Sumit Singhal loves modern architecture. He comes from a family of builders who have built more than 20 projects in the last ten years near Delhi in India. He has recently started writing about the architectural projects that catch his imagination.
THE MODULES Apartments in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania by Interface Studio Architects
March 11th, 2011 by Sumit Singhal
In recent years, the market for student housing has become increasingly competitive, with design-savvy, environmentally-sensitive students choosing between a variety of on- and off-campus living options. The Modules is a 160-bed, 80,000-square-foot building on a half-acre site near Temple University in Philadelphia. The project responds to an emerging student housing market around the Temple campus as the school transitions from a commuter school to a residential institution.
The Modules approaches this market with a design-driven, high-performance building offering cutting-edge amenities. The building’s modular construction system helps to keep costs down without compromising design quality. Major features include light-filled common spaces, generously-sized operable windows, environmentally conscious finishes, off-street parking for cars and bicycles, and a green roof terrace with dramatic views of the Philadelphia skyline.
The building offers students community, accessibility and sustainability at affordable prices through the use of a state-of-the-art modular construction process.
Modular construction has emerged as an increasingly attractive option in Philadelphia’s soft housing market, in which expensive construction makes it difficult to develop high-quality, sustainable projects. The Modules capitalizes on pre-fabrication as a construction tactic to control cost, speed and waste, and to deliver a high level of performance on a minimal budget.
We experimented with a series of building shapes that could work within a modular protocol. Key considerations were maximizing building area and daylighting. The double-H shape proved most efficient, providing the longest perimeter and the most square footage.
The student-friendly features in the Modules are also cost-effective and sustainable, contributing to an expected LEED Silver rating for the building under the U.S. Green Building Council’s pilot LEED for Homes Midrise program. Green elements include a water source heating and cooling system and a highly-insulated building envelope that will contribute to a major reduction in the building’s year-round energy consumption. The building’s storm water management system is also state-of-the art, incorporating a green roof and pervious paving that contribute to an overall reduction in water runoff of over 50 percent. The project is slated to be one of the largest modular LEED-rated buildings in the United States.
The Modules is a showcase for the Equinox commitment to a sustainable model of building construction and management. The Equinox model incorporates lifecycle assessments of energy systems and materials to predict and avoid hidden and future costs, both environmental and economic. With water and energy monitoring technology, Equinox is able to monitor usage of shared systems by apartment, thereby increasing tenant awareness and reducing consumption.
The project integrates with its surrounding context in several ways. One is by providing well located, welcoming thresholds to various modes of circulation. The Modules is sited a short walk away from multiple forms of public transit, including the Broad Street Line of the Philadelphia subway and a number of city bus routes.
The building meets the street with two pedestrian-friendly entrances, a controlled-access garage for 38 cars, and covered racks for 100 bicycles.
Another layer of context mediation is through a new plaza entrance for the adjacent student housing building. Both buildings are held by the same owner and the plaza serves as an intermediate zone between the new Modules project and the traditional architecture of the adjacent building. The plaza incorporates a bench, bike racks, security fences, and a rain garden to manage stormwater runoff.
The shared spaces of the building create a feeling of community for student residents. Apartments are arranged in quads, with each group of four units related to a tributary hallway, encouraging smaller social zones to evolve. Student lounges on each floor are brightly lit with generous windows, and provide comfortable, unique spaces for gathering.
The Modules is designed for pre-fabricated construction. The building is on track for completion in 14 months, including a six-month period of design and approvals, and an expected eight-month construction schedule.
The majority of the building will consist of modular units constructed offsite in a factory, under controlled working conditions and with assembly-line efficiencies not available in the field. The units, complete with kitchens, bathrooms, and floor finishes, were trucked 130 miles to the site and craned into place. Exterior cladding and interior finishings are currently being installed on the site.
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