"Buildings are one of the largest consumers of global resources and all energy produced," writes a group of researchers and designers at MIT Architecture, "and are primary contributors to greenhouse gases and solid wastes. At moment when the built environment is faced with dramatic shifts, the need for energy-intelligent building prototypes is more significant than ever." The group in question comprises an MIT design workshop called Mass Timber Design, which is combining an old form factor with new(ish) materials technology in hopes of reducing waste.
Mass Timber Design has focused on the longhouse, an architectural form factor that everyone from Native Americans to Vikings to church architects have all traditionally erected. "The longhouse is a building type common to historic settlements across the world and through history, finding use in the Americas, Asia, and Europe. Longhouses served many functions for these historic communities, but were almost always civic or multi-family in scale. They were often places of community gathering, civil government, communal work, and an overall space for knowledge exchange."
MTD's reimagined longhouse design uses timber LVL (laminated veneer lumber) for the interior supporting arches, as they can span a large distance without requiring a massive amount of material. Though thin-walled, the triangular profile of the arches is sturdy enough for the task. The "sawtooth" roof design is meant to be tuned and oriented according to the site, maximizing clerestory value and solar panel placement. All components are meant to be prefabricated and modular.