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Restores abandoned Pyrenees home by hand with regenerative system

After purchasing a ruin in a hilltop hamlet in the Spanish Pyrenees, Emmanuel Pauwels created a home in close harmony with the elements by first spending an entire year observing the patterns of the wind, sun, and rain. The house is called Cal Guerxo, honoring its traditional name among locals in the hamlet it belongs to.

Today, the sun provides for passive heating of the home via south-facing windows, but also an antechamber devoted toward capturing the sun’s warmth and distributing it through the home. In summer, the wind is funneled through the home for passive cooling.

Using a system of gutters and a first flush system for cleaning the rooftop water, the home captures, consumes, and returns 80,000 liters of rainwater to the garden every year. The gravity-flow composting toilets (on all floors) use a source separation system so the urine can remain sterile and be diverted to the garden.

Even the swimming pool is a refuge for the local flora and fauna. Pauwels created an organic pool that is cleaned by a regeneration zone: a natural system of plants and gravel. There are even frog stairs to support the couple of frogs that live in the pool.

Pauwels believes that homes can give back to their environment: “It’s not about being less bad, it’s about being good.” He also feels strongly that homes in harmony with their context provide more happiness for their occupants.