Casa LEED v2
Nearly one year ago we sold our lot in La Estrella, recovering in the process part of our investment in architect and engineer fees. This was an unfortunate ending to a house design and construction project that lasted nearly 4 years — with no concrete result.
You can read more about the root causes of our failure in the earlier chapters of this blog. However, in this new post I want to focus on the latest development of my project to build a home for me and my family.
In September 2015, while learning to drive, I fortuitously discovered a brand new gated community in the Alto de las Palmas area that we like so much because of
- safety: there are two police stations located within a 3 Km radius
- proximity to Medellin: a 15-minute drive is all that is needed to get to most of El Poblado
- tranquility: the neighborhood is rather exclusive and away from heavily transited roads
- cold climate: most of Alto de las Palmas is 1000 meters above Medellin, at nearly 2600 m. altitude, with an average temperature that can dip as low as 13 degrees Celsius
Clearly, there are downsides too, such as
- high prices
- no views of Medellin
Overall, we found the rural environment to be relaxing and peaceful. Here’s a bird’s eye view of the gated community:
In October 2015 we took the plunge and purchased a 2077 square meter lot that will be delivered to us with all utility services between February and April 2016. That leaves us plenty of time to embark once again in a house design project.
We will follow some simple guidelines during that process, to produce an initial concept that we can share with an architect to complete the detailed construction drawings:
- cluster organization: https://uk.pinterest.com/sergejf/cluster-house/, everyone in the family needs his or her personal space, independent from public areas, with an emphasis on noise control. Such an organization should also make a phased building project possible.
- small modules: https://uk.pinterest.com/sergejf/tiny-cabins/, learning from the Japanese, where space is at a premium, all private modules must be “right-sized”, and similar in essence to a small cabin incorporating all the characteristics of a highly efficient hotel room
- light on the land: https://uk.pinterest.com/sergejf/light-on-the-land-architecture-and-landscaping/, as an extension to the previous guideline, the private modules should prefabricated out of wood and glass and raised above ground
- hillside design: https://uk.pinterest.com/sergejf/hillside-house/, the lot has a definite though not extreme slope which can be taken advantage of to create a more interesting design
- post-modern faceted architecture: https://uk.pinterest.com/sergejf/organic-mountain-architecture/, architects and their clients in Medellin appear trapped into a modern, Mies van der Rohe-inspired, architectural language of overlapping boxes. We seek an architecture inspired by the mountains for the private modules.
- skin and core: https://uk.pinterest.com/sergejf/skin-and-core-architecture/, for the public spaces, we would like to blur the transition between interior and exterior spaces (inclusive for the roofs) via ample expanses of glass and curvy, non-faceted, exterior walls (the “skin”).
- tectonic architecture: https://uk.pinterest.com/sergejf/tectonic-architecture/, so many abstract shapes and light materials may disconnect the house from the land and make it look artificial, like many projects from Zaha Hadid. To ground our home, we must incorporate some tectonic feature, like a stone or concrete retaining wall.
- steel buildings: https://uk.pinterest.com/sergejf/steel-houses/, the public spaces should be built with white, black or grey steel columns and beams, to contrast with the wooden surfaces of the private modules.
Taking all these characteristics and putting them into a mental blender, I produced yesterday the following sketches depicting a possible design for our future house in Alto de las Palmas:
Each private module would feature an identical program, though the exact geometry and space may vary: a bedroom under the ceiling with a loft space and a minimalist large work area on the ground floor with plenty of natural light (the A-frames of old had a reputation to be dark inside), while the bathroom would be located at the back, acting as a buffer against the noise coming from the public space. Storage space for clothes and books will take up the rest of that volume.
The core of the cluster will be articulated around a well-planned central circulation space, giving access to each of the private modules as well as public spaces: the kitchen and dining room, the living room, the guest’s bathroom and the garage with any service space.
As a sidenote, all wiring and plumbing should be thought out equally intelligently to minimize cable and pipe run lengths, thus keeping construction and operating costs low.
We seek a stark contrast between the solid faceted private modules and the central public and circulation spaces which should be seen as ethereal, transparent, almost fragile, full of soft curves. This isn’t a common design in houses hence the example below is from a public building
To compound the difficulty of this project, everything should be designed and built on an extremely tight budget. Now we just need to find an architect willing to take up that challenge!
Oh, and just in case you wondered, LEED certification has become an optional “plus” — though the best practices of LEED buildings should be closely adhered to. We may have to rename this blog “CasaPasiva.org”.
Originally published at casaleed.org on February 28, 2016