In the early 1980s, with the urbanization construction in China, the housing commodification reform was implemented to address the severe shortage of housing. This marked the beginning of an era of open architectural research and practice. Focusing on the standardization and diversification issues present in a large number of residential buildings during the early stages of reform and opening-up, Professor Shou-yi ZHANG from Tsinghua University introduced the concept of supporting structure theory and methods to China for the first time in the Journal of Architecture. Professor Jia-Sheng BAO from Southeast University systematically researched SAR residential theories and design methods. He published a monograph titled “Supporting Structure Housing” and conducted practical explorations on the standardization, diversification, and flexible adaptability of residential buildings.
As the times evolve and society progresses, people’s longing for a better life becomes stronger. The demands for quality and standards in housing continue to rise. Minister Hong NI proposes the concept of “From good houses to good neighborhoods, from good neighborhoods to good communities, from good communities to good urban areas, making cities more livable, resilient, and intelligent.” Based on the concept of open architecture and the development needs of housing in the new era, building 3 of the Talent Apartments in Nanjing Jiangbei New District conducts a century-long residential design practice. With the goals of industrialization, long life span, excellent quality, and green and low-carbon development, the project systematically integrates assembly technology, green technology, health technology, and smart technology. It strives to build a model project for the new era of architecture and an innovative exploration of future-oriented “good houses”.
The Talent Apartment project in Jiangbei New District is located in the core area of Nanjing’s Jiangbei New District. It consists of public rental housing and provides leased residences for various talents in Jiangbei New District and across Nanjing city. Building 3 is situated in the southwest corner of the community. It has one underground floor and 28 above-ground floors, with a standard floor height of 3.3 meters from the 7th to the 28th floor. The total height of the building is 96.45 meters, and the total above-ground floor area is 22,800 square meters. The project is designed and constructed in accordance with the requirements of the “Design and Assessment Standard for Long-Life Sustainable Housing”. It is centered around the principles of “green, healthy, smart, long-lasting, and humanistic” design concepts to comprehensively enhance the quality and standard of the project in areas such as the SI building system, longevity performance of the building, excellent quality performance, and green sustainability. It aims to create a high-quality human settlement complex that is green, low-carbon, durable for a century, dynamically updated, and smartly livable throughout its entire lifecycle. It strives to promote the future concept and culture of green and shared living, emphasizing sustainability and the well-being of its residents.
This project is the first modular composite structure residential building in Jiangsu Province. It has received the designations of three-star green building and three-star healthy building.
Figure 1: The scenes of Block 1 and Building 3 of the Jiangbei New District Talent Apartments
Design Concept and Plane Function
3.1. Design Concept
project takes the concept of the "Smart Tree" and conducts research and
practice on a century-long future technology system. It treats the
building as an "organism" and incorporates biological concepts into
modules. The core shaft is like the trunk and roots of a smart tree,
with heating, water supply, power supply, and other systems centralized
in the core shaft and basement. The functional rooms are like branches
and leaves, with the possibility of inserting more smart unit modules on
the basis of the intelligent trunk. The design of the trunk itself has
great flexibility, providing comprehensive services and intelligent
network interfaces for the implantation and construction of
capillary-like smart units. All implanted parts strive to achieve
artificial intelligence based on the trunk.
The project advocates the concept of “sharing” and creates a highly intensive and intelligent environment to cultivate diverse shared formats and exchange spaces, providing residential spaces with more possibilities.
Figure 2: The concept of smart tree and shard design
3.2. Plane Function
This project incorporates different types of residential apartments, sky gardens, shared fitness facilities, shared offices, commercial services, and elderly care services into an open vertical space, achieving functional complexity and diversity within the vertical space. Residents can enjoy modern conveniences without leaving the building. The overall architecture is divided into two main areas: floors 1 to 6 consist of shared public spaces, which include a variety of public service formats, maker spaces, and exhibition areas. Floors 7 to 28 offer flexible residential spaces, providing diverse living options for different needs.
Figure 3: The functional zoning of the public areas on floors 1 to 6 of the building
Technological Innovation Points
4.1. The Comprehensive and Systematic Application of Prefabricated Technology
project comprehensively and comprehensively applied the four major
systems of prefabricated construction, including the prefabricated
external and internal wall enclosure system, the prefabricated hybrid
structure system, the prefabricated interior technology, and the
detached equipment pipeline system. This achieved a comprehensive and
systematic innovation application of prefabricated construction
technology, with a prefabrication rate reaching 80.8%.
4.1.1. Architecture Design
project combines architectural aesthetics with prefabricated assembly
technology, following the concept of “fewer components, more
combinations” in industrialized construction. The architectural facades
are designed with standardized and modular principles, using
standardized basic components for assembly.
Plan Modular DesignModular design is adopted for the building floor plan, incorporating techniques such as standardized planning and design, standardized floor layouts, standardized unit layouts, and standardized facades. These design approaches maximize efficiency and cost-effectiveness, fully leveraging the advantages of industrialized construction. The high-rise buildings utilize 8 types of unit layouts combined into 4-unit forms, providing necessary conditions for later individualized and standardized design. This approach not only reduces construction costs but also improves unit diversity, as shown in Table 1.
Table 1: Summary of Unit Layouts
Modular Facade DesignThe
residential facade adopts industrialized processing techniques, using
standardized GRC (Glass Fiber Reinforced Concrete) module components.
The dimensions of the components are modularized, and they are assembled
in units of two floors, creating a futuristic and prefabricated effect.
The uniform floor height of the residential units enables efficient
quantified production of prefabricated components, facilitating the
rapid implementation of modular construction techniques. This design
also allows for easy disassembly and replacement after a certain period
of use, achieving a variable facade.
Figure 5: Prefabricated concrete external cladding panels for the north facade and east-west mountain walls
Adaptive Construction TechnologyAdopt an adaptive construction technology system. Considering the mobility and rental characteristics of the residents, the unit design is based on standardization, modularization, and variability as design principles. The floor plans can be divided and combined. Taking future housing as an example, the basic module for the floor plan axis dimension is set at 7.8m. Various flexible layouts of unit types are arranged around the standardized core. The spatial division of unit types is based on a module of 3, allowing for flexible arrangement using standardized design techniques, providing multiple possibilities.
Integrated Core DesignUtilize an integrated core design where all vertical pipeline systems (water, electricity, ventilation, fresh air, etc.) for the building are integrated around the core, while only horizontal pipelines are installed within the units. This facilitates the reconfiguration and combination of unit types. At the same time, the width of the core is coordinated with the residential section to ensure the modularity and coordination of the external cladding panels.
4.1.2. Structural Design
Long-Life Sustainable Housing Structural DesignThis project is a Long-Life Sustainable Housing. Based on the core principles of a Long-Life Sustainable Housing, the structural design takes into consideration the changes in functionality throughout the entire lifecycle. The material selection prioritizes green and low-carbon options while ensuring structural safety performance and long-term durability. The structural design concept is illustrated in Figure 6.
Figure 6: Long-Life Sustainable Housing Structural Design Concept
Compared to residential buildings with a design lifespan of 50 years, parameters need to be adjusted for a hundred-year residential building, as shown in Table 2.
Table 2: Design parameters for Long-Life Sustainable Housing
core shear walls are constructed with cast-in-place reinforced concrete
shear walls. The foundation utilizes a piled raft foundation. The
columns are made of rectangular steel tube concrete columns and
steel-concrete composite columns. The steel beams adopt welded H-shaped
steel beams and are connected using bolted-welded rigid connections in
cantilevered sections. When necessary to achieve “strong column, weak
beam,” measures such as adding welded cover plates and using dog-legged
beam end connections can be taken. H-shaped steel beams are connected to
H-shaped steel beams using bolted-welded rigid connections. Rectangular
steel tube concrete rigid column bases are used.
Precast Concrete Curtain Wall Panels
Precast concrete curtain wall panels are used for the north facade and the perimeter structural enclosure of the two side walls. The exterior wall panels are classified into enclosure board systems and decorative board systems based on the functional requirements of the building facade. The enclosure board system can be further divided into whole-panel systems, strip-board systems, and vertical-strip board systems based on the characteristics of the building facade. Typically, the whole-panel system is suitable for panel widths (B) ≤ 6.0m and panel heights ≤ 5.4m; the strip-board system is suitable for panel widths (B) ≤ 9.0m and panel heights ≤ 2.5m; the vertical-strip board system is suitable for panel widths (B) ≤ 2.5m and panel heights ≤ 6.0m.
Considering the architectural functional requirements, window openings, standardization and modularization, ease of component transportation, rational load distribution, as well as ease of fabrication and installation, the wall panels are arranged and divided, and the whole-panel system is chosen.The connection between the translatable precast concrete curtain wall panel and the main structural steel beam is divided into load-bearing nodes and non-load-bearing nodes. The upper node is a non-load-bearing node, and its connection structure is illustrated in Figure 7, which allows for relative displacement between the upper node of the precast concrete curtain wall panel and the main structure. The lower node is a load-bearing node, and its connection structure is shown in Figure 8. This structure accomplishes the hinged connection between the precast concrete curtain wall panel and the steel beam. Through Navisworks simulation and vibration table experiments conducted by Tongji University, the design expectations were achieved (see Figure 9).
4.1.3. Assembled Interior Design
Based on the overall design principles of the residential area, the project adopts a Assembled Interior construction system (CSI system) to meet the requirements of constructing a century-long residence. As shown in Figure 10, the decorative surfaces of the walls, ceilings, and floors are separated from the main structure, allowing for variability and replacement. The pipeline system is also separated from the main structure to enable sustainable remodeling and enclosure of the pipeline technology.
Figure 10: Comprehensive and systematic innovative application of Assembled Interior technology
By using a raised floor, the arrangement of cables and wires can be changed as needed, reducing the need for embedded conduit systems for comprehensive wiring. Customized modules with foot supports are used to accommodate plumbing and electrical pipes in the raised floor area, and adjustable floor bolts provide strong adaptability to floor deviations ranging from 0 to 50mm.
Modular Suspended Ceiling
Prefabricated gypsum board suspended ceilings are utilized, offering both decorative effects and good sound absorption performance.
Lightweight and Fast-installed Integrated Wall System
The internal partition walls are constructed using 90mm lightweight calcium silicate composite insulation wall panels, while the walls between units are built with 200mm calcium silicate composite insulation wall panels. These walls meet the requirements for sound insulation and thermal insulation, and the hollow cavities can integrate pipelines, making them easy to replace and maintain.
Integrated bathrooms are employed with a thin floor same-level drainage system. The bathroom floor height is only 150mm, and an integral waterproof chassis is used. With the thin floor same-level side drain, drainage pipes are arranged beneath the raised floor, eliminating height differences with other rooms.
Integrated kitchen modules are adopted, which benefits large-scale industrial production and reduces procurement costs. A standardized cabinet system ensures unified collaboration for various functions such as operation and storage, achieving both functional completeness and aesthetic space.
4.2. Integrated Application of Modular Technology and Green Health Technology
The project has achieved integrated innovative application of prefabricated modular technology and green health building technology, including the following technologies: garden in the air, thermal insulation design, integration of solar photovoltaics, ground source heat pumps, solar and air source heat pump hot water systems, rainwater harvesting, air purification, and direct drinking water. The project meets the standards of a three-star green building and a three-star healthy building.
Figure 11: Garden in the air
The south elevation of the structure utilizes an industrialized thin-film solar photovoltaic skin (Figure 12) for the GRC exterior walls. The unique facade forms an efficient shading system by taking advantage of the high solar altitude during summer. It reflects most of the sunlight during summer while utilizing the principle of lower solar altitude during winter to introduce a significant amount of sunlight into the interior. The total installed capacity for solar photovoltaics in the entire building is 45kW, effectively enhancing the renewable energy utilization of the building.
Figure 12: Integrated design of solar photovoltaic power generation
4.3. Future green, intelligent technology residences
The project also adopts a technological smart system, establishing an intelligent building platform centered around data and guided by user needs. As shown in Figure 13, the main intelligent systems designed for this project include: intelligent security system, smart home and home alarm system, smart door lock system, building equipment management system, remote meter reading system, environmental sensing system, and data center engineering, among others. Through various intelligent systems, the community’s security is enhanced, daily life becomes more convenient, and management becomes more efficient. At the same time, it improves energy efficiency and environmental protection, increases the added value of the community, and enhances the quality of life.
Figure 13: Integration of technological smart systems
Based on the comprehensive application of various intelligent information, it integrates the combination of structure, system, application, management, and optimization. It possesses comprehensive intelligence capabilities of perception, transmission, memory, judgment, and decision-making. It provides people with a secure, efficient, convenient, and sustainable building functional environment.
The pilot project of Building 3 in Nanjing Jiangbei New District Talent Apartment integrates multiple leading technologies in the current residential field, achieving the requirements and exemplary goals proposed for century-old residences from design to construction. The project not only provides the industry with a “good house” sample that can be observed, exchanged, and experienced but also represents the development direction of green, low-carbon, livable, and intelligent residential construction in the new era. At the same time, it provides important enlightenment for the current challenging transformation of the housing market: the foundation lies in quality, and innovation is paramount to ensure steady and far-reaching progress on the path of high-quality development.
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