2022 Design-Build Practicum: The HyggeHaus

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2022 Design-Build Practicum: The HyggeHaus

In January of 2020, a collaborative effort between UMass Amherst Building & Construction Technology, UMass Amherst Architecture, Five College Architectural Studies and East Branch Studio took root to design and build a net-zero energy micro-house. Teaming up with UMass faculty and East Branch Studio staff, eight students embarked on a journey to create an innovative, affordable home that could respond to the changing needs of its inhabitants over time. Postponed for two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a new group of eleven students have broken ground – so to speak – building the transportable home their peers designed. 

This small, smart home – deemed the HyggeHaus – will make its grand debut at Signature Sound’s Green River Festival this summer as part of their Go Greener initiative, with the front porch serving as the stage for musical acts. After the festival, it will be delivered to OneHolyoke CDC to assist in their effort to provide affordable housing to the local community. OneHolyoke CDC became the first and only Community Development Corporation in the city of Holyoke in 2014. The role of the HyggeHaus will shift again from concept to teaching tool to stage to home. 

Over the course of the original two-week design intensive, students met with many local professionals, including architects, landscape architects, policy makers from local municipalities, specifiers, builders, and building scientists. These dialogues aided in their understanding of the opportunities and challenges of developing small, energy efficient alternatives to conventional housing. In the end, the students designed an approximately 300 square foot micro-house that could serve as an Accessory Dwelling Unit. Working together, they articulated a series of ambitious-yet-essential priorities for the project, acutely aware of their role as emerging designers in the 21st century: net-zero energy, net-zero carbon, affordability, social and climate equity, and health.

The proposed design of the HyggeHaus is a modest and efficient studio-style dwelling unit. To enhance the unit’s potential impact and appeal, the students designed this studio to be a basic module that could, in theory, be expanded to a one- or two-bedroom dwelling unit in order to meet the future residents’ changing needs. Designed around relatively conventional wood stud framing and wood trusses with both cavity and outboard insulation, the HyggeHaus is net-zero and employs recycled and low-carbon materials throughout. It also features an innovative pre-fab construction system that will allow it to be repeatedly shipped, assembled, and disassembled rather than demolished. After partnering with OneHolyoke CDC, the design was expanded to include an additional bedroom unit that will attach onto the existing home and make the space even roomier. With green building methods in mind, options to panelize the construction of the additional unit using straw bale or hempcrete are currently being explored.

On February 12, 2022, eleven new faces gathered in East Branch Studio’s parking lot to begin their first day of building. Guided by Kent Hicks, founder of East Branch Studio, the students leveled the rim joists of the floor up onto blocking – in preparation for the house’s eventual travels on the road – and began to build up the deck platform, cutting floor joists and making a set of deck stairs. Next, they will begin to frame the walls and after that the roof. After a few weeks, the HyggeHaus will begin to take shape and by the end of UMass Amherst’s spring semester, the original students’ dream will be a reality.