The countries of the Mediterranean fringe enjoy double the number of sunny days, or more, during the year compared to the Central European countries. The star king is a natural resource that can provide comfort to homes, with unmatched properties: it is renewed every morning at dawn, it does not pollute and it is everyone’s heritage. It stands as a very valuable source of energy, usable by architecture through various passive and active strategies, articulated around the concept of energy efficiency.
The sun is the main energy used by this single-family home designed by the SUMO Arquitectes studio (formed by Jordi Pagès, Marc Camallonga and Pasqual Bendicho). And that complements with aerothermal energy. “Where architecture should go – emphasize the authors of the project – is to achieve a minimum energy demand, that is to say that it consumes as little as possible. And that the energy that is consumed is as clean as possible”. The use of solar energy, the architects point out, was already in vernacular architecture, but they had forgotten.
Now the depletion of resources, the climate emergency and common sense remind us of it. The sun that shines generously in the sky is at our disposal to benefit from its rays in winter. At the same time, you have to protect yourself from them in the summer period. Before the cold months, architecture has resources to penetrate the house. In the middle of the summer heat, it is about avoiding it and refreshing. The yin and yan of the sun in its annual transit: inseparable opposites, in a cycle that is renewed every year.
The porch as a filter
For the SUMO studio, a key element in the project is the filter that constitutes the double-height porch on the main façade. Facing south, in winter it allows the house to capture maximum solar radiation. That it retains thanks to a perfectly insulated envelope. What the architects define as “a very well sheltered house”. And it is complemented by a concrete pavement on the ground floor, with thermal inertia. That is to say, it stores the heat from the sun that it receives and emits it progressively throughout the night hours. In summer, the porch blind set comes into the picture: it protects from the sun and facilitates cross ventilation.
Located 35 km from Barcelona in the Maresme region, and inhabited as a primary residence, it is equipped with a 12kWpic field of photovoltaic panels on the roof. Nourished by the sun and with a battery system, it provides electricity to the house and gives it autonomy. The architects remember that their clients, a young couple of entrepreneurs with two children, came to them very aware of environmental issues. This has facilitated the adaptation of their family habits to the generation of energy available in the house.
Today, already installed in the house, the two electric cars that they drive are powered by the energy that the house generates. And they are, at the same time, your reservoir if one day it were necessary. Through a mobile application, they have information on the amount of energy that the house is producing and the cost.
“It is the user himself who gets involved, monitors the consumption of his house and manages it”, point out the SUMO architects. They must also take care of maintenance, since dirty panels can reduce solar gain by up to 30%. To produce hot water and as an air conditioning system, they have equipped the house with a heat pump powered by aerothermal energy.
In this project, the implementation of all the measures and equipment to achieve autonomy has not entailed a higher budget than usual. One strategy to minimize energy demand has been to create a very compact architecture. Its 180 m2 of surface define it as a house neither too big nor too small. Although through the conception of the spaces it is expanded: the longitudinal porch as an open habitable room adds more meters.
On the other hand, the living room, dining room and kitchen have been arranged in a single area, plus an adjoining study, on the ground floor. “There is a volumetric saving that contributes to energy savings – the architects clarify -. At the same time, when you are in the kitchen you enjoy the volume of the living area and vice versa”.
A request from the future inhabitants was that wood stand out as the main material in their future home. The ground floor and first floor have been built with this material, using a dry industrialized system of wooden framework, with slabs and beams of the same material. The façade is finished with heat-treated pine slats. While the base of the house, in contact with the ground, is made of concrete.
Despite the fact that it is not a very large plot, the SUMO office has provided the complex with almost 300 m2 of living space outside. On the one hand, there are the private terraces of the bedrooms, on the first floor, and the aforementioned porch. To this is added the garden with a swimming pool, and a second landscaped space on the roof. With access from the private terrace of the heads of the family, in this multifunctional roof, the vegetation protects from excess solar radiation and overheating, and it is a magnificent space for relaxation and a viewpoint with views of the Maresme pre-coastal mountain range and the Mediterranean Sea. .