Energy-ef­fi­cient Wooden Houses Are Also Earth­quake Safe

Southern Innovator - - CITIES & URBANIZATION -

In Ar­gentina, an in­no­va­tive hous­ing pro­ject has mar­ried good de­sign with energy ef­fi­ciency, earth­quake re­silience and the use of lo­cal ma­te­ri­als and labour.

The happy mix of ef­fi­cient mod­ern de­sign with af­ford­able lo­cal ma­te­ri­als and labour can be seen in three row houses de­signed and built by Buenos Aires-based Es­tu­dio BABO in the El Once neigh­bour­hood in Villa La An­gos­tura, Patag­o­nia, south­ern Ar­gentina.

The wooden houses are built in a Nor­we­gian style. Es­tu­dio BABO, founded in 2007, dis­cov­ered that the Scan­di­na­vian coun­try’s hous­ing tra­di­tions were well suited to the par­tic­u­lar needs of the re­gion and the lo­cal gov­ern­ment.

The lo­cal gov­ern­ment im­posed a num­ber of plan­ning guide­lines and re­stric­tions that needed to be met to re­ceive plan­ning per­mis­sion. This in­cluded cre­at­ing row houses that had to be made of wood, a plen­ti­ful lo­cal re­source, be earth­quake-safe since the re­gion is seis­mi­cally ac­tive, and be able to with­stand the heavy rains com­mon to the re­gion.

Look­ing around for the right guid­ance to tackle this brief, Es­tu­dio BABO dis­cov­ered SINTEF, Nor­way’s lead­ing dis­sem­i­na­tor of re­search-based knowl­edge to the con­struc­tion in­dus­try. Nor­way has many wooden houses and en­vi­ron­men­tal con­di­tions and chal­lenges sim­i­lar to those of Patag­o­nia, though its pre­cip­i­ta­tion tends to fall as rain rather than snow.

The black-painted houses look typ­i­cally Nor­we­gian, with a taste­ful and clean de­sign that does not clash with the forested sur­round­ings. An air cham­ber has been cre­ated in­side the walls, al­low­ing for con­stant ven­ti­la­tion of the wood, which pre­vents the wood from rot­ting and ex­tends the life of the house. With the high rain­fall in the re­gion, wood is at risk of rot­ting if al­lowed to be­come damp. The air cav­ity also in­su­lates the house, pro­vid­ing sig­nif­i­cant energy sav­ings while keep­ing the in­te­rior warm and com­fort­able.

Adding to the energy ef­fi­ciency of the de­sign, the win­dows are dou­ble glazed and heat is cir­cu­lated through the floor, an ef­fi­cient way to heat a house be­cause heat rises.

To keep costs down and the pro­ject sim­ple, the pal­ette used for the houses is sim­ple but at­trac­tive: black, white, wood and me­tal. The lo­cal wood is cy­press and is painted black. The in­te­rior walls are all white and the floors are made from black gran­ite on the ground floor and cy­press wood par­quet on the up­per floor. “De­spite the pro­fu­sion of wood as a ma­te­rial in the south of Ar­gentina, the lack of spe­cial­ized knowl­edge and of a spe­cial­ized in­dus­try narrows its uses to iso­lated struc­tural el­e­ments and in­te­rior and ex­te­rior fin­ishes,” said one of the ar­chi­tects, Marit Hau­gen Sta­bell. – (Novem­ber 2012)

The row houses.

Ar­chi­tec­tural ren­der­ings of the three houses.

The atrium with sky­light.

Ar­chi­tec­tural floor plans.

The stair­case of a house.

The front of a house.

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