EcoHouse. Designing green, living green

by Anna Cornaro

Compasses Magazine

EcoHouse is an innovative housing building obtained through the addition, renewal and energetic retrofit of an existing building

The original residential building had been built on three levels, each of which hosting one apartment, during the 80s. It is in the outskirt of Rome, characterized by a small urban pattern, sometimes spontaneous.

The renewal included the design of nine new apartments instead of the initial three. The volume of the building has been increased as granted by a recent Italian regulation on existing residential buildings. The additional volumes are located on the rooftop and on the southern side. The structural system has been upgraded and the traditional exterior walls (made by two layers of perforated bricks) have been demolished and replaced with a smart skin, 40 cm tick. The new project is completely different from the previous one, having a new arrangement of masses and a completely different language. The original symmetry of the existing building has been deeply broken. The building has a new, more dynamic shape that depends on the sun orientation and a different interior arrangement and combination of the apartments. While the original building responds to the rules of symmetry and proportion, the new building is molded by environmental factors.

The north façade is more massive with only few small openings, while the southern one has a more complex layout, given by the presence of balconies and loggias. The cantilevered slabs allow to screen the side effects of the sun. The white plastered mass of the existing building has been transformed into a bright volume that looks like a visible landmark in the neighborhood and demonstrates the use of more advanced technologies. The skin is obtained by two layers of plasterboards with an infill of rock-wool. The building has been studied using the energetic simulation software IDA ICE, which has demonstrated that the energy necessary in winter for the heating system is almost zero. The housing has a rank of A4 in the Italian green building regulation. Each apartment is provided with a floor heating system as well as a cooling system for summer months. Solar panels to produce hot water and photovoltaic panels to produce energy are located on the roof, hidden by the high parapets.

The building is conceived as a saving energy machine, but its aspect is not high-tech at all. It maintains a friendly dialogue with the surroundings and a tactile dialogue with the users, thanks to the skin made by fiber cement planks in two different warm colors.
The vertical circulation didn’t change after the renewal, but now it is not visible on the outside. The building doesn’t work as a sum of parts anymore, but as a simple and dynamic object recognizable in its urban landscape.

The rationalization of the available surface brought to the construction of nine small apartments of different layouts. The MEP system is hidden behind the tridimensional arrangement of the false ceiling, without subtracting any space to the residential units.

Soon after its completion, the apartments have been sold to young people in their 30s, that have created a small community of green-thinkers that constantly collaborate with the building management company, in the belief that not only the design has to be green, but also the entire life of the building.

From C32

COdESIGN

Work
EcoHouse

Client
Lacasaeco S.r.l.

Location
Rome, Italy

Project Year
2014

Architecture and Design
COdESIGN – Annaria Cornaro & Valerio de Divitiis Associates

Project Team
Anna Cornaro, Valerio de Divitiis, Francesco De Tulio

Engineering
EnUp S.r.l.

Building Management
Valerio de Divitiis

Additional Functions
Structural Engineering: Studio aeb
Building Maintenance and Sustainability: EnUp S.r.l.
Cost: 620.000 euro

Total plot area
900 m2

Image credits
Patrizio Taormina

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