The active lifestyle

30 Nov 2010

Ignatov Architects completes 'active green home' in Bulgaria

The Conservatory House (a.k.a. Home Tree House) is designed for the enjoyment of nature and music. The client asked for a residence with a space for hosting small music events and a large conservatory for growing flowers. These requirements were in line with local building code for rural areas which required a collateral agricultural use for granting a building permit. The steep and picturesque but compromised site used to be a local sand quarry for the neighbouring village, later turned into an eroded waste dump.

The serenity of the surrounding nature inspired the architects to work toward restoring the initial equilibrium of the site. The resulting design solution fits the house into the existing quarry pit and makes the new structure as compact as possible. The house fills the void and becomes a retaining wall itself, allowing the restoration of the terrain around it. The conservatory and music room naturally merged together and were placed on top of the residence for catching sunlight and views, as well as minimising the building's footprint.

The carbon footprint in turn is reduced by the insulating effect of the conservatory over the residence and by utilising a complex geothermal system that covers all heating and cooling needs. It cleanly and quietly exchanges thermal energy with earth via six closed-loop probes requiring minimal electricity for circulation only. All domestic hot water is supplied by solar vacuum tubes integrated into the glazed roof. A reinforced concrete structure was chosen because of its affordability and local popularity. It is designed with a central core and load-bearing facade frames without internal columns and shear walls.

Diagonal, vertical and horizontal structural elements on the southern and eastern facades follow the structural stress lines and reveal the building’s tectonics. A lack of cultivated landscaping promotes re-growth of local plant species and preserves the local microclimate. A bio-active wastewater treatment unit turns waste into bio-compost and irrigation water. Clean agricultural produce grown on-site adds to the green experience of the Conservatory House.

Organised in this way, the house functionally resembles a tree with a green crown (conservatory), trunk and branches (structure) and roots (geothermal probes) with the residence accommodated in symbiosis within it. The performance bottom line for the past seasons shows that the Conservatory House provides great comfort and uses very little external power without being a passive house. On the contrary; its concept actively promotes human interaction with the seasons and elements.

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