A Flexible Habitat

Architect and designer Saif Faisal proposes the benefits of Flexitecture in order to accommodate the burgeoning population and meet the growing need and challenges of urban housing.

With the dramatic population influx in cities, there is a need for interactive and healthy living, not just in terms of lifestyle but also the environment we live in today. As per the statistics by the United Nations, the world population is expected to hit 9.1 billion by 2050.  It being estimated that at this point half of the human race will be migrating to the cities, thereby taking the count of the urban population to about 70% by the mid of 21st century. It has been also predicted that by 2030, there would be atleast 40% increase in the need for urban housing and basic infrastructure services which comes up to development of  about 4,000 new units of houses every day for next 14 years.


In the current scenario, the urban life in India and pretty much around the world has already reached to the point of saturation and if the above mentioned statistics are to be believed the situation looks far worse for accommodating the burgeoning population in the future. There is an urgent to need to cater the problem which can be dealt with architecture, which is more accommodating, holistic, responsible, representative and responsive to the socio-economic needs of the occupants.  Not just the socio-economic needs, but which also takes into consideration the need to construct structures through sustainable means thereby taking in consideration the smart management of resources and energy.

We are aware of the fact that with time and space, the user’s need keeps on increasing. Therefore it is essential to create a habitat which is flexible and that can be evolved and changed in terms of space and time.  Hence, I propose the need for ‘Flexible & Adaptable Urban Habitat’ or Flexitecture.


The Concept

Flexitecture or ‘Flexible & Adaptable Urban Habitat’ takes the existing albeit small building practice we already have i.e. ‘Prefab and Modular architecture’ to a whole new level. Flexitecture aims to provide a framework to facilitate the building to transform itself and adapt itself as per the need of the user. These structures can be reconfigured and disassembled to be re-built in a different context and space. The structures are proposed to be designed in a manner which remains relevant to technical, cultural and social trends.  It also aims to be economically and ecologically viable thereby reducing the need to re-build again and again.

The project addresses the need for an urban housing in configurations of individual houses to low rise housing to cluster houses through modern prefab. The design goes through a series of building systems which are flexible and transformable with change in function and requirements. Adaptable architecture readily allows the users of the building to influence design in a very positive and efficient direction. Allowing flexible conduits for these systems not only helps with the replacement and upgrading but also for planning layout and functional space changes.


Feature of Flexitecture – Structure & Space Independence

The main structural framework (armature) and the sub structures which make up the ‘space module’ form a very loose-fit configuration that can be fitted out as required by different users. Future changes can easily be accommodated within the fixed block. This provides with high potential for different participants to interact with the design process at different times in the building’s lifetime, thereby allowing change to be an on-going process. This consideration to break the unit into main structure and sub structure gives high amount of versatility in the units. The space modules being independent of the structure can be hence re-configured as and when required. This can happen without any sort of disturbances to the occupants above or below in the same block. Moreover it can be done with ease and high efficiency. The building has a flexible design which makes it easy for disassembling of the structure and to carry out any new modification in the design, with the standard building elements being recovered, refurbished and re-used again and again on various blocks.


The building can change and evolve over a long lifetime, with various introductions in terms of spatial refurbishments and revisions in technological services. In conventional buildings any intervention in terms of revising the building results in a considerable amount of damage which limits the scope of the practice. However the scope in an independent shell structure building with inherent flexibility has much more freedom. The bolt on balconies and service spaces like the utility and bathrooms are on the exterior as over-hangs, these create a beautiful thermal buffer, eliminating a great deal of insulation for the building. The main structure is crafted in I steel for its strength; the sub-structure is made out of aluminum and wood composites. All the junctions and joints are designed in such a way that the building can be easily assembled with light machinery and no heavy on-site work. To ease the process of assembling and dis-assembling, the design has done away with welding and riveting. Building owners often are faced with the challenge of modifying an existing space to meet the changing needs – perhaps adding an extra bedroom or extend a communal space.


These structures have a transformable and flexible attributes catering to ‘day to day’ usage and even caters to refurbishing it over a period of time, urged from – change of user demands or the users itself, with least waste of materials and time. With controlled factory production, we can keep a check on the time and cost of construction. Besides we can set realistic eco standards in terms of carbon-footprint and type of materials used in construction. With help of these structures, a single bedroom unit can be transformed into a double-bedroom unit. Due to its flexible nature, this architecture can be also used for low-rise office spaces too.


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