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  • 03.14.17

Covering These Apartments In “Parasitic” Additions Saves Energy And Makes Extra Space

The wooden cubes cut the building’s energy use by 76%.

In an outdated 1970s apartment building in Paris’s 16th arrondissement, the rooms are cramped, dark, and inefficient. But by covering the building in wooden attachments, a new design will add extra space, light, and cut energy use 76%.

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“It’s a little bit like a blanket–it’s creating another layer on top of the existing one, and each layer adds insulation,” says architect Stephane Malka. “We are plugging the elements pretty much everywhere.” The extra insulation helps keep the apartments warmer in the winter, so less heat is needed.

The new balconies, porches, and bay windows each also bring more natural light to the apartments. “On the existing building, there were very narrow, small windows,” says Malka.

The renovation is cheaper than reworking the whole facade to improve energy efficiency, he says, while also adding more room to the apartments. Energy use is expected to drop from 190 kilowatt-hours a square meter to 45, qualifying the building for a certification from the city as part of Paris’s climate plan.

The project began when someone who lived on the first floor wanted extra space. When other residents saw the design, they realized that the extension would also benefit the neighbor living on the next floor; the roof of the extension could become the floor of a new balcony on the second floor. They decided to add the attachments over the whole building.

Malka has explored similar ideas for “parasitic” housing in the past, such as homeless shelters temporarily attached to city walls, or apartments that could be added on top of roofs to add more space in a housing crisis.

The permitting process for the apartment building renovation will be finished in June, and construction will begin in early 2018. The design for the modular attachments–which are made out of a lightweight wood particle material in a workshop, and then will be mounted on the building–can also be used on other apartment buildings in the future.

About the author

Adele Peters is a staff writer at Fast Company who focuses on solutions to some of the world's largest problems, from climate change to homelessness. Previously, she worked with GOOD, BioLite, and the Sustainable Products and Solutions program at UC Berkeley.

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