Instead of building endlessly on new land—and creating ever more suburban sprawl—Argentinian architects Adamo-Faiden have created a clever alternative housing solution. Designed for Buenos Aires, their appealing prefab units slide into place on top of existing buildings. Called the MuReRe Houses, the project provides additional living spaces without needing any more land, along with green features that enhance both existing architecture and the surrounding landscape. “MuReRe Houses are a mechanism to reactivate the latent potential of the Buenos Aires periphery,” say the architects—and provide a model that could be easily imitated in American suburbs.
Currently, vast neighborhoods of single- and two-story homes have been built on vacant land skirting the urban center of Buenos Aires. Many of these are affordable places, designed as houses, shops, and workspaces for people who were pushed out of the expensive urban core. Yet as the need for more construction becomes ever more pressing, there’s the familiar threat for the suburban fabric to simply spread out indefinitely.
MuReRe combats this limitless sprawl by beautifully and easily integrating densification into the suburbs. The idea is simple. A prefab steel-framed and wood structure is created. Inexpensive to make and quick to assemble, the streamlined MuReRe then caps the home or workshop below and acts as a separate living space. Since “each house must adapt to the existing roof geometry,” as Marcelo Faiden explains, there’s no specific form for the MuReRes. Rather, the units mimic the buildings below.
What is uniform for each MuReRe is an attention to sustainability that enhances the existing overall infrastructure—and makes it more than just a pretty rooftop addition. Each MuReRe unit has a double peaked roof that’s central to its functionality and is designed for rain water catchment and gray water storage, that can then be reused for household chores such as flushing toilets, washing cars, or watering gardens. Large windows let in the sun, providing daylight, and solar panels generate hot water and indoor heating. MuReRe also acts as insulation for the building below.
So who would live in these rooftop spaces? The possibilities seem endless. Perhaps an employee moves in to live above his workplace, both eliminating his long commute and providing after-hours security for his employer. Or maybe a pair of empty-nesters want the vitality (and added income) from a family living upstairs, or a young couple with a baby decides to live above their parents, letting them each have their own space while also giving them the benefits of extended family.
Though Adamo-Faiden has created MuReRe for Buenos Aires, there’s no reason this idea can’t be extended to American suburbs as accessory dwelling units (or ADUs) are becoming ever more popular. A prefab ADU that’s attached to the house, fits with the home’s aesthetic style, and acts as a sustainable element can benefit the homeowners, the ADU residents, and the neighborhood overall. Indeed, a recent U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development study showed that not only do ADUs provide additional housing stock and opportunities for more affordable housing, but they also increase property tax bases and help contribute to thriving, varied—and hence, livable—neighborhoods. Many cities, such as Portland, OR, Santa Cruz, CA, and Fairfax, VA, have already adopted zoning codes that include ADUs, and more seem poised to follow.
With the MuReRe houses, “by doubling the density of the lot where they are inserted, the sustainability of both buildings (new and existing) increases and a programmatic diversity is introduced to the neighborhood,” say the architects. Seems like an eminently smart solution to suburban sprawl and an intelligent ADU model that could well be considered anywhere.