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    Troppo Architects’ prefab pods will “revolutionise” the market, says AIA jury

    Geraldine Chua

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    Three prefabricated pods in South Australia (SA) have won high praise from judges at the 2018 Australian Institute of Architects (AIA) South Australian Architecture Awards.

    Named trop_pods @ robe, the project by Troppo Architects took out the event’s top Sustainable Architecture prize, while setting new benchmarks for prefab.

    “While in some European countries prefabricated structures make up to 70 percent of the construction industry, in Australia prefabrication accounts for as little as five per cent of our market. trop_pods have contributed to this growing field with an elegant and sophisticated design,” the AIA jury said.

    “Just as coffee pods revolutionised the coffee industry, trop-pods will revolutionise the prefabricated building market.”

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    Set in a rural coastal property in Robe, SA, the trop_pods sit alongside an existing dwelling, offering accommodation for guests in beach-like ‘glamping tents’ that serve as living and bathing pavilions. A lookout bedroom rises from one of the pods, a loft on the second floor.

    Each pod is carefully planned and founded to fit with site levels, oriented for solar control and views, and to establish privacy. To minimise site impact and construction waste, the team specified hardwearing local materials. The units are steel-framed and clad with timber, colorbond and fibre cement sheeting. Their interiors feature strandboard linings, exposed steel framing and laser cut patterning in ply paneling.

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    The pods at Robe are adaptations of trop_pods, a system of portable, flat-pack building elements developed by Troppo and Oscar Building, and suitable for residential and tourism purposes.

    At the core of this prefab system is the ability to adapt to different climatic conditions. Each pod comes with an architectural service that ensures it fits the client’s site and needs, and according to Troppo, is designed with:

    • Options to suit for solar and breeze orientation for best thermal comfort
    • Options for water harvesting and stormwater control
    • Autonomous servicing options, including the integration of eco-friendly solar power and hot water, and 'green' waste management systems
    • The ability to adapt to site topography and setting, including for soil and wind conditions, and cyclonic areas
    • Wall, window and door systems that suit local security, privacy, dust and insect issues
    • Materials and finishes that fit with site context and desired architectural character
    • Adaptations that suit local planning and building requirements and Codes

    This thoroughness in planning and design extends to transportation—the pods are cleverly designed to fit on standard trucks.

    In addition, Oscar Building, a third-generation family-owned company in Victoria, manufactures the pods from a solar-powered manufacturing facility, offsetting the energy used in the construction process.

    For the pods at Robe, an innovative concrete-free footing also meant they could be lifted into place with minimal impact on the site’s heavily vegetated sand dunes.

    “[They] confirm that inspiring, high quality architecture can be delivered for a low cost in remote or sensitive sites,” the AIA jury concluded.

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