Everything is connected within the ecosystems we live in. For example, our cities, the way and with whom we socialize, our economic prosperity, relationship with nature, and the very fabric of society were forever transformed by the proliferation of the automobile. Thus, we can’t adapt a one-dimensional approach when designing places for humans to live. When we build a house, its impact spans the residents, the neighborhood, the local community of humans and animals, the natural environment, the resources needed to build and maintain it, and the behaviors it inspires and produces.
“A radical, restorative, regenerative approach to business” – definition of Circular Economy
Which is why we are not just building a place to stay but an ecosystem – and possibly a blueprint of the way we, humans, could live – in conscious and respectful harmony with each other and the natural environment.
AOMA aims to be 360° eco-positive, encompassing the location, construction, the full resident experience cycle, building and business operations, and local community interaction.
As the building’s energetic footprint does not come only from its operation, but also from materials, it was imperative to reduce the amount of CO2 emissions caused by this construction by using a cross laminated timber system (CLT) to build its structure.
The Global Warming Potential (GWP) of concrete is 3.3X that of CLT when considering a typical building façade construction.
Our decision to use CLT instead of concrete was also rooted in the lifecycle sustainability of these materials. Where a concrete building needs to be fully demolished at the end of its life, producing waste and air pollution, CLT can be disassembled, and partially repurposed reducing waste and amount of new building materials needed to build new structures.
CLT also outperforms concrete when it comes to job site waste. Since most or all CLT panels are prefabricated, there is little to no waste on site. Manufacturers can also re-use any scraps for stairs or other architectural elements.
In addition to its structural uses across exterior walls, partition walls, slabs and the roof, CLT is employed in the interior finishing of the spaces, with the idea of creating awareness and sparking conversation as well as conserving resources that would be used on non-recyclable gypsum board, rendered surfaces, or paint.
We are sourcing local suppliers for traditional materials such as tiles and performing components such as windows. We use as much as possible cork as insulation, and the wood cladding façades or shading the terraces is also from local certified forests.
Energy and Water Conservation: A Flexible Passive Approach
The building is open to the sunshine, so we have an outside-inside relation with the landscape in the main social spaces: the co-working and the co-living living room and kitchen areas. These spaces, mainly used during the day, are wide open to the exterior as much as possible, and windows would be kept open as long as we can, considering Ericeira’s temperate climate. As we lose the notion of a threshold, the outside living areas are protected from the sun and from the wind, making the exterior somehow interior.
Patios are designed to create convection currents that naturally cool down the building and spontaneously natural ventilation becomes the rule, with independently operated vents, and glazed surfaces that can be open.
Sun is the main heating source in winter, and the design of windows and shadowed areas came out of natural sunlight studies, making this element as efficient as possible. Shutters are used in summer, as access and control of natural light was also critical in the design, and the efficient artificial light, utilizing LEDs is controlled by systems and the users.
We are using almost twice the insulation of a conventional building, but as we understood heating or cooling is still needed on those colder Ericeira evenings, we used fan coil ventilators connected to a heat pump that works with the energy produced using photovoltaic and solar thermal panels which are more efficient for the water-based system used for the heating and for the hot water supply.
Water is a finite resource, so there is a holistic water management strategy that aims to retain as much water as possible, recycle gray water (sinks and showers) for toilet flushing, and collect rainwater for landscape irrigation.
Additionally, using CLT instead of concrete for the building’s structure reduces the amount of water used in construction by up to 28%
The exterior spaces use a permaculture-based design with local, adapted and endogenous species, with low maintenance and low needs of water.
The landscaping is conceived to preserve water and contribute to the building’s cooling, shading, and wind protection, as well as create outdoor areas to connect the residents and visitors with nature.
In addition to structuring the territory according to its natural aptitudes and establishing the functional priorities of the space, we paid special attention to creating thoughtful settings for the various degrees of solitude and connection allowing guests to be alone, in small or larger groups.
Utilizing wood chips as the ground cover greatly improves the conservation of moisture in the soil and represents the long-term structuring of the soil.
A Balanced Ecosystem
Composed of endemic species adapted to the local climate. The presence of distinct volumes and textures and colors provides a welcoming environment. The rusticity of the species brings this garden closer to a natural environment. The species composition are intended to provide a balance from an ecosystem point of view, contributing to a more organic maintenance cadence.