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Cliff house... An alternative and fast method of construction

The client was looking an alternative and fast method of construction with emphasis on sustainability. This design looks at getting the most out of the building as concerns energy conservation, coupled with green Architecture that has a modern 21st century spin.

After researching building methods such as adobe, rammed earth, straw bale and the rest of our so-called sustainable methods of construction, Architects A4AC then looked at containers and flat pack housing - used on construction sites as site offices.

After stumbling across a You Tube video that showed a house being erected using light-guage steel, further research on this method of construction revealed that it conformed in many ways to the client's brief for a 3-bedroom home with living room and kitchen set out in open plan in a structure clad in steel to embrace and flaunt its modernity. All this and the construction needed to come in under R750,000.

"The idea was to build something that in no way looked like a boring brick and mortar house. I love the way Steve Jobs made his electronic stuff look; When you held it in your hand, you felt like you were in the future, and this is the feeling I hope would be evoked with a steel framed house", says Dirk Coetser, Director of A4AC Architects.





The main principle is there for the house to be partly powered by solar, as well as provision for gas to be used for heating and cooking. The house should also be able to store or filter the water to be used to irrigate an indigenous garden.

"Here in South Africa, when it comes to sustainable design this inevitably relates to expensive construction methods and expensive consultants. This means that it is still something for the very rich. Having the given small budget to work with, we saw it as a challenge to push the boundary in terms of how sustainable and affordable we can go. This does make it very relevant for the current global economic situation, for both young and old", says Coetser.

Their approach is to use lightweight construction methods to reduce the impact on the site, as well minimize the use of concrete foundations. The challenge was to accommodate the site and it extreme angle. They incorporated two used shipping containers as structural cantilever elements.

The design of the various layers of the walls are fairly simple and achieved with materials that you can buy from most hardware stores. Recently there has been an increase in the use of lightweight construction in South Africa, with a major downfall: the cladding products are fairly expensive (mostly more expensive than using brick and mortar). Another issue is that the products are mostly used to imitate plaster and paint. We challenge this notion by cladding the building in steel sheeting, providing a modern aesthetic, and extremely affordable.

The interior is clad with a timber finish. The R values achieved are far above the requirements as per the energy regulations (SANS 204). Cooking and water heating will be done via gas. The house allows for water storage (water shedding), and is powered by solar. We optimized the use of natural light to reduce the use of electrical lighting during the day. We also optimized natural ventilation (cross ventilation) to eliminate the use of air conditioner in summer.

Many of the windows are fitted with sliding louvers, which are closed in summer to radiate the heat on the exterior, and open in the winter in order for the solar heat to radiate on the interior.

Construction on this project will begin early 2016 and we hope to keep you updated on the progress, or visit for details.