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Veneer house project : a prototype construction in Nepal : sviluppo e costruzione di un progetto umanitario di abitazione post-emergenziale in Nepal

Carola Novara

Veneer house project : a prototype construction in Nepal : sviluppo e costruzione di un progetto umanitario di abitazione post-emergenziale in Nepal.

Rel. Alessio Lorena, Guido Callegari. Politecnico di Torino, Corso di laurea magistrale in Architettura Per Il Progetto Sostenibile, 2016



My journey to Japan started in September 2015. I enrolled as a student-researcher at Keio University, a private university in Tokyo. I attended the graduate school for Media and Governance at the Shonan Fujisawa Campus.

As the name forewarns, it is not strictly an architecture school. Keio SFC, as it is called, is indeed a research-oriented campus, an institution in which is possible to experience a kind of University different from the one we are accustomed to.

Students follow a very flexible schedule that encourage them to choose independently the courses they wish to follow. This supports a multidisciplinary approach to the education of individuals, thus it's often impossible to categorize the learning path of a student using our academic common rules.

At SFC campus it's pretty common to find students with knowledge of both architecture and socio-economic science, human sciences or computer engineering. Almost all the courses are followed by applied classes of two to six students that want to deepen their knowledge on the subject.

In this rich and vibrant environment, students are often encouraged to propose their own research and to apply for financial support from the university, usually under the guidance of a professor. The professors, on the other hand, endorse the creation of teams that meet after the regular lessons time, to work on complex projects that focus on public, humanitarian or research objectives.

I was assigned to Professor Hiroto Kobayashi, that lead his own laboratory in a nice building of the campus, where students have their own desk and can work on group projects or on their personal exams in the spare time.

The laboratory of Prof. Kobayashi has the goal to develop and construct buildings in areas damaged by natural disasters, usually in developing countries. The main project that addresses this goal is the Veneer House.

The Veneer Houses are all born from almost the same structural frame, improved after each iteration. They consist of sheets of plywood cut by computer numerical control machines (CNC), joint together to make the structural frame, much like a puzzle or a card game. This structure is highly modular and can be adapted to the necessities.

The initial concept born to solve the need of emergency housing subsequent to the tsunami that hit the Tohoku prefecture in Japan in 2011, and it was then developed into a series of housing solutions. To this date, five projects has been built: two in Japan, one in Myanmar, one in the Philippines and the one I worked on in Nepal. Each of them has a different purpose, such as community centre, fishermen building, school, or private house, but it is possible to envision many further applications for the Veneer House model.

This thesis work presents various aspects of the Veneer House project and the experience I lived while working in the Kobayashi Laboratory building one of them in Nepal.

In fact, when I joined the project the Veneer Model was being adapted to be a house suitable for Nepal environment. Along with other students, I helped organize the construction field, the working schedule, the trip to the site, the accommodation, and to negotiate with nepalese contractors and with local sellers of building supplies.

It is important to note that Prof. Kobayashi worked as a supervisor for this project: the highly hierarchical structure of the Japanese university let the students organize the work of the master and bachelor students, giving them tasks and deadlines, while developing their own thesis work. Moreover, it is common for older students to have been involved in the design and construction of previous Veneer House projects, giving them the chance to learn more about the adopted systems.

I wish to remark that, as an Italian student, I was amazed by the capability of the Japanese students to deal with such responsibilities and obligations, being able to manage a budget of several thousand euros directly under their control.

In this kind of environment I confronted with an innovative project intended to help people to recover after dramatic events as a tsunami or an earthquake. My experience is described in the first chapter, along with every phase of the construction. The second chapter presents the prefabrication as a valuable approach for wood construction and notable examples, together with the description of the previous Veneer Houses. The third chapter examines the critical points of using timber and plywood in construction and its properties as a sustainable material within the frame of architecture for recovery.

Relators: Alessio Lorena, Guido Callegari
Publication type: Printed
Subjects: A Architettura > AH Buildings and equipment for the home
A Architettura > AO Design
Corso di laurea: Corso di laurea magistrale in Architettura Per Il Progetto Sostenibile
Classe di laurea: UNSPECIFIED
Aziende collaboratrici: UNSPECIFIED
URI: http://webthesis.biblio.polito.it/id/eprint/4726


A housing prototype

1.a. The Kobayashi Laboratory

1 .b. My experience in Nepal

1 .c. The project




1 .d. The construction field Dolakha Veneer House

-First visit. Site choice and survey

-Second visit. The prototype

-Third visit. The construction site

1 .d Site activities logbook


2.a. Overview on digital prefabrication

2.b. Case studies

-Packaged House System

-Villa Asserbo

-Housing for New Orleans

2.c. The Veneer House and the WikiHouse Development of an idea

2.d. The work of the Veneer House Team during the years

-VH1 - Community House in Minami-sanriku for tsunami victims

-VH2 - Helping fishermen to help themselves in post-tsunami Maemi-hama

-VH3 - The first VH outside Japan: empoering children in Myanmar's hard weather condtions

-VH4 - A new school for a rural town in Philip-pines after the earthquake

-VH5 - A new home for a family after earth-quake in Nepal

-Not only restoring: improving pre-disaster situations

-Engage the locals in the construction process

-Prefabs as the 360° most effective post-disaster solution

-Students learning on the field


4.a Timber as a sustainable material

-The environmental cost of timber plantations

-The role of Italy in wood plantation and sustainable development

-The use of plywood

4.b Plywood as a sustainable component

-Volatile Organic Compound emissions related to the use of Plywood

-VOC produced by painting

-VOC produced by formaldehyde glue

-Alternatives to the coating varnish

-Safety and durability




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(Referred to 11/06/2016)

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