all articles 12. January 2019

Case study: how we put sustainability into practice

Achieving this requires a thorough and intensive consideration of the location, a great deal of creativity and inventive spirit and, of course, access to expert knowledge. Above all, it takes a pronounced devotion to detail to ensure that the many small and large building blocks can be brought together to create a coherent overall concept.

Putting this understanding of lived sustainability into practice is an act of will. It takes a preparedness to travel new and unknown paths, acquire new knowledge daily, make mistakes, ask questions, try out new ideas and continually improve.

We don’t just want this – we are doing it.

But doing is only possible with the right partners. We are very fortunate to have the Palma-based architectural firm OHLAB on board for our first project in Son Vida on Majorca. Not only do the firm’s founders, Paloma Hernaiz and Jaime Oliver, know the island like the back of their hand, they have also received multiple distinctions for their unique architecture, which integrates a maximum of sustainability.

Right from their first design, we were immediately won over by the distinctive architecture and its systematically conceived sustainability.

Jointly with OHLAB and other energy experts, we have developed a sustainability concept for this property that not only takes into account the need to protect resources, but also reduces to a minimum the intervention of the project in the surrounding nature. We have even gone so far as to incorporate the nature of the area into the architectural design.

Our sustainability concept for Casa Xaloc on Majorca

Our first project in Son Vida on Majorca shows how we are making the natural surroundings a constituent element of our sustainability concept.

Conserving resources with nature’s help

This begins with the character of the location itself. The development plan uses the rocky slope and Majorca’s relatively high soil temperature as natural insulation. In addition to this, the building is deeply embedded in the rock of the site.

For optimal energy savings in both heating and air conditioning, the window openings and light wells are designed to minimise the penetration of direct sunlight into the building in summer and maximise it in winter.

At the same time, the intelligently conceived system of light wells ensures that ample daylight always reaches the interior of the building.

Another natural element that we utilise in the property is Majorca’s prevalent winds. Through the fenestration and the placement of the stairways, these winds contribute to the natural ventilation of the building, thus further reducing the electricity needed for air conditioning.

To achieve added energy savings, the building is heated by means of controlled living space ventilation with heat recovery as well as a heat pump. A photovoltaic system, including a battery for temporary storage, enhances our ability to use the Majorcan sun to optimise the property’s energy self-sufficiency. We additionally employ solar thermal modules to heat water in the building.

Collecting raindrops, working against water scarcity

Water consumption is an omnipresent topic on Majorca.

Summer water scarcity means that wells regularly run dry, forcing the island to import fresh water by ship from the mainland and truck it to the rural population, and to use desalination plants to produce drinking water.

The water scarcity on Majorca is exacerbated especially by the high rate of evaporation from swimming pools, which are generally filled with freshwater.

Here, too, we seek to make a positive contribution by collecting in tanks and treating virtually every drop of rain that falls on the property and the building – so that, ideally, no additional freshwater must be used. Even the pool is to be filled with treated rainwater.

Melding of architecture and landscape

The goal of each of our projects is to keep the development’s intervention in the natural surroundings to an absolute minimum. The Son Vida property, planned by OHLAB, is accordingly embedded in the landscape such that it can hardly be seen at first glance. It virtually merges with the natural surroundings, with only a few parts of the building projecting from its rocky, sloping site.

The landscaping involves neither irrigation-intensive rolled sod nor a conventional garden. Rather, we are letting nature reclaim the majority of the site.

When the building work has been completed, the local flora and fauna, which are adapted to the climate, will once again have free reign. This aspect of the planning honours the fact that the property lies directly adjacent to the Serra de Tramuntana nature reserve.

Service concept for a sustainable life

But our sustainability concept doesn’t stop there. For example, we are planning various technical building automation measures. Moreover, we will leave the future residents with a service concept for a conscious, sustainable life on the island.

As a tribute to nature and the possibilities it offers us, we have named our first project Casa Xaloc, after Majorca’s prevailing wind.

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