Bioclimatic House: A Responsible Way to Add Homes to Sensitive Natural Areas
Prior to the pandemic, most companies were reluctant to allow their employees to work remotely, fretting about potential drops in productivity and a loss of workplace camaraderie. But with COVID came sudden, involuntary trials of remote work on a mass scale — a move that’s since proven quite popular among the workers in question.
A recent Pew Research Center poll of Americans with jobs that can be done remotely found that 60 percent of those working from home want to continue doing so when the pandemic is over. That’s great for the well-being of the workforce, but it also brings up a potential complication. As remote workers flee expensive cities around the world, demand for homes in rural areas is expected to rise, putting pressure on the few remaining undeveloped spaces we have left.
In Argentina, APS/Arquitectos Pablo Senmartin came up with a model for building houses in environmentally sensitive areas, adding to housing density without harming the ecosystem. Located in the picturesque Villa Parque Síquiman in the Cordoba province, “Bioclimatic House” takes advantage of beautiful views on a sloped parcel while barely touching the earth beneath it. The architects completed an in-depth study of current construction problems in natural areas and developed a building style that met the stringent requirements of LEED v4 sustainable housing certification.
The home is set within a mountainous area overlooking Lake San Roque, adjacent to a protected natural area. The area is characterized by extreme environmental fragility, with periods of long drought, wildfires, loss of native forest, and lack of infrastructure. But it also offers a beautiful setting with lots of opportunity for recreation, so it’s caught the eye of many Argentinians looking to relocate.
Instead of building onsite, the architects took advantage of prefabricated elements that can be dry-assembled quickly with minimal impact on the setting. At its base is a section they call “Plinth — the cave,” an earthquake-resistant structure made of reinforced concrete that allows water runoff beneath the building. It functions as a parking area and meditation space beneath a swimming pool. As the foliage grows up around it, it will virtually disappear within the landscape.
The home is accessed by a dock-like pier element at street level, which transforms into a terrace and solarium as it enters the house and terminates at the infinity-edge swimming pool, which visually blends into the lake beyond. The rest of the home is envisioned as a two-level box made of wood, steel, and glass for an overall feeling of lightness. The tightly spaced wood cladding fades into an open screen as the house stretches from the street out to the pool, opening up the views.
The home’s zero-maintenance roof is a single sheet of ventilated metal that collects rainwater in the technical room of the plinth. The home is insulated with washed sheep’s wool, and the floors are made of sustainably sourced pine wood. Local recycled materials were incorporated wherever possible.
“The incorporation of time in the architectural space, through a succession of vertical elements that accelerate the view towards the landscape, this relationship changes during the course of hours and days,” say the architects. “The harmony [and] color of the material represents an abstraction of the color of the surrounding nature [and proves that] in the end, environmental quality is what matters when it comes to living.”