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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Between stability and change : multiple configuration layouts as a source for adaptation in residential buildings Said, Nada M.


Many architects, for the last few decades have been challenged by the concept of 'the adaptable unit' ; a multiple dimensional unit that can accommodate every social formation during the family life. Despite this interest few of the multiple unit schemes they have built have been able to adapt. Yet, paradoxically, many single family houses continue to allow transformation and customization to family formations. Many factors are emerging which point to the necessity of providing adaptable units in the coming decades. These factors stem from the social, economic, and environmental changes all cities are facing. The first ongoing change is the shift of the urban population to owner occupier multiple units, with an expectation for life span adaptation that has not been met. The second, also a continuous change, is the increasing social and economic diversity in all our neighborhoods. With this diversity the requirement for less specialized units is growing, to accommodate different lifestyles and cultural backgrounds. Third is the availability and cost of the natural resources, with the need to design principles that extend the dwelling's life span. Within all these changes, the adaptable unit can achieve a durable long lasting architecture that preserves natural resources, and is responsive to social and financial fluctuations. This thesis is searching for adaptable plan configurations in multiple unit projects, in both their theoretical and practical aspects. It investigating the question of 'how can spaces in the way they are organized provide future adaptation ? And what specific interior and exterior spatial relationships might accommodate the "multi generation family"? The methodology adopted an analytical study using adjacency graphs and generic plans to test selected examples of existing durable architecture. The characteristics for adaptable layouts were determined by this process and were translated into design guidelines for practical applications. The thesis includes two experimental applications on two sites in Vancouver, Canada that illustrate adaptable designs within the frame work determined in the analytical study. From both analysis and practical designs, technical and general conclusions were reached. First it was established that higher connectivity between spaces, in any residential layout, indicates higher ability to regroup these spaces in different configurations. It was found that certain treatments as to means of access, services, and distributors will allow more connectivity and more grouping possibilities between spaces. The thesis recommends a room /access ratio to be regulated, based on the finding that limited interaction with the outside is a major obstacle for adaptation. The thesis also concludes that all these recommended design guidelines for adaptation are to be provided in the generic stage of any project. Finally, it was recommended that any dwelling must embody the generic permission for adaptation, whether the final actual need for it will be limited due to slow social changes, or substantial due to active engagement in physical change.

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