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Students’ ‘earth shelter’ concept could give insight into homes of the future

Engineering and architectural students have been imagining that our cities are becoming so overcrowded that we need to find ways to live and work in more extreme and remote natural environments, and have offered insight into what the homes of the future could well look like.

The first and second-year undergraduates on the University of Nottingham’s architecture and environmental engineering courses did not disappoint and offered fantastic ideas and vision.

‘Team 2’ – consisting of Luca Wyatt, Kaiwen Zhen, Dan Hensman, Hoi Yue and Dylan Kargathra, mentored by Marcus Cutler – and their “over and above” idea, was chosen as the best concept in the scheme.

Acres Architects, a division of Nottingham-based Acres Group, collaborated with the university on a brief to determine how humans can best combine with nature to create fully sustainable communities in a post-pandemic world.

There were some impressive projects from eight teams of students, using Nottingham’s 121-acre Grade II-listed Highfields Park as a model habitat on which to base their propositions.

Team 2’s ‘Earth Shelter Community Proposal’ featured earth shelters – one-person homes built into the side of the land, using landmass as a thermal buffer, reducing the overall building footprint and offering strong protection from the wind.

Their vision also includes floating aquaponics on the lake at Highfields Park, to offer a sustainable source of food, as well as a centralised community facility that provides the drinking water storage, dining area, shower, and recreation areas.

Other concepts devised by the teams included a green-top eco house which re-uses rainwater; a design using recycled shipping containers; interconnected pods; a treehouse; hexagonal living pods inspired by beehives and The Giant’s Causeway in Ireland and a house on stilts.

Representatives from Acres Group were on hand to guide the students through the process before helping to judge their work and chose a winning proposal.   

Founder and managing director Edward Acres said: “This was the culmination of a four-week project to design something a little bit different.

“The standard from these students has been pretty exceptional, both in terms of research ability and concept proposals.

“There were so many different powerful versions of the brief, which I think is great.”

He added: “The winning entry had a fantastic use of new technologies, that perhaps I was not aware of. I think it most fully understood the brief, with the utilisation of sinking the building into the ground. 

“The concept to bring that to life was an over and above concept that I was excited to see and as a practice, I would like to investigate further as one we could implement in the real world.

“Congratulations to all – the concepts and ideas were all fantastic in their own right.”

Guillermo Guzman Dumont, assistant professor in Nottingham University’s Department of Architecture and Built Environment, is overseeing the students’ work.

He said: “We hope the students gain confidence from this experience. 

“The job of the jury was extremely difficult, because the visions of the projects was incredibly powerful  – they gave us a lot of food for thought.

“We are looking forward to many more collaborations with Acres Group in the future.”

 The group consists of several divisions including Acres Architects, Acres Construction, Acres Interiors, Acres Developments and Online Media Video Productions (OMVP). 

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