Courtyard House Plugin

The Courtyard House Plugin is an award-winning prefabricated modular system for urban regeneration. Using a ‘house-within- a-house’ approach, the Plugin is an inexpensive alternative to tearing down structures. It is a main feature of the Dashilar Project, an initiative aimed at upgrading an important neighborhood in Beijing’s historic.

The Courtyard House Plugin is a systematic solution applied across Dashilar, an area characterized by narrow alleys and a resistance to change. The neighborhood also has limited infrastructure, no sewage lines, and buildings with little insulation.

People’s Architecture Office developed a proprietary prefabricated panel made of a composite that incorporates structure, insulation, wiring, plumbing, windows, doors, interior and exterior finishes into one molded part. Panels are light, easy to handle, and inexpensive to ship. They snap and lock together with a single hex wrench. The entire Plugin structure can be assembled by a few people in one day, who require no special skills or training. The result is a well-sealed and insulated interior that reduces energy costs by one tenth. ‘Plugging in’ is half the cost of renovating and about a fifth the cost of building a new courtyard house. In addition, sewage handling is integrated through the use of waterless composting toilets and grey water septic systems.

In China vast areas are still being torn down, forcing people from their homes, severing social ties in communities, and erasing traces of a rich and tumultuous history. The simplicity and low cost of the Plugins give local residents access to the processes of upgrading their city and preserving their heritage.