Many modern apartments are extremely well-built structurally (or perhaps even over-built), but have terrible interior layouts.
Unfortunately, it is extremely expensive to reconfigure a floorplan, even if no load-bearing walls (or walls concealing wires or plumbing) need to be modified. For maximum cost-efficiency, a person interested in remodeling could potentially just take a sledgehammer to these walls, but the final result would be unlikely to be aesthetically appealing.
Sometimes, a floorplan would ideally change due to a change in the number of inhabitants of an apartment. For example, the optimal layout for a single individual is unlikely to be the same as the layout for two or three people. Or, perhaps a particular room is rarely used, and its space would be better applied toward extending another room.
One way to make apartment-reconfiguration simple would be to allow the walls to be moved. The method proposed below uses a number of independently-movable standard-sized wall panels and requires no tools to change the apartment configuration.
The general idea is:
- There is a track laid out in a grid pattern in the ceiling.
- A number of wall panels hang from this track. These wall panels can be slid and rotated along the track.
- The wall panels can mesh together to form a complete wall. See details below.
Fig 1: A movable wall panel.
- A (green): OVERHEAD ANCHOR: The wall is secured to the track overhead by a component that is too large to fall through the track (B).
- B (orange): OVERHEAD TRACK: The entire ceiling is criss-crossed with a grid of tracks. Similar to track lighting, but these have to be much stronger since they are supporting the weight of the wall (and potentially anyone who leans on it / pushes it.
- C (blue): SOUNDPROOFING / OPTIONAL WINDOW (TOP): To allow the wall to slide around, it must not be securely attached to the ceiling. Once the wall has been moved into place, the “soundproofing” component can be pivoted into place and secured flush against the ceiling, where it can apply upward pressure to secure the wall, as seen on the right side of the diagram.
- D (red): SOUNDPROOFING / PRIVACY FLOOR PANEL (BOTTOM): Similar to “C,” except this component secures against the floor instead of ceiling. Aside from preventing a person’s feet from showing from under the wall, this component also helps securely anchor the wall panel to the floor by applying downward pressure.
- E (purple & white) WALL PANEL: The movable wall panel itself.
- Power outlets only exist on the immobile edge-of-floorplan walls and in a few ceiling / floor drops. This means there is no need to worry about wiring in the movable walls.
- Overhead lights (if they even exist) are triggered wirelessly and can reconfigured to suit whatever room arrangement is desired. That way, light switches (which can also be wireless) can be reconfigured to match the actual lights in each room.
Meshing walls together:
The edges of each wall panel have yin-yang shaped “genderless” connectors that allow any panel to securely mesh with any other panel, regardless of orientation. (These is similar to the types of connectors used to link railroad cars, which can be attached regardless of orientation.) Note that no specific additional fasteners are necessary.
Fig 2: Overhead view of two wall panels meshing together. The connections can be made between any two panels, in any orientation (i.e. there is no “polarity” in the connectors).
Layouts in practice:
The only real restrictions are the exterior walls, windows, and any “permanent” rooms (ones with plumbing or unusual electrical requirements). Additionally, due to the grid-like nature of the track and the connector types, walls will probably only fit together at 90° angles.
(It might be possible to design a track (and perhaps expandable walls) with a mechanism to allow arbitrary angles, but this is unlikely to be worthwhile in an apartment that is already bounded by rectangular external walls.)
Fig 3: A blank layout with two “fixed” rooms: the bathroom (“BATH”) and kitchen (“KIT.”). The red mark on the left side is the entry door from the shared apartment hallway. The blue region on the right side represents outward-facing windows in the apartment complex.
The kitchen and bathroom require plumbing and built-in features (and cannot be easily moved around), so they are assumed to be fixed. Despite these restrictions, this apartment could be reconfigured in many ways.
Several options are shown below. Bedrooms are numbered.
Fig 4: Various layouts that are possible by moving the movable walls (indicated in brown) around on the overhead tracks. Bedrooms are numbered “1,” “2,” and “3.” Note that a one, two, or three bedroom configuration is possible. Blue = windows.
PROS: Would be amazing in every respect.
CONS: Might allow architects and interior designers to slack off if they can fix layout issues “in postproduction.” It would probably be a huge hassle to move a bunch of wall panels around in a furnished apartment.