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A garden-house proposal for the future: Green Box

A garden-house proposal for the future: Green Box

Green Box is, according to Spanish architect Luis de Garrido, one of the first “modular garden-house that aims to be totally prefabricated, reusable, transportable, has an infinite life cycle, is bioclimatic, has zero energy consumption, and does not generate waste.”

Thanks to its characteristics, Green Box will be built in just 15 days (from 4th to 19th April).

Luis de Garrido introduces his latest sustainable home prototype, Green Box, in New York City (Tuesday 21st April, Glasshouse Museum, Chelsea Arts Tower, 545 West 25th Street). The home will be built in Barcelona to celebrate the Construmat 2009 Construction Fair (being presented on 20th April, and exhibited from 20th to 25th April.)

Towards another architecture

Designed by Luis de Garrido (“Architect of the Year 2008” by the International Steel Building Association ISBA, and American Institute of Architects AIA), the home aims to become a benchmark in sustainable architecture, as it meets all of the known sustainable indicators, according to its creator.

De Garrido also states that Green Box is the building that is nearest to his conceptual architectural model of “Artificial Nature”.

In addition to its ecological character, the home is economical: building it costs half what a conventional building would cost (about 550 euros m2, or 700 dollars per square foot), so that it could easily become a building model to follow in areas experiencing increased economic restraint.

The building’s architectural structure is totally flexible. Its interior is diaphanous, and its architectural structure enables any kind of indoor compartmentalizing.

The home may thus become an office, a residence, apartments, a museum, exhibition hall, etc. Hence, the home may be extended, reduced or modified simply and with no need for building work, nor any waste generation.

The home has zero conventional energy consumption, and regulates itself thermally through its bioclimatic design and optimum use of geothermal and solar energy.

The home’s design and construction have been carried out with the aim of reducing its energy consumption to a minimum in both its building process and its dismantling process.

All of the building’s components have been designed in a modular way to be dry-assembled. Thus, just as occurs in building it, dismantling it does not generate any waste and all of its parts can be used again.

As a result, by repairing or replacing each one of the parts, the building has a permanent life cycle. That is to say, so is its usefulness.

The supporting structure of the homes has been made with prefabricated panels of reinforced concrete, sandwich panels of cement-wood, and metallic panels. The purpose of it all is to show in one building three suitable systems of modular construction (steel, wood, concrete).

In spite of the described characteristics, the most important and unique feature of Green Box may be the landscaped, sloping garden roof and the vertical garden.

Both gardens have been made with autochthonous Mediterranean plant species, which ensures that they hardly need water (usually just rainwater) and their beauty is permanent, every day of the year. They also do not need maintenance.

The sloping garden-roof enables the building to be integrated into any environment, since it becomes established as an extension to the surrounding ground. On the other hand, the vertical garden stands preeminently, becoming the home’s identifying hallmark. The same vertical garden is to be found in the home’s interior patio.

Thanks to its advanced characteristics, Green Box is being built in just 15 days, in the city of Barcelona. It will be dismantled in 7 days and transported to Toledo, where it will be definitively installed.

Green Box seeks the highest possible level of sustainability

The prototype accomplishes with the 5 basic pillars on which sustainable architecture stands for:

  • Optimization of resources and materials.
  • Reduction of waste and emissions to the environment.
  • Reduction of energy consumption and use of renewable energies.
  • Potential improvement of human quality of life and health.
  • Reduction in the building’s price of construction and maintenance

1. Optimization of resources and materials:

  • Use of recovered, reused and recycled materials: all of the materials used in Green Box are reused and recycled. All of the materials can be recovered, reused and recycled. With no exceptions whatsoever.
  • Reuse: all of the prototype’s components can be used again and again, so that their life cycle is permanent and they become, as WilliamMcDonough and Michael Braungart , creators of the “cradle to cradle” concept, would point out, “technical nutrients”, capable of giving life to other products once they are due with their first function.
  • Zero toxicity: the materials used do not have any kind of emission nor harmful substance to the environment.
  • High durability: the prototype has infinite durability since it can be easily repaired.

2. Reduction of waste and emissions:

  • In manufacturing the materials: obtaining the materials that make up Green Box, no type of waste nor emissions have been generated.
  • In building the prototype: no kind of waste will be generated in setting up the prototype. The parts will simply be put in place by pressure, gravity or cable ties, so that all the components can be recovered and reused again.
  • In the building’s useful life: there is no important waste nor emissions during the prototype’s useful life.
  • In dismantling: it has been designed in such a way as not to generate any waste upon dismantling. All of the materials will remain intact and ready to be used again as many times as necessary.

3. Reduction of energy consumption and use of renewable energies:

  • Obtaining and sourcing materials: all of the materials have been chosen due to their low energy cost. In addition, as all the materials arepre-fabricated, the necessary energy consumption has been reduced to a minimum.
  • Construction: a minimum amount of energy is going to be used since a modular building system has been employed. For this reason, a team of only 5 people, with no professional capabilities, is needed to set it up.
  • Dismantling: this process is simple and consumes little energy, since the parts only have to be removed in reverse order from which they were placed upon setting up.
  • Transport of the material and workforce: the materials and workforce will be from Barcelona, the place where the prototype will be developed. There is no need for specialized labor.
  • Useful life: a permanent useful life has been achieved for the prototype, according to Luis de Garrido, since if any part breaks it is simply repaired or replaced with an alternative. Patches can be integrated cheaply, with no need of specialized workers.

4. Potential improvement of human quality of life and health:

There are no emissions harmful to people, animals or the environment at any stage of manufacture of any of the prototype’s parts, nor during its useful life (if it is built to be permanent), nor in dismantling it, says Luisde Garrido.

5. Reduction in the building’s price of construction and maintenance:

The prototype’s maintenance costs are very low. The only maintenance in the short term is cleaning.  As for cleaning staff, this has not been necessary for the prototype.

Bioclimatic characteristics

1. Heat generation systems:

The home heats itself up in two ways:

  • Avoiding cooling down: due to high thermal insulation, and with large glass surface areas facing only to the south.
  • Through careful and special bioclimatic design, and its perfect N-S orientation, the home heats up by means of the greenhouse effect, direct solar radiation (passive solar), and heating through a solar radiating floor. It also stays warm for a long time, owing to its high heat capacity. In temperate climates, the house doesn’t need much more, but an understanding of this process.

2. Cold generation systems:

The home cools down by itself, in three ways:

  • Avoiding heating up: by having most of the glass surface area facing south and hardly east, by having solar protections for direct or indirect solar radiation (a different type of protection for each one of the recesses with a different orientation), and by having suitable insulation.
  • Cooling down through an architectural air cooling system by means of underground galleries. In addition, due to the building’s high heat capacity, the coolness accumulated overnight is maintained throughout nearly the whole of the following day.
  • By letting hot air out of the building through the upper windows of the central indoor patio. The sloping shape of the roof encourages natural convection and provides an effective “chimney effect” to extract hot air from inside the building.

In addition, the main central tower is covered with cement-wood panels. On heating up these panels through the effect of solar radiation, the air indoors heats up. On heating up, this air rises and escapes through perforations in the panels.

Thus, a suction current is created, which extracts the home’s re-heated air. In this way, the home cools at all times during warmer seasons.

3. Accumulation systems (heat or coolness):

Heat generated during the day in winter accumulates in the suspended floors and the load-bearing walls, keeping the home warm during the night.

Likewise, coolness generated during the night in summer accumulates in the suspended floors and the load-bearing walls, keeping the home cool during the day. The landscaped roof has a high heat capacity, which reinforces this process.

4. Transference systems (heat or coolness):

Heat generated by the greenhouse effect and natural radiation spreads out in the form of hot air through the whole building from the central greenhouse.

In the same way, the radiating floor heating system is spread out over the whole house. The heat built up in the load-bearing walls is transmitted to the side rooms by radiation.

The fresh air generated in the underground galleries spreads out over the home by means of a set of grilles distributed through the home’s forging. This current of air cools all the rooms.

5. Natural ventilation:

The building is ventilated continually and naturally through the outer walls themselves, which allows for adequate ventilation without energy losses.

This kind of ventilation is possible because all of the materials used are breathable (ceramics, natural insulation, concrete panels, cement-wood panels, organic paints).

6. An infinite life-cycle?

All of the components of Green Box have been designed to be dry-assembled using screws, nails and by applying pressure. They can thus be easily extracted from the building in order to be repaired, reused or replaced. In this way, the building can last adinfinitum, at a very low energy cost.

7. Re-use and transportability:

All of Green Box’s features (even the sloping garden and the vertical garden) have been designed so as to be easily assembled and taken apart indefinitely.

This is why these features can be transported anywhere to be easily assembled (in less than a week) as many times as necessary.

Construction report. Ecological features

  • Foundations: prefabricated reinforced concrete panels.
  • Horizontal structure: prefabricated reinforced concrete panels, assembled together by means of screwed-in metal profile sections. Screwed-in metal profile sections.
  • Interior coverings: wood panels, panelate, polycarbonate, ECO panels, methacrylate, and GEA ecological paints.
  • Layout features: polycarbonate, methacrylate and reinforced concrete panels.
  • Façade: ventilated façade using extrusion-molded ceramics held in place by means of folded metal plate profile sections. Façade installations made of recycled paper towels from aeroplanes, and plastic bottles.
  • Floorings: ecological parquet treated with oils and FSC wood. ECO panels.
  • Paints: GEA ecological paints with water dissolvent, without biocides, organic pigments and high CPV.
  • Insulation: façade installations made by recycling paper towels from aeroplanes, and plastic bottles. Insulation of sheep’s wool, hemp and wood fiber.
  • Outside coverings and sunshades for the windows: IPE wood treated with Borax salts and finishings based on lasures.
  • Outside carpentry: hazelnut laminated wood carpentry.
  • Glass: double-glazing (6-10-4) with an air chamber.
  • Roofing: landscaped roofing with insulation made of wood fiber (8cm), waterproofing Sopralene sheet, a filter sheet of unweaved synthetic fiber, geo-textile drainage sheet, and a substratum of vegetation (40% sand, 60% plant waste).
  • Finishings and guttering: galvanized plate lacquered in red.
  • Vertical garden structure:50 x 50 cm net panels that can be taken down, to hold vegetation and the hydroponic watering system.
  • Vertical garden: vegetation species adapted to the Mediterranean, with hydroponic watering.
  • Sloping garden (of the roof garden): species of vegetation that are native to the Mediterranean, with no need for watering (lavender, rosemary, thyme,etc.)
  • Lighting: exclusively LED lighting shall always be used.
  • Plumbing facilities: polypropylene pipes.
  • Bathroom fittings: polyethylene pipes.
  • Electrical installations: polypropylene pipes and cables free of halogenous material.
  • Solar heating system: solar heat collectors for producing S.H.W.
  • Boilers and solar-heated floor: condensing boilers and high performance solar collectors.
  • Geothermal system: geothermal system by means of piles, integrated with a solar system and condensing boilers.

Innovations in Green Box

  • A perpetual life cycle: all of the components have been designed to be dry-assembled using screws, nails and by applying pressure. They can thus be easily extracted from the building in order to be repaired, reused or replaced. This way, the building can last adinfinitum, at a very low energy cost.
  • Transportability by separate pieces: all of Green Box’s features (even the sloping garden and the vertical garden) have been designed so as to be easily assembled and taken apart indefinitely. This is why these features can be transported anywhere to be easily assembled (in less than a week) as many times as necessary.
  • Complete elimination of waste: the components in the house have been factory-made, without generating much waste. In the same way, it is assembled without generating waste and dismantled without generating waste. The keys to achieving this are: themecanization and crowdsourcing techniques used for the production of the materials, the design of the assembly system, and the compositional layout system employed in designing the architecture as a whole. All of Green Box’s features (even the sloping garden and the vertical garden) have been designed so as to be easily assembled and taken apart indefinitely. 
  • Flexibility: due to its design, Luis de Garrido says that Green Box can be extended, reduced, or even adopt other kinds of architectural configurations. Similarly, its interior is diaphanous and has been designed to adopt any possible compartmental layout and spatial reconfiguration.
  • Total technification: all components have been made in different factories. These components have been put together at the building’s location, to create the building. Not component has been made “insitu”. Of course, this means it is essential to carry out a planned architectural project.
  • High degree of bioclimatism: Green Box has been designed to take advantage of its bioclimatic behavior. That is to say, the building heats up as much as possible by itself in winter, and cools down as much as possible by itself in summer. All of this is achieved without electronic equipment. It simply occurs because of the architectural design and at no additional cost.
  • Energy self-sufficiency: De Garrido claims the house consumes zero conventional energy. Green Box heats up in winter by means of a combination of 3 different systems: first a properbioclimatic design; second, the incorporation of a system of solar collectors (for the S.H.W and heating via radiating floor); and third, by incorporating an economical and ingenious architectural system of geothermal energy. Similarly, it cools down in summer by means of a combination of 2 different systems: a properbioclimatic design; and again the use of geothermal energy. The low energy lighting system (leds ) and the efficient electrical appliances are supplied by the electricity generated by the photovoltaic collectors. Besides, the energy necessary to heat the radiating floor and sanitary hot water comes from a combination of a geothermal system and a solar system. It is not necessary to use any other system, nor a connection to the electrical grid.

Gardening (permaculture even closer to home)

1. Double vertical garden (on both sides of one wall):

Luis de Garrido argues this is one the first examples of a vertical garden on both sides of a wall. Apart from the attractive shapes, the system provides a perfect balance between insulation, heat capacity,breathability, oxygenation, and lighting.

“In fact, this is an early step in how to handle features of live vegetation as architectural surrounds and structural architectural compositional features.”

2. Vertical garden that can be dis-assembled and transported by modules

The double vertical garden has been built from cellular polyethylene panels, screwed to a metal structure that holds it. Thus, each panel of vegetation can be composed separately in the greenhouse (to control its design and stimulate growth of the species of vegetation), and moved to the building when necessary (with the plants fully grown).

Similarly, each vegetation panel can be taken away from the building in order to be moved elsewhere, repaired and reused as many times as one should wish.

3. Design of the landscaped roof’s autochthonous garden

The landscaped roof has been planned based on autochthonous plant species, which will hardly consume water.

The garden’s design is inspired by the eternal fight between Tiger and Dragon, the balance between the Yin and Yang that symbolizes human activity on Earth.

It is a hint that would symbolize the house’s desire to provide a sensible road towards achieving another kind of architecture.

“This architecture should enable a balance between living beings, and the balance of living beings with the planet”, says De Garrido.

4. Design of the sloping landscaped roof as continuity of the surrounding grounds (100% edification = 100% green zone?)

One of the aims of Green Box’s design is to give the home a landscaped roof that can be passed by as if it were continuing the land. This is why a landscaped roof has been planned at a 12º inclination that stretches to ground level.

Thus, passers-by can walk comfortably and even have access to the roof. In other words, the prototype enables building a construction that occupies land 100% and at the same time guarantees a 100% green zone.

Reversible interior design

All of the indoor finishings are reversible. That is to say, they can easily be withdrawn, recuperated and replaced. All of the fittings have been put together under pressure or with screws.

Hence they can easily be repaired and replaced. This concept is also extended to the bathroom and kitchen fittings, sanitary fittings and kitchen furniture.

The interior design has been inspired by the 12 signs of the European zodiac and the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac. “This hint symbolizes the desired balance between the Earth and the Cosmos that one aims to achieve with this prototype.”

The signs of the zodiac have been illustrated by means of backlit perforations on the inner surfaces. The golden light from the finishings contrasts with the blue of the indoor sky, creating a dreamy, mystic atmosphere that would welcome meditation and reflection.

Use of new ecological products

In constructing Green Box, new recently manufactured products have been used (insulation from recycled aeroplane towelettes, insulation from recycled glasses, insulation from recycled glass bottles, ECO panels from recycled glass, screws, scrap metal,panelate, polycarbonate panels molded by extrusion, ecological GEA paints, etc.)

A transportable structure made with concrete panels and metal plate profiles

The construction system used in Green Box based on screwed-in structural features (concrete panels, metal plate profiles) allows it to be transported with no need for special transport.

Transportable foundations

The prototype’s very foundations have been made by means of a double layer of reinforced concrete slabs. The reinforced concrete slabs are joined to one another by means of screwed together metal plate profiles.

This way, says Luis de Garrido, two things are achieved:

  • An underground air chamber is created that allows ventilation air to be cooled in summer (and ventilation air to be heated in winter).
  • If it is decided to take down the building, it allows for the building to be moved to another place. No trace is left of the building, since even the foundations can be transported. A sustainable building that would leave no trace.

Low price

The building system used enables construction costs to be cut by up to 50%.

“This makes it a construction model for the new social and economic order for the coming years,” concludes the architect Luis de Garrido.