We’re starting on a philosophical note, but what if the way to counteract the irreversible passage of time was to create a “vanishing” house instead of those ultra-solid, massive buildings? So instead of fighting against this idea, we are adapting to it by creating a type of home that doesn’t impact the surroundings and can basically live forever because it can be removed and relocated at any time.
An Italian architecture brand is reinventing the idea of “survival shelter” – it’s not something hidden and basic, but an ultra-modern, smart house that is completely self-sufficient, without any negative impact on the environment. Spacelab (no, not the European Space Agency’s spacecraft) has created the most out-there experimental shelter, blending the most advanced technical features for 100% off-grid living with traditional architectural elements..
Spacelab unveiled the groundbreaking project in September 2021 at the prestigious XVII International Architecture Exhibition, La Biennale di Architettura di Venezia. Architects Luca Silenzi and Zoè Chantall Monterubbiano, with support from Sibillini Mountains National Park in central Italy, have come up with a modular housing project that is completely waste-free, hence the name “Zero.”
This beautiful national park was the main source of inspiration because the community in this area has been affected by recent earthquakes. Spacelab’s goal was to create a house specifically for sensitive environments, such as this one, and extreme conditions – the ultimate survival home. This house is pushing flexibility to the limit of being foundationless and shapeless. A base grid connects the building with the soil, including essential ground anchoring, leveling, rainwater collection, and purification tanks.
On top of the base grid, several modules are interconnected – the Living Module, Lodge Module (sleeping area), Storage Module, and Service Core module (including the bathroom, kitchenette, all the systems, and batteries). There are no fixed sizes for this house, as the modules can be scaled. And there’s no fixed shape since the modules can be assembled in various ways, depending on the specifics of the area, including size, geometry, and climate.
Zero is meant to be a light construction that can be installed quickly even in extreme conditions, with zero waste throughout its lifecycle, and then completely reusable in any other location.
First of all, the construction is 100% sustainable. The parametric modules are made from IFC- certified, formaldehyde-free glulam (glued laminated wood), from controlled forests, for maximum sustainability. Steel mixed with purlins (horizontal bars) in the glulam forms the structure of the cantilevered modules.
The detachable infill panels and the floors feature wood fiber insulation. At the same time, the waterproof roof contains a double seaming aluminum sheet system, which can be easily disassembled and reassembled, and it is entirely recyclable. The solid wood shingles for the external cladding are locally sourced, and the interior is covered with solid wood staves, with a non-toxic protection layer on top.
Secondly, Zero is waste-free and totally self-sufficient. Spacelab has an ambitious vision: zero scraps during the construction phase and none left after the house is removed, no emissions and no need for external gas, and electricity connections.
A battery pack and anti-frost photovoltaic panels provide the home’s the home’s energy autonomy, the light at night, and heating over the winter. In case of challenging conditions, such as snowstorms, or if the panels get damaged, optical sensors that are integrated into the roof trigger a backup generator. This guarantees the accumulators are recharged for at least three days.
The house is also equipped with a recovery system for rainwater and snow thawing water, which are then purified and reused for the home’s sanitary drains, which are insulated and heated.
Thirdly, the Zero concept house is also smart and equipped with advanced technology. Spacelab’s architects have integrated LED lighting with “extremely high efficiency”, a thermal and hydronic heat pump system and an airtight fireplace. Plus, features such as light, temperature and communication can be easily managed via smartphone, or through the advanced home automation systems.
Even in case of emergency, the telephone and satellite Internet connection continues to operate, thanks to Zero’s “uninterruptible” power supply.
The first Zero prototype will be built in 2022 on the slopes of Mount Sibilla. Spacelab plans to incorporate local construction traditions, except any eaves and flush windows instead of conventional ones.
This revolutionary archetype, which blends robustness and durability with complete self-sufficiency and extreme flexibility, also benefitted from a special musical theme. Created by Fyeld Effect (Federico di Marinis) exclusively for Spacelab, “Sybyl” (the musical theme for the project video) reflects the futuristic and optimistic spirit of the Zero concept.