PU has been used in housing for some time, here Jane Denny looks at some applications.
PU in housing solutions worldwide
Using PU in housing is not a new idea. During the late 1960s and early 1970s, Finnish architect Matti Suuronen built around 100 Futuro homes. His solution stemmed from the philosophy that housing needed to be quick to heat and easy to construct in rough terrain.
Suuronen turned to a polyester-polyurethane insulation system and claimed the house – at 4m high and 8m in diameter - could be heated to a comfortable temperature within half an hour.
In recent years, a number of innovative housing concepts have used PU.
CAS4 modular home
Buenos Aires, Argentina-based CAS4 designed hollow walls into its modular home for PU foam insulation to be sprayed in. Cost wise, CAS4 is about $150 per square foot (£200/m²)
CAS4’s designs range from two module, 270ft2 bedroom cabana designed for a rural lodge to a ten module house with three bedrooms.
T2 homes in Tokyo
Japan, according to the Global Industry Analysts report, is the world’s largest market for prefabricated housing. In response to the country’s demand, the SUS Corporation has modern take on Suuronen’s Futuro idea. The firm developed prefabricated aluminium dwelling units that rely on polyurethane foam for their insulation. The price tag is around $29,000.
The units are 2.4m high, 3.9m wide and 2.3m long. Developed in-house by SUS, they also insulate from heat and noise.
Units are designed to be portable, include air con, shower, toilet, bed TV and kitchen. SUS says they can be slotted together around a vertical framework.
PU igloo – Apple Huts
This prefabricated igloo is a light and aerodynamic portable hut nicknamed The Apple that can be transported by helicopters and used in Antarctica as sleeping quarters. The original Apple’s sprayfoam insulation has now been replaced by polyurethane sheet insulation between layers of fibreglass making them a little heavier at 240kg. Packed dimensions are 2.45 x 1.25 x 1.25 m.
The huts include berths for three, with room for additional stretcher or similar, but suitable for two people. As emergency accommodation it can house up to 15 people. They can be constructed by two people in 90 minutes.
Two igloos recently manufactured by Penguin Composites, under licence from Icewall One, will be used on Macquarie Island to support field programs by Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife. Icewall One general manager Anthea Wallhead said: "The first 100 igloos were achieved in 12 years, but it has been a further 20 years to reach 200." Apple igloos are located in far-flung extreme environments such as Svalbard, north of Norway, Greenland and various sites in Antarctica.
The micro compact home (m-ch)
Made by Horden Cherry Lee Architects based in London, UK.
It is a lightweight, modular and mobile living space for one or two people which includes area for sleeping, eating and working, cooking and sanitation and cost EUR38,000.
The m-ch cube measures 266cm by 266cm and has a ceiling height of 198cm with a door width of 60cm.
Interior fittings are excluded in its price, as well as delivery, installation, connection to services, consultant’s fees and taxes. The units, made at the company’s factory site in Austria can be delivered by helicopter.
The unit does include two compact double beds, each measuring 198cm x 107cm. A sliding table measuring 105cm x 65cm, which the company says accommodates up to five people. A shower and toilet cubicle are both built into the space, as well as a kitchen featuring a double hob, sink, microwave, fridge and freezer units, three compartment waste unit, storage shelves and surfaces.
The egg home
Bratislava, Slovakia-based Nice Architects hopes to start shipping orders of a novel egg-shaped tiny home comprising several layers of PU insulation in early 2016.
With its 10m2 floor total space, the prototype Ecocapsule measures in a 8.3 x 14.5 x 7.3 feet. It weighs in at 1,500kg.
Affordable Housing projects worldwide
The PU industry’s biggest players have been involved with a number of public-private partnership projects to provide affordable housings solutions in developing countries.
With focus on affordable housing solutions, a near 30-year partnership between Dow Chemical Company and charity Habitat for Humanity announced plans to expand to 30 countries across five continents in 2015.
That announcement was followed by the chemical company recvealing plans for its first sub-saharan systems house. Mohammed Sami, commercial leader sub-saharan Africa for Dow Polyurethanes, said: "The local needs for more energy efficient houses in order to conserve energy can be met with our global innovations tailored to local market needs.
"We are convinced polyurethane solutions can make a difference and deliver solutions for challenges in Sub-Saharan Africa. Highly efficient and practical insulation materials for homes for example.”
Nepal, Argentina and Colombia are on the partnerships’ list of target countries for housing and community projects. Rob Vallentine, president, The Dow Chemical Company Foundation “Dow and Habitat recognise that affordable housing is one of the world's most pressing challenges.”
Dow has also teamed up with Italy-based Saip, part of Pozzi Industries, to create prefabricated buildings with polyurethane insulated sandwich panels.
Spain-based sandwich panel processing R&D centre cedepa – a collaboration between Dow Chemical and Saip which established the continuous panel development centre. According Walter Pozzi: “In the next few years construction will definitely leave the old structural concrete forms for non-structural forms such as PU panels and spray foam.
My House, My Life Brazil
The Brazilian government’s says it is meetings its country’s housing needs with Minha Casa Minha Vida (My house, My Life) campaign, which begun in 2009. The scheme has seen state-owned bank Caixa Economica Federa provide subsidised mortgages to allow families to buy homes. Caixa has also granted the developers of the sold homes cheap financing in order to build more housing developments.
In the first stage of the program 1m homes were built. The Brazilian government had earmarked 2015 as its goal point for building 3m housing units. However the scheme has fallen to criticism that housing it not cheap enough for the poorest families and that, given the fourfold increase in construction costs, more affordable building methods need to supported if it is to end in success. Also, sub-standard building has been noted.
Covestro’s affordable housing campaigns
Covestro has also worked with Habitat for Humanity and partners to construct 1,000 affordable homes designed to stay put in wind speeds up to 260km/h. Up to 30,000 homes are scheduled to be built in the typhoon-prone area of Tacloban in the coming years.
Nearly two years after super typhoon Yolanda ravaged the country’s Central Visayas region, thousands of families were still living in transitional shelters.
Covestro along with Habitat for Humanity Philippines and the San Miguel Foundation, the Leyte authorities and local firm PU Profile Sdn Bhd, 1,000 homes in were provided in Palo and San Miguel.
By using innovative housing solutions, the project will enable homes to withstand harsh climate conditions and wind speeds up to 260 kph, without compromising quality and the family’s comfort. The new technology makes construction of the homes more cost efficient.
Covestro’s Richard Northcote said lightweight polyurethane composite panels for the roofing and cement foam for the walls.
“This innovative technology also reduces half of the overall cement consumption. The excellent insulation properties of the material make the houses more energy efficient and thus very cost effective.”
The walls are made of fibre composite panels incorporated with Covestro polyisocyanurate (PIR) foam. The panels were provided by our housing technology partner, PU Profile of Malaysia.
“We know that with our technology, they will be able to live comfortably and with the peace of mind that they will be safe should another strong typhoon come along,” said PU Profile ceo McKinley Soon.
The German-based chemicals company is also working with Tokyo University on a sustainable community housing and facilities for a 3,200 population in Kada, Wakayama, Japan.
With PU innovation at the centre of the project’s goals for energy efficiency, Covestro put together 150 proposals for the development following liaison with the seaside community through students at the university.
The project is part of the EcoCommercial Building project in which Covestro is collaborating with local manufacturers to provide authorities with inspiration, information and blueprints for the planning, design, integration and construction of low-impact building.
The Japanese arm of the project – which is set to be rebranded Covestro Japan Construction Community (CJCC) from 2016 – ties in with the German company’s involvement with an open innovation initiative for the Net-Zero Energy House (ZEH), supported by the Japanese government.
In a collaboration with Yamaguchi University Covestro also showcased its PU solutions via a ZEH contest with houses displayed in Yokohama in late 2015.
The Yamaguchi ZEH includes Covestro products like PU panels combined with Vacuum Insulation Panels and PUR foam panels. “The house is an excellent show case of the potentials of Covestro solutions in the construction industry’ said Chie Umezawa, from Covestro’s Japan communications. Yamaguchi University won the First prize and Local City Recreation Award at the ceremony on October 31st.
Umezawa said the second phase would lead to official planning applications for the development. She added: “It seems that it will take some more time to make an official planning, but once it is approved, we can start proposing PUR as a sustainable material for residents and buildings.”
A YEN 10m grant from the Japanese government paid for the first phase and the second phase, attracted YEN 4m of state money.