Sempreverde won the 2017 SUSTAINABILITY AWARD, organized by the Agency for Energy and Sustainable Development of Modena-AESS. Involving the entire national territory, it aims to enhance and disseminate good building practices through the selection of projects and projects that have followed the constructive principles of bio-architecture and energy efficiency: respect and integration with the natural environment, the control of energy consumption, the use of non-polluting materials and techniques that are not harmful to human health, social and economic sustainability and innovation.
How did we win?
It’s a long story…
… the story of Semperverde, begins in Venice.
I was studying there at the Academy of Fine Arts when they spoke to me about Permaculture for the first time. Attending the course of 72 hours, I know the straw house participating in the construction. On that occasion I even have the opportunity to see the livability because they make me stay in a previously built thatched house. In short, someone was already at the second straw house.
The seed is born this way.
At the end of my studies in academy I realize the topic I want to talk about in thesis and it is born “Evergreen: a house from the plant to the plants”.
The concept underlying the idea is that of a life in synergy with the environment now too attached to the action of man, to create a comfortable structure without contributing to the evil we are doing on earth and above all living in contact with the a natural element, to give nature the task of decorating the life and the rooms of the house, embellishing the façade, the interior spaces as well as the external ones.
In the first place the house had to have the least possible environmental impact and for this reason we spent a lot of time researching the materials: choosing how to reconstruct the partitions, how to make the bathrooms, with which coat to cover the old house.
We also had to choose with which methodology to build the enlargement.
Here comes the straw house known years ago. It was clear that this house, open to the public because B & B, should also have a cognitive purpose, be a strategy to put this particular technique into practice, make it known to those who did not know its existence and make it touch those who knew only in the theory.
For the realization I supported a local company “OLIVO” who knew the subject and wanted to try. Even the choice of technicians remained on KM zero. We needed a structuralist for the wood part, a designer for the overall view and a construction manager. Also the energy part of the project has had its studies and its technicians.
We asked LA BOA (the first straw houses builders in Italy) to oversee the project and with them we set up workshops in which many participated, curious to understand how straw could build solid walls and the earth star on the walls to make hygroscopic plaster.
In the construction of the part in straw worked many hands between trainees and volunteers and some part of the process was also carried out by us clients. The self-construction has helped us to save a lot because it requires a lot of manpower as the technique is almost cost free. The straw was taken by a local “massaro”, one of the last remaining that still produce ballets, since many now prefer to produce bales.
… it was all difficult! But I think that even building a “normal” house is not a walk.
Maybe it was a bit more particular, a bit more problematic, but the team was strong and together we managed to overcome all the difficulties.
The house in straw bales, you’ll know, has a lot of advantages.
As a building envelope it offers the best insulation you could wish for. Already tested for cold climates, at Punta Secca we are testing it against the sultry and humid heat of lower Sicily. I can tell you that so far I have managed not to install air conditioners, but the structure is in its first month of life, we still have to face the heat of August. In my room I do not want to put the splits, but I do not know the guests as they will accept my stubbornness and how much they would rather have a remote control to set the preferred artificial temperature.
Certainly it is a breathable casing and one of the advantages is the impossibility of condensation and therefore mold. These walls do not retain moisture but are trapped, thus keeping it constant and always on an optimal standard. In my room I placed a hygrometer with which I enjoy to see that humidity never rises above 60%.
We want to add that straw is a waste of the food chain for which we do not use energy for its production, on the contrary sometimes we waste it to dispose of it. Using straw bales as bricks avoids the production of CO2, which causes serious environmental damage and is largely produced by the construction industry.
Already the choice of a wooden house is equivalent to saving CO2 because the wood of each tree does nothing but incorporate carbon dioxide during growth.
I tried in every way to remain as integralist as possible in the thatched house, avoiding any deviation from the subject eco-friendly materials, while I was submissive in the restructuring from which came out a kind of hybrid. Tadelakt bathrooms, wooden floors, some raw earth plasters, in addition to the Italian bamboo railings. In the thatched house instead I can truly say that the only materials that make it up are straw, earth, lime and wood. and finally, how could I make the floor of the ground floor if not in raw earth!?