NovoHouse Beijing, China

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Residential Development in Beijing, China

NovoHouse Concept – design by Cartwright Pickard Architects

13 Oct 2009

NovoHouse Beijing

UK Architects, Steel Association Unveil Radical ‘NovoHouse’

Design: Cartwright Pickard Architects

The NovoHouse is officially unveiled by Cartwright Pickard Architects and Living Steel today, 13 October 2009, at the World Steel Association Annual Conference (Worldsteel-43) in Beijing, China. A life-size model of the NovoHouse demonstrates how it could offer a housing solution for many emerging communities across the world.

The aim of the NovoHouse is to create a practical solution that helps meet the demand that the world’s growing population places on housing, particularly in developing countries such as China, Brazil and India. With most of the world’s population growth expected to be in these areas1, and with nearly half of populations in developing countries already living in slums2, the need is enormous and pressing. As part of the Living Steel programme, Cartwright Pickard Architects has created a concept with five key principles at the fore: affordability; flexibility; sustainability; permanence and ease of assembly.


The NovoHouse is a concept that has been developed by Cartwright Pickard since winning the Living Steel International Architecture competition in 2007. The project seeks to exploit the latest steel construction technology to develop an affordable housing model that allows low-income families to live in improved home environments. Working closely with its partners in Living Steel and Baosteel, Cartwright Pickard has used their expertise in affordable housing and off-site construction methods to develop this unique project.

The NovoHouse blueprint is flexible to allow for local site constraints, culture, living habits and space standards. The lightweight steel frame is independent from the cladding structure and is designed to be permanent and can be designed to resist local climatic extremes, such as earthquakes and cyclones. The structural elements are light enough to be carried by donkey or boat, which ensures the house is suitable even for remote areas.

The NovoHouse plans to use cold-formed steel to create the structural framework for the house, which can be created as prefabricated panels in a factory either at the site or nearby. One of the aims of this residential development is that once on location, local, unskilled labourers will be able to assemble the lightweight structures easily, by hand. This housing system aims to be a straightforward and logical kit of parts.

Though the steel structure is permanent, indigenous materials will be used to clad the dwellings, such as handmade mud bricks, straw bales, timber, or bamboo – almost any cladding material that is available locally and suits the climate.

Sustainability has been a major consideration throughout the design process. All steel contains recycled content and is itself recyclable. The flexibility of the NovoHouse will allow low-cost passive technologies to be incorporated in, or retro-fitted to, the customised design. The aim of using local labour, and local materials, will help generate income in the areas where the housing is planned, helping to stimulate local economies.

James Pickard, Director, Cartwright Pickard Architects said, “There are approximately 2 billion people homeless world wide. The task of providing decent homes for the world’s growing population is one that architects must address with practical solutions. We are delighted to be working with Living Steel to help explore design solutions for this important challenge. The NovoHouse is just the beginning of a new way of looking at solutions for creating and delivering new homes.”

Scott Chubbs, Director Living Steel, “At Living Steel we strive to support the development of safe, sustainable and affordable housing solutions. Steel is an ideal material with which to achieve these aims, and with the continued input of the world steel industry and innovative architects, we aim to continue improving our work to develop homes for our growing population.”

A total of eight demonstration versions are onsite in the Dujiangyan area of China to house a total of fourteen families. Tours can be arranged on request. A section of the NovoHouse will be available to view at Worldsteel-43 in Beijing (12 – 14 October). The project continues to be developed as part of Cartwright Pickard and Living Steel’s commitment to sustainable housing.

NovoHouse image / information received 131009

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House in Hongkou : more information about this Dujiangyan residence

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