Hungarian architect uses water to build houses

Hungarian architect, Matyas Gutai, believes that using water is the best way to keep a house at a comfortable temperature. This is the reason he builds houses out of water.

While this does not mean Gutai can get away without using traditional building materials such as concrete, wood and plaster, his system of liquid engineering promotes an entirely new way of building.

“As an architect I think it’s really important that this building tries to redefine permanence, which has been a key concept in architecture for thousands of years. Our approach to permanence hasn’t changed much at all, but now instead of making something very strong that tries to resist everything, we are making something that adapts to its environment.

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“Architecture is really changing in our time. We’ve reached our limits when it comes to solid architecture, now it’s reasonable to look for a new system.”

With a grant from the European Union, the architect constructed a prototype house in his hometown of Kecskemet, a town south of Budapest. The project was constructed with his high schoool friend, Milan Berenyi, after years of research.

The prototype showcases the concept of “liquid engineering”, in which Gutai has written about extensively in his book, Trans Structures: Fluid Architecture and Liquid Engineering.

The idea behind the water house consists of some panels of steel and some of glass. The panels make up the structure of the house. A sheet of water is trapped between the inner layers of the panels, equalizing the temperature across the entire building.

From this, the house can actually reheat itself when the temperature drops. The excess ‘hot’ is stored in either the foundation of the house or in an external storage device and can be brought back into the walls of the house when temperatures drop.

The indoor temperature of the house can also be modified using a monitoring system similar to central heating. The concept of the water house is energy efficient, clean and sustainable.

“Our panel can heat and cool the building itself — the water inside the panel does the very same job as heating,” says Gutai.

“This research dates back seven or eight years,” explains Gutai. “I started it at the University of Tokyo and it took us almost six years to get the building done. There are plenty of structural problems involved — a lot of important questions were raised such as what happens if it’s so cold outside that the water freezes or what happens when one panel breaks.”

“We now mix the water with natural solvents that do not cause pollution but lower the freezing temperature to an acceptable level. This practically means that even if the reheating technology fails, the water cannot freeze.”

“In case of cold climates, like in Hungary, we also add some external insulation to the structure, to protect it from freezing.”

And if a panel were to break? “We designed special joint units. The joint elements allow slow flow, but block faster flows,” he explains.

This means if one panel were to break, it will literally seal itself from the other panels instantly. The effect is based on fluid dynamics, not computers or a monitoring system.

While the prototype was small, only eight square meters in total, it shows the power of this type of new technology. “It saves energy, when you compare it to a similar building with large glass surfaces — it’s a very clean and sustainable solution.”

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