Experimental cold climate house built in Japan


January 29, 2013

Kengo Kuma & Associates has designed an experimental house in Hokkaido, Japan called "Même"

Kengo Kuma & Associates has designed an experimental house in Hokkaido, Japan called "Même"

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Japanese architectural firm Kengo Kuma & Associates recently demonstrated its ethos of design inspired by light and nature with an experimental house in Hokkaido called "Même." The structure is designed for cold climates and whilst based upon the local Ainu people's “Chise” (House of the Earth), it uses modern materials for an insulated double skin membrane that promotes convection and maintains a comfortable internal environment due to heat circulation from its continually lit fire.

The traditional “Chise” housing insulates and recovers heat from a central fire, and uses bamboo grass or sedge for facade insulation, wrapped around a wooden frame. The Même experimental house has adapted that principle.

The design team at Kengo Kuma built the 79.5 (855.7 sq.ft.) house frame from Japanese Larch, then incorporated their customized membrane composed of polyester fluorocarbon tarp on the outside, with a glass-fiber cloth membrane on the interior. Finally, polyester insulation from recycled plastic bottles was installed in between.

The Même experimental house facade not only ensures natural ventilation through the materials used, but is also semi-transparent to permit natural indoor lighting throughout the year. The design also encourages natural daylight working hours for the occupants, in addition to providing a luminous glow when the building is viewed from the outside at night.

The experimental house is located on the 185,000 (1,991,323 sq.ft.) Même Meadows research facility – established for studying design responses to the region's harsh climate – and will continue to test the limits of both internal and external architecture in extreme environments.

It was completed with support from the Tomonari Yashiro Laboratory at the University of Tokyo’s Institute of Industrial Science.

Source: Kengo Kuma & Associates via arcspace

About the Author
Donna Taylor After years of working in software delivery, Donna seized the opportunity to head back to university and this time study a lifelong passion: Architecture. Originally from the U.K. and after living in many countries, Donna and her family are now settled in Western Australia. When not writing Donna can be found at the University of Western Australia's Architecture, Landscape and Visual Arts Department. All articles by Donna Taylor

That is a cool, forward-looking technology. It doesn't need greenwashing; it just works.

Todd Dunning

But... wait...

...I'm sorry, but... it's just a tent. I mean, yes, I understand all the ways it's technically not. But, c'mon. Is this not a classic "please don't pee on my leg and then tell me it's raining" moment? It's a tent.

Who wants to live in a tent?

Gregg DesElms

I know the paper floors in okinawa had a plenum of sorts for a burning lump of coal exhaust 'duct' to heat the floors. Is this one similar in function/style? The coal was on the outside basically in a little pit connected to the foundation.


The chimney pipe inside the house could do a couple of loops as it delay the heat from going out in a hurry. Perhaps also build a better heat exchanger around the furnace will retain more heat too.

Jimbo Jim

Unless it has fans in the ceiling all the heat will rise and the floor area will be cold.

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