The Yangzi river delta is known for its moisture laden solid white and solid grey skies. Sunlight is often highly diffuse and clear blue skies are rare.

This two story apartment was originally a maze of small rooms with a dark interior core. The new design sought to turn this inside out, prioritizing natural light, views and cross ventilation.

Large passageways and large sliding doors allow the spaces to be open and connected most of the time, while still providing privacy and separation when need be.

The design takes advantage of Shanghai's skies and floods the apartment with diffuse sunlight, which virtually eliminates the need for artificial lighting during the day. Flowing right into the core of the apartment, the light is contrasted by large areas of natural wood which help anchor the space.

In terms of materials, leaking windows were upgraded to double-glazed units with triple seals. The wood floors are made from reclaimed timbers and finished with a non-toxic hardwax oil. Water based glues and low to no-VOC paints were used throughout the apartment.

The results in terms of air quality set a new standard for what is possible in Shanghai. Whereas most apartments need to be left empty for months in order to off-gas chemical pollutants, this apartment was safe to move into immediately after completion, except for two areas of concern which were subsequently fixed. Here were the results as tested by Pureliving China.

TVOC Levels (Compare to a maximum allowable of 500ug/m3)
- Living Room TVOC: 120
- Study Room TVOC: 230
- Children's bedroom: 680
- Master Bedroom: 460
- Master Wardrobe: 1140

TVOC levels in new apartments are often 5-25 times over the limit. Hence, even at 1140 (2.3 times) the master wardrobe was far better than the average apartment. However, this was still not acceptable.

The main cause within the master wardrobe was identified as camphor, a wood that naturally prevents mold and which had been used for the shelves. Once identified, it was removed and replaced. What remains unknown is whether the camphor had been chemically treated or not. Further research would be required, but the wood itself testing at 6400 (12.8 times over the limit) suggests that it was probably treated.

In the children's bedroom, the high level of chemical pollutants (TVOC) was due to a new IKEA wardrobe that had just been delivered. The unit itself tested at 1600, more than three times over allowable limits.

Additionally, radon was tested at 5.44 Bq/m3, well below the National standard of 200 and the international standard of 100.

Finally, this was the first apartment in Shanghai to be tested with a blower door test. This test pressurizes the interiors and allows to identify air leakage, and consequently wasted energy.

Project Team:

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