the ‘lakeside plugin tower’ by beijing-based people’s architecture office (PAO) comprises 480 square meters of live-work housing. the project was developed in partnership with the shenzhen institute of building research — a leader in sustainable building design and urban development — as a prototype for the xiong’an new area, a ‘model city’  in china currently being developed by the central government. xiong’an is located 100 kilometers (62 miles) southwest of beijing, and is planned as a clean, affordable and congestion free alternative to the capital. to keep housing affordable in the new city, all homes will be state-owned and subsidized. it is conceived as a low carbon eco-city using 100% clean electricity with 10% of the area protected as permanent farmland.

lakeside plugin tower
all images by jin weiqi of PAO



to minimize the impact of the building on its site, people’s architecture office (PAO) sites the lakeside plugin tower upon a foundation of distributed concrete piers. the entire building is raised one story above the ground to allow for storm water to be absorbed into the ground. this aligns with china’s sponge city concept, a rethinking of the asphalt city to reduce extreme flooding and surface pollution in urban areas. the height of the elevated building also allows abundant sunlight for vegetation to flourish uninterrupted across the full site.

lakeside plugin tower



the entire building is prefabricated to reduce costs and allow for efficient construction. the building envelope uses a panelized system developed internally by the office and is built separately from the steel structure. the modular plugin panels allow for maximum flexibility throughout the life of the building. locks are integrated into the panels allowing them to be manually installed with unskilled labor and a single tool. over time, entire sections of each level can be extended or taken away as needed, without affecting the rest of the building. this flexibility further extends the usability of the building while reducing the likelihood of future renovation.

lakeside plugin tower



the building is designed using net zero building principals. the roof of the building is covered by solar panels. the plugin panel enclosure is manufactured using highly energy efficient rigid insulation with floor heating integrated into the floor panels. full height operable windows allow for maximum natural ventilation. each floor is connected to service towers that contain vertical circulation and an off-the grid sewage system that offers sustainable wastewater treatment on site.

lakeside plugin tower



the lakeside plugin tower offers a vision housing development for new cities where buildings are integrated into a natural environment with minimal impact. it is conceived as a system rather than a one off and is an alternative of the typical government supported housing development. examples of innovation in the project expands across scales and includes the development of new building materials, a flexible structural system that can change over time, and integrated sustainable technologies.

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project info:


title: lakeside plugin tower

architecture: people’s architecture office (PAO)

program: work/live housing

location: life garden road, changping district, beijing, china

client: shenzhen institute of building research co., ltd.

structure: china construction steel structure corp. ltd. 

size: 470 square meters

principal architects: he zhe, james shen, zang feng

design team: li zhenghua, feng ziqing, xiang weixing, zhou yuxi, liang guoqiang, wang yaxin

photographer: jin weiqi, people’s architecture office