A linked pair of buildings between object and architecture.
In the beginning stood an idea. The idea by Baufritz owner Dagmar Fritz-Kramer and designer Alfredo Haeberli to create a project together. Their joint question: “How do we want to live in the future?” Their answers have gone into “Haussicht” - revealing new dimensions of ecological and healthy wooden architecture.
The first obvious impression is the impact of the sheer size of the linked pair of buildings, with its imposing, far overhanging wooden roofs atop refined vertical structures. Is this supposed to be a home for just one family? Well now, it is, albeit a very special one – not just in dimension.
“It was simply time to give a new face to wooden architecture, to create a trailblazing frontispiece”, explains the owner Fritz-Kramer, instantly adding: “Such amazing stylistic expressiveness can only be found by a great designer.” At that point the internationally renowned Swiss architect Alfredo Haeberli came into the project. He says of himself: “Since childhood architecture has always been important to me in everyday life.”
Silhouettes of nature
In his Zurich studio the floor plans and ideas evolved - for a wooden house completely reimagined. Inspired by ship building as one original type of wooden construction, the bowlike roof constructions run in waves and curves; organic shapes such as we see in nature. Because the designer, even when planning large rooms, knows no limits of statics and construction, the Baufritz team was then presented with great challenges. “We had to thoroughly redevelop construction parts”, tells us Baufritz site manager Alexander Fritz, “and went statically far and beyond the usual limits”. Yet this is exactly the embodiment of the spirit of this project: “Realizing visions – showing, it can be done!” (Dagmar Fritz-Kramer).
Thus the always involved architect Stephan Rehm, found the process of bringing it into reality “extremely exciting”, and smiles when asked about feasibility: “Brave trial stands before any amends.” He is quite convinced that any problems find good solutions in time. All in all, Rehm is so confident because: Wood is a high-tech material that you can do almost anything with.
Layout with a backbone
Alfredo Haeberli’s motto is people, residents, at the heart of the design idea. Consequently, he developed the buildings “starting with the core, the inside”.
In the process the designer put the usual concept of “living downstairs, sleeping upstairs” on its head: In “Haussicht” the children’s and parents’ bedrooms are on the ground floor, cooking, dining and living happen under the roof.
The architectural backbone of the ground floor is an element that is all at once a wall, a door and a furniture. As a wall-shelf unit it is usable on either side and divides the ground floor into a public and a private area. The public side, towards the entrance, houses ample storage space in the hall area, utility area, office, play area etc. and fold-out tables. “To activate building components” is what Haeberli calls the concept.
Within the closed wall-shelving unit two entrances lead to the children’s and parents’ bedrooms. Here, precious wooden and marble surfaces emanate the finest of quality. And yet another story is the relaxation zone-concept for the parents’ bedroom: a double bed, a bathtub and an open fireplace!
The German name of the house, „Haussicht“, contains a pun on “Aussicht” / views – much like we have translated it as “Haussicht” – as the views are rather breath-taking indeed. On entering the cooking and dining area one feels halfway outdoors. – The around 90 sqm room has floor-to-ceiling glazing on three sides and just one step puts you on the terrace that surrounds the interior generously in a sweeping ship’s bow.
Apart from the real views “Haussicht” also alludes to the views into the future taken by Baufritz with this far-reaching vision of house building, a vision well beyond any common house building project. The highlight in the living room is a “seating island” that defines the room as its main furniture: On a turntable of three meters across one may sit as in a cinema on different levels, either facing into the room or towards the media wall. Thanks to a variable table and various seating options a multitude of communicative arrangements are possible amongst the family and any guests.
A multifunctional “Stoeckli”
The endearing Swiss word “Stoeckli”, little floor, signifies the link-detached building that has been added in the spirit of the retirement homes erected by farmers, when they pass on the farm to their children. The wooden construction of the “Stoeckli” seems to float atop its round concrete pedestal and is connected to the main house with a beam bridge. Thanks to an open elevator and the sparing use of partitioning a barrier-free living space has been created here (the buzzword is multi-generational living). Alternatively, the “Stoeckli” may take on the function of a comfortable space for adolescents, an office or any number of other uses.
Made to astonish
Naturally, “Haussicht” leaves nothing to be desired in terms of building ecology, healthy living and sustainability, we are reassured by Dietmar Spitz, marketing manager for Baufritz, and “this is especially true for the entire facilities and furnishings of the house”. The specialised elements of outer wall, roof etc. are just as usual for a Baufritz construction, prefabricated in the workshop and then assembled on site. Besides, the eco-design house showcases novelties such as the steel balustrade for balconies (Haeberli-balustrade), the continuous perpendicular cladding for facades, the open elevator or the new and especially efficient heating system. Company owner Fritz-Kramer hopes that “Haussicht” will “create astonishment”, will have people asking: “This is a wooden house? This is an eco-house?”
Lastly, let us ask the question whether an eco-house should be this big. We receive two answers: “Nature is opulence and abundance”, points out Dagmar Fritz-Kramer, and Alfredo Haeberli elaborates: “This is about a mindset, about guiding principles, not about a certain amount of square meters”. Which in turn means the concept can be carried out just the same on a smaller scale.
“Haussicht” by Baufritz a construction challenge
Design meets architecture
To truly create something new, one has to abandon trodden paths and be prepared to dare. This was certain from the outset for Helmut Holl, project manager and former managing director. In retrospective he concedes: “The “Haussicht” project, the commitment to intertwine architecture with design, - and with our irrefutable ecological principles - was adventurous for the whole team.”
The risks have paid off, that is, both sides - in the person of designer Alfredo Haeberli and architect Stephan Rehm – had been open for each other’s approach, ready to understand and to involve alien ideas into their own thinking.
“We specifically wanted to work across borders, think concepts anew and explore options”, says Rehm. “We were looking for ways to develop an altogether novel language of wooden architecture, to inject lightness into the construction, an airiness, and make amongst others, the statics palpable”, explains Haeberli, who is credited as thinking with his heart when he designs.
A building emerged which does not use wood only as a backdrop structure, but a true, visibly wooden build. Design and architecture merge, which is as apparent in the novel cladding running vertically down the full height of the house (“Haeberli-cladding”) as it is in the lavish glazing, connected by slender wooden posts and the back-ventilated sheet-metal roof, which artfully fuses the robustness of a slanted roof with the architecture of a flat roof.
Ecological wooden prefabricated construction
Just from a practical standpoint it was also an objective to find joint solutions for modern ecological wooden prefabricated constructions, which despite standardised details offer architectural freedom.
The verdict on the outcome is good: Ideas and design concept were translated into the real house bar a few nuances and will enter in concept into the regular prefabricated home construction at Baufritz. All the while for Haeberli, who generally designs smaller objects from glassware to seating furniture, there stood an Aha! experience at the end: For the first time he saw the true size of his creation only after construction was finished.
Solar energy for an effective heating system
Seasonal underground store optimizes the heat pump
The magic word for the heating and energy concept of the Baufritz property “Haussicht” is efficiency! Energy usage has been minimized, for the intelligent home solution a variety of electrical bus systems have been cleverly joined up, active cooling systems have been integrated and the output of the heat pump has been altogether improved. The core component is the so-called “eTank” – a seasonal store underground, which stores heat rather than electricity and feeds into the thermal pump.
For “Haussicht” the main objective was to be as energy efficient as possible given the designer Alfredo Haeberli had fashioned it with a lot of glazing. Using regenerative energy sources only, the sun has become the primary source of energy for the house.
From the outset, energy usage is minimized by erecting a highly insulated shell with superior quality insulated glazing. Furthermore, electricity usage is reduced, for example, because the air-quality controlled ventilation system only turns on as necessary and because the heat pump is extremely efficient at a sensational annual performance factor of 7.
Regenerative in four ways
To increase the efficiency of the heat pump the thermal source should consistently deliver as high a temperature as possible (“high source temperature”). And exactly that is achieved by the “eTank” that feeds into the heat pump. This seasonal underground store measures approx. 12 x 30 m and is 1.5 m high; its storage material are around 600 cubic meters of natural soil.
It is charged with heat mainly in the summer via three energy sources: a special absorber photovoltaic system (PV), the cooling ceilings in the building and via the ground.
“Thermally activated photovoltaic modules” (PTV) these are called by Michael Eiber, technical specialist at Baufritz, as they are photovoltaic modules which divert the unused heat generated under them into the underground tank; as a side-effect the solar modules produce more electricity, because they heat up less. Also in comparison to an underfloor cooling system, the cooling ceilings in the building are far more efficient, and provide more thermal energy for the store, resulting in a temperature of up to 25 degrees Celsius during summer. When the store’s temperature sinks below 10 degrees in the winter, ground heat will serve to recharge its temperature.
The design in detail
The eco-design property “Haussicht” thus provides for itself with photovoltaics and geothermal heat, utilizing the abundant, environmentally friendly and free energy of the sun. The energy is not conserved as electricity, but rather in the far more efficient form of heat. The electricity generated by the solar system is fed into the home technology systems and used as the power source in the house. Any surplus can then be used to power electric vehicles using the charging point belonging to the house.
What else is visible – apart from the solar energy charging point – of all that super-ecological and super-sustainable technology? Actually not that much. But naturally the little domestic technology visible in the Haeberli “Haussicht” is iconically designed. Eye-catching are for example the switches on the walls and the touch panel allowing for the easiest of home control.
Living in designed nature
Unmistakably comforting and healthy
The name Baufritz stands for the strictest self-imposed guidelines for healthy living. The houses of the eco-pioneer are certified to fulfil the highest European standards. In their property “Haussicht” the market leader for healthy construction ennobles their rigorous product philosophy with the exquisite design work of Alfredo Haeberli. Here some distinct examples as shown in the eco-design-house located in the grounds of the company headquarters in Erkheim:
Visible from the outside is the solvent-free varnish of the rather special wooden “Haeberli” façade; and visible is an outer steel staircase given a natural stone surface – the same as at the entrance. In places where steel girders support the wooden construction, the metal has been demagnetised. Because natural light and lighting are of great importance for living in a house, some very special solutions evolved here between the designer and Baufritz. – Nearly floor to ceiling glazed walls bring ample daylight inside, and even the wall behind the inner staircase is made of glass.
As electric lighting they developed an idea by the designer called “light recesses“ or “trumpet recesses” sunken into the plaster ceiling. As lamps serve the LED lights co-developed by Baufritz – a world first of nearly flicker free LED bulbs (E 27). According to Karlheinz and Veronika Mueller, in charge at Baufritz of ecology and building biology, these create “a unique healthy light”.
Everything inspected and approved
All materials used in the house went through detailed building biology pre-testing or material testing. Their harmlessness to health will be certified in the finished house using indoor air analysis.
This naturally also applied to furnishings, lights, textiles and other accessories, the Suisse designer brought into the house. There were things to be learned in that respect: For example, a large furniture named “media bunk” in the living room was initially planned using commercial latex. Yet the material did not pass the testing stage and was replaced by emission free natural latex. As in this case, the partners or suppliers of the designer made changes to their used materials accordingly. The normally PU-coated oak-wood bathtub was ordered uncoated by Haeberli and Baufritz and given a triple oil coat for everyday usefulness.
Calm and vitality
The question comes to mind whether healthy living materials and sustainable design sit just side by side or whether comforting synergies result for the people living in the house. For the architect Stephan Rehm, who has taken responsibility for the project together with Haeberli, the verdict is clear: “The design house as such exudes calm, because it is so well balanced. And design brings forth - with its pure and unadulterated joy of beauty - very positive effects on the onlooker.”
As an example of the atmosphere that is at once calming and vitalising brought about by combining nature’s material with design work he quotes the oak wood used in the cooking/dining area. Made from it are the staircase, parquet flooring as well as the wall cladding, and, as a special focal point, also the veneer of the kitchen units. The identical oiling of all surfaces is the crowning stroke – an example of how the house impresses itself with deep satisfaction on people.
120 years of Baufritz for wooden homes
“Good for people, good for nature”
“Baufritz, the eco-house pioneer.” This is how a friendly female voice greets on the telephone, when one calls the company headquarters in Erkheim. Quite rightly. Because it is as early as 1896 that master carpenter Sylvester Fritz sets out building wooden houses. And in 2016? The family enterprise raises a unique healthy living eco-design property, conceived by the Swiss designer Alfredo Haeberli – a success story that for Baufritz-owner Dagmar Fritz-Kramer is by no means at its end yet…
The Erkheim-based company stands for architect designed houses, using certified healthy natural construction, individually planned for the builder-owners and delivered with a turn-key service and on a fixed price. With annually around 200 dream homes built in Germany, Great Britain, Switzerland, Austria and Luxembourg Baufritz is one of the most successful businesses in Central Europe. Unique is their rigorous commitment to ecological and sustainable home building with impeccable building biology. This was set in motion by the late owner Hubert Fritz in the 1980s with his own research and development work.
Ecology and technology
Baufritz is playing in a league of its own in this respect. Hardly any homebuilder has reaped so many prizes and certificates for their inventions, patents and houses. Baufritz sets the bar ever higher for others with constant innovations such as their own development of the patented eco-insulation “HOIZ”, made using wood shavings from the workshops, refined using whey and soda; the healthy homes are guaranteed, the certificates delivered. Yet ecology is just one side of the story. A comfortable home needs just as much pleasing architecture. Amongst the architectural highlights are many family houses (such as the “Lake House” in Langenargen, Lake Konstanz), the show homes “Alpine Chic” (Prefab home exhibition Poing), “NatureDesign” (Prefab home World Cologne) and the latest one yet, the linked pair of buildings, “Haussicht”, in the grounds of the company headquarters in Erkheim. And also in the field of home technology Baufritz has for years astonished the industry with its innovations, such as with the future forward extremely effective electro-smog insulation in their design houses, the near flicker-free LED-lighting or the intelligent, pollutant-controlled ventilation systems, the fuel cell heating or the seasonal underground thermal store.
Milestone into the future
A new definition of sustainable eco-design has been made with “Haussicht” – showcasing the visionary and responsible commitment of the company in its 120th year. “Haussicht” demonstrates not a pretence of architecture and design, but their visionary use for sustainability and ecological living. It emanates quality and refinement, proving that real modern wooden architecture is firstly attractive and secondly expresses beauty, pleasure and zest for life.
Dagmar Fritz-Kramer, who is leading the company in the fourth family generation, sees it therefore as yet “another milestone in the pioneering work for ecological and aesthetic wooden architecture”.
Using “milestone” she points to the fact that the path ahead is long and wide. The company owner is convinced, that a lot of developments and opportunities lie ahead for home building. The focal point remains, as Fritz-Kramer tells us, using the Baufritz motto: “Good for people, good for nature.”