Built as a black box and hugging a snow-covered hillside, this sustainable house sits like a rock on the mountain – a rugged resort entrenched against wild winter weather all around it. While winds howl and snow blows on the outside, the cozy interior is designed to be comfortable and warm in all the right places through a series of remarkable sustainable-energy and other warmth-retention building strategies.
First, the highest part of the home takes advantage of rising heat perfect for making the bedroom the warmest space in the house. Second, geothermal heating augments other heating strategies for increased overall warmth. And third, a double-paneled wall uses interstitial spaces and active pumping systems to push out the cold air while maintaining and circulating the warm.
Moreover, the exterior use of black is not purely stylistic nor accidental – this color, of course, helps keep the structure warmer as well by retaining solar heat. The bedroom is also placed along the southern edge of the home for direct sunlight access while the more mellow (but less warm) indirect northern light penetrates on the living room side, where the best downhill views are to be had as well.
All in all, this design by Nicholas Dorval-Bory is an excellent example of adapting architecture to even the most extreme environments – and turning landscape liabilities into designer assets through clever material choices, site orientation strategies and other simple structural tricks of the trade. Few designers can tap so much into the potential of a property, creating something both internationally appealing and locally functional.
“The program is a mountain refuge, located on a steep terrain. This exemplarily functional and energetic efficient type of vernacular habitat is an indispensable reference for such a project, much more than a traditional second home in the hills. Like a refuge or a traditional châlet, our project fits into the site seeking primarily to protect itself from cold, which can be particularly strong on the hills of Santiago. The refuge, whose function is to accommodate guests engaged in winter sports during the day, has to be a friendly and warm but easy place to use, since its goal is meal and rest.”
“Thus, the project is organized around a squared plan, allowing flexibility of use and architectural efficiency. This compact design allows a maximum optimization of the Xella blocks but also a very low coefficient of heat loss. To retain maximum heat, the house is settled the closest to the ground, with no overhang. The central courtyard is designed as a buffer space, generating a variation in the organization of the program while providing a significant supply of light and fresh air in summer.”
“The entire house is also really thought of as a full climate. The northerly aspect (the project is located in the south hemisphere), a black roughcast coating and various passive heating devices generate a very pleasant interior atmosphere in winter. The functional distribution of spaces is organized according to the most suitable temperature for each activity, playing with the different levels allowed by the natural slope and with a concentric organization of the program.”