Advancements in technology and science have revolutionized architecture and construction, but often to the detriment of traditional building methods. Over the ages, cultures around the world developed construction methods that best fit the climate they live in, and perhaps it is time to go back to the basics. That’s exactly what architects Luis Velasco Roldan and Ángel Hevia Antuña from Ecuador thought. They designed a prototype of a home built using traditional methods once used in the area, and materials that were sourced locally.
Their main goal is to explore the energy efficiency of building in a regionally relevant way. One of the reasons they embarked on this experiment was that buildings in this, and other South American countries that were built using modern construction methods and materials, such as concrete, steel sheets and fiber cement, have proven to offer periods of thermal discomfort which could have been eliminated had the structures been designed in line with traditional knowledge.
The house they built measures only 524 square feet (49 sq m), possibly due to the fact that it’s only a prototype. The used traditional methods and materials in designing and constructing it, including pumice stone for insulation. Pumice stone is riddled with air pockets, which work to insulate the home, and the stone itself acts as a thermal mass capable of regulating fluctuating exterior temperatures. Due to this, the interior temperatures of the home are a constant 68 to 70°F (20 to 21°C) year round, even when outside temperatures drop to 53°F (12°C). The home also features a green roof, under which they also installed a layer of pumice stone for insulation as well as drainage.
The home features a living room, kitchen, dining area, bedroom, bathroom and office. They used Ecuador laurel for exterior cladding and eucalyptus wood for framing the home, both of which are abundant in the area. Passive solar heat gain was one of the main design considerations, so the home also features a number of floor-to-ceiling windows and sliding doors, which lets in plenty of natural sunlight, aids ventilation and brings the inhabitants closer to nature. The bedroom also features a glazed corner as well as a skylight, so the room can also be used as a solarium.
The home was also built in a way that allows it to be disassembled quickly and easily. This is because they plan to move it around the country to test its energy efficiency in various climates. They are also planning on equipping it with automated open-source software energy management systems, such as motorized shutters to block out the sun or let it in.
This is a great experiment and very beneficial too, since going back to basics might be the best way to achieve a sustainable future.