life and working styles requiring more and more mobility. These hybrid structures can have an interesting application also to some contexts of urban completion, in adherence to blind walls, residual lots and to renew degraded fabrics.