Across the Pond

Akita is a low-energy home in Getxo, Spain, that leverages its Mediterranean climate with a design that optimizes its energy performance with a wealth of proven and available materials and technologies. Using passive ventilation and an abundance of natural light, the modular house creates comfortable and efficient living spaces within a small footprint that encourages higher-density development. Size: 62.98 cubic meters (approximately 680 square feet); Architect: Javier Aja Cantalejo, Bilbao, Spain.

Swiss Precision Located in Solduno, Switzerland, Casa Locarno sits at the base of a mountain with a view to Lake Maggiore. Its signature element is the Skyframe, a roof cantilever that will eventually be covered in vegetation to provide even more shade on the expansive windows; it and the slightly sloping green roof above it also afford taller ceiling heights for the public rooms inside while helping integrate the house into its environment. Size: 178 square meters (approximately 1,916 square feet); Architect: designyougo, Berlin, Germany.

Sun Spot Solar energy generation is a common practice for European housing, helping offset the high cost of grid-supplied power. For Casa Locarno, a roof-mounted array of solar collectors provides energy for the low-temperature, underfloor heating system and the domestic hot water supply. On cold and cloudy winter days, additional energy is generated through a heat exchange in the fireplace.

Beyond Technology Working with VELUX, a global window and solar thermal supplier, architect Tanja Jordan designed SOLTAG to be a comfortable model of efficiency, using prefabricated panels and modules and a wealth of windows. “Daylight and ventilation are the key to low-energy demand,” she says. “But they need to be used as architectural components,” beyond their technological attributes.

Glass Act SOLTAG, a demonstration house near Copenhagen, uses CO2-neutral solar energy generation for space and water heating, the former via an underfloor system that operates at a lower temperature and pressure to further reduce energy demand. Large expanses of operable, thermally efficient fenestration offset mechanical means for ventilation, lighting, and heating. Size: 84 square metres (approximately 904 square feet); Architect: RUBOW arkitekter, Copenhagen, Netherlands.

Mobile Paradise Located on a ridge overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, this private residence near Bodrum, Turkey, employs prefabricated wood-frame modules serving as a thermal mass within a lightweight steel frame, requiring only a few support columns to puncture the site. The wide-open yet efficient floor plan affords space-use flexibility and promotes natural ventilation and cooling without mechanical means. “We used what was available and wove it into a new context,” says architect Georg Driendl. Size: 175 square meters (approximately 1,884 square feet); Architect: driendl*architects, Vienna, Austria.

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