New "open building" construction makes electrical work easy

One of the hardest parts of electrical work is accessibility. In some situations, adding a new outlet or replace old wiring can require nearly tearing your walls apart. There is a solution, however: Open building can make things easier by focusing on flexibility, ease of access and disentanglement of systems. If you’re building, renovating or putting an addition on your home, try incorporating open building principles to make it simple to change or upgrade your electrical system.

Total Flexibility

The big picture when it comes to open building is to keep the support structure of the house separate from the interior fill-out. This construction style also keeps wall spaces accessible and strives toward total flexibility. After all, chances are you'll have to replace one or more of your internal systems before you need to rebuild the whole house.

That means infill systems like your wiring are separated from others like plumbing and insulation so it's not difficult to access and remove them. So if you need to remove outdated wireing, add new circuits or upgrade your whole system to comply with local code, there's no need to gut your house. Instead, you remove some panels, install the electrical with no fuss and pop the panels back into place. No need to break through drywall or struggle with ducts and pipes that are in the way.

Rational Form of Design

The open building concept is being driven by the Open Prototype, a collaboration between MIT and Bensonwood Homes to build and test various models for open building principles.

“The simple act of disentangling the wiring from the structure and insulation layer allows you to upgrade, change, or replace a 20-year-lifespan electrical system when new technology arises without affecting a 300-year structure,” Bensonwood Homes founder Tedd Benson said to Ecobuilding Pulse. “Open Building provides a more rational form of design and construction that supports long-term sustainability for buildings with increased shell longevity, and more control and flexibility for the homeowner.”

The idea is to ensure that the home of today is ready to adapt to the needs of the tomorrow's homeowners. “We can’t predict what people will need and want in their living environment,” Benson said. “Open Building principles respond to occupants’ changing needs rather than force the occupants to conform to a preconceived design.

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