Stay Grounded!

So here’s a project which won a couple awards…

arch. Massimiliano Menegale of Materica Studio was the team leader for it.

It was prized with 2nd place in the international competition “Saie Selection” back in 2010, and the same year it won also 2nd prize at the “Agaf 2010” competition.

Here’s the description of the project as reported:

“STAY GROUNDED” is a project for a house which won’t steal the ground, won’t bite away another little piece of earth.

It’s a proposal for a house lowered into the ground, and with a green roof. All the square meters used to build the inner spaces of the house are given back to nature in form of buried perimetral walls and green roof and garden.

This way the temperature of the house is manteined at a constant level because of the partial burying of it.

The house is also an answer to our present time, in which we all seem obsessed with appearance, showing off, being at the center of everything so that other people can watch us and admire us for a reason or another. Many of us don’ t want to live this way. Many prefer intimacy, private moments, avoiding that 1984’s Big Brother way of life of being constantly under surveillance or judgement.

No windows on the external perimeter of the house, but an inner court that will give light and air to the whole house, granting maximum privacy and also a private inner garden to relax and sunbathe without curious eyes getting on our way.

Also there are “light and air cannons” that will create a natural ventilation inside the house, providing a less energyvorous system. Passive ventilation is an ancient technique we need to rethink and introduce again in our building, both for Energy savings and for inhabitants’ comfort, which should be a first focus for architecture but which seems to have been neglected for too long. It’s very important nowadays to start to think also of sick-building sindrome, and diseases there are subtle but not to be overlooked, because in the long run they will make the diffrence in terms of relax, rest and overall wellness in our house, which is the shelter we dreamed of, and made many sacrifices to get. Our house is not only a thin shell built with economical materials and tecnologies and that we have to cool down or warm with more and more Energy, but a true natural shelter, minimizing artificial recreation of environments. Walls should behave as a second skin, and we should not mimick, but rethink of and learn from, vernacular, regional and traditional architecture. Malquafs, badgirs, wind towers, massive walls and roofs are just a little percentage of what we should re-discover in terms of natural, low-impact solutions.

The house can be built in stacks, with “green energy hills” between a house and another; the little hills serve as an energy park, sporting photovoltaic cell panels, solar thermal producing panels and microaeolic generators. This way the houses should also be Energy-indipendent and share their part of self generated energy. Inside the hills there are also, buried down under, geotermic systems, allowing to introduce in the houses water and/or air at a constant temperature of 18/20 celsius degrees. This will enable a consistent lowering of the energetic needs to control the climate inside the houses.

The section exemplifies the way the house uses also passive solar energy contribution, and how the light cannons also serve as a passive ventilating sistem. The internal court and the green roof also contribute to lower the temperature of the areas in which the houses are built, enancing the quality of the microclimate.

The house is studied also to have a good passive solar contribution, with ‘’wings’’ protruding from the house to provide protection at the same time against summer sunrays. The ‘’energetic section’’  shows the position of the sun in winter and summer.

The region and its climate dictate the form. That is in my idea of architecture very important. The International style has opened a whole new world to composition, style, elegance and image, but has also contributed to the image of architects and architectures which don’t care at all about people and life inside a confinated space, forcing purism and form in any part of the world without distinctions on constructive systems.

Also the presence of a seasonal tree in the inner private garden will help to have “leaves shadows” in the hot seasons, and in fall and winter the leaves will drop and let the sun come inside the house.

Green surrounding is also crucial in my idea of house. I firmly believe that today most of the people live in a too artificial way of life, sterilizing everything, including their life and experience.

People don’t give the right importance to nature anymore, feeling a void inside themselves and trying to fill it with other artificial, sterilized things. “We may be humans, but we’re still animals” (Steve Vai). Feeling the grass under our hands is still one of the greatest, most relaxing pleasures we can have. Listening to leaves move while wind blows, the texture that sunrays create on the ground while passing between the  branches, all the sounds we can listen to while we’re outside. Outside is as rewarding for our souls as the inside is. We should not concentrate so much on the stuff we buy for our houses’ interiors if then we can’t appreciate the outside. The nature, we all come from.

Stay gronded was thought of for being built in the external rings of the cities, were the nature still hasn’t been parcelized into thousands of little cemented squares. Were the horizon is still big and where you can loose sight of the environment. Where your eyes can travel far away. Stay grounded houses will hide in the ground, and in front of them large parks should be provided. I’d like people to rediscover the pleasure of living surrounded by the natural environment. May sound a little Utopia I know, but I feel that the modern towns and cities are already Distopias in their own rights, so with the coming of electrical vehicles, a good public transportation system and the possibilities to do many works completely or partially at home nowadays, we could maybe reconsider some Garden-city ideas to enhance the quality of cities.

As previously said, hot water for igienical uses and also winter heating are generated by the geothermical system, plus a high efficiency heat generator (pompa di calore a compressione), feeded by electrical energy, provided by the photovoltaic park built between the ground houses.

The stratigrafy of roofs and walls is also studied to provide ideal thermic insulation in every season: the hills beside the houses provide a constant temperature outside the partially grounded walls, and the green roof also provides a perfect massive protection against the hot weather.

In the area near Ferrara, Italy, where the houses were ideated to be  built, there could be possibly some problems due to high percentage of radon gas in the underground. If  the concentration would be major than 40 baquerel for m3 of air, then the solution would be either a 30 cm concrete continouos foundation, or a specific membrane (for example, DuPont has several  specific products for this situation, also providing butilic adhesive for maximum security  sealing).

The houses were studied to have an “A Class” Energy performance. The use of polyistyrene and other synthetic products to insulate thermically the houses is reduced to a minimum: this way, we lower the Energy needed to build the house, by reducing ALSO the Energy needed to enhance its performance in terms of materials. The ground, the green, the bricks and thermal plaster alone give the house a more than satisfying insulation, rising also the level of naturality of the shelter we choose for ourselves.

The project has been features in a whole lot of arch-sites… Some of them [select a web address, them right click with your mouse, “open in new window”]: . . .


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