The house that morphed

Live Work Home is a flexible residence designed for the "new, urban context" in which living and working can walk hand in hand.

Architects and contractors these days like to use solar panels and low-flush toilets when designing homes, and although these are important to minimise your carbon footprint, they can be removed when property changes ownership. Thus leaving a building that is still not as eco-friendly as it can be.

Cook + Fox Architects have tried to correct that with the Live Work Home, a small residence that’s sustainable both in the traditional sense (it recently received its LEED Platinum Certification) and in the sense that it’s designed to last.

The card up the architect’s sleeve is a flexible floor plan. A sturdy, perforated box stretched along a long, narrow lot of the downtrodden Near West Side neighborhood, in Syracuse, New York, it features sliding doors and mobile partitions that can be arranged and rearranged to accommodate various family sizes, generational needs, and even functions. It can be simplified for an elderly couple or meticulously partitioned for a young family. The great thing about this design is that doesn’t even have to be a home, it can be a workspace as the name suggests.

It’s also conceived to be cheap and simple to maintain so that anyone, whether a student or an octogenarian, could take care of the property, thus ensuring that eco-friendly housing is available to anyone.

Passive heating and cooling strategies take center stage. The 1,400-square-foot home has radiant floors and a building envelope constructed out of Structural Insulated Panels that improve insulation and, in turn, reduce heating costs. A heat recovery ventilator circulates filtered air year-round. And a large, garage-type front door can be folded down to create an open-air front porch for cooling off in the summer.

Cook + Fox’s goal is nothing short of helping to revitalize the neighbourhood. They envision the Live Work Home as a seed building--an Utopian architectural blank slate that can be used any which way and in doing so, spurs diverse development that forms the basis for a thriving urban community.

Here is what the architects had to say:

“Affordable housing alone does not respond to the needs of the neighborhood; its vitality as a community is a question of sustaining livelihoods and the social diversity. Just as pockets of extreme blight and vacant lots can weaken a neighborhood, adding density to the small-lot patterns of Near West Side with mixed social and economic activity will re-energize the community. … This 1,400 square foot project reconsiders the understood definition of ‘home’ for a new, urban context.”

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