Neil Hutchinson / Studio Blue Architects Inc.
Inch Marlowe, Barbados
Neil Hutchinson / Studio Blue Architects Inc.
Ian Nicholls / DLN Consultants (Civil & Structural Engineers) Russell Corey / Nature Care Barbados (Landscape Designers and Contractors)
The client, a single female, is the co-owner of a landscape company and an avid art collector and photographer with a number of exhibitions under her belt. The brief was to design her new home: a 2 bedroom-2 bathroom house with detached garage with a total size of approximately 2,500sqft. The objective was to marry sustainability with a contemporary design suitable for its tropical environment and its single female occupant. The most challenging aspect of the client’s requirements was to resolve a number of potentially conflicting needs for the building envelope: achieving openness yet allowing privacy and security; allowing natural ventilation yet being able to control it when the breeze is overwhelming; and finally, incorporating hurricane protection measures which could be implemented by the lone occupant when required i.e. without the need for a team of strong men with plywood sheets! The client planned to address sustainability with the installation of a Photovoltaic system to meet her energy needs, but she was open to advice on other ways to make the project green. The layout was to incorporate a series of open plan, free flowing living and entertaining spaces including a covered patio and open air deck with jacuzzi and lily pond. The project had to embrace what it means to live sustainably in the tropics; inside - outside spaces with lush gardens…..sitting on the deck with a drink in hand…… a low carbon footprint…….a cooling breeze…..a view of the ocean……..reminiscing about the footprints left in the sand.
Inch Cubed is located within 200m of the Atlantic Ocean behind a series of sand dunes on Barbados’ southeast coast. The tropical Caribbean island of Barbados experiences high humidity and year round temperatures averaging 27°C / 80°F. The prevailing Trade winds blow across the Atlantic from an easterly to northeasterly direction and are consistently strong (18-25mph), yet cooling, between December and May. Since the wind is coming directly off the ocean, the humid air has a high salt content, making it a corrosive environment. The dunes do provide some protection to the site and glimpses of the ocean are possible between the dunes and beach vegetation. With some elevation, there is an approximately 120 degree panorama of natural beach front visible over the tops of the dunes. The hurricane season in the Caribbean runs from July to November and the proximity of the site to the ocean makes it particularly vulnerable to these systems. The site is also low lying and prone to floods during heavy rains because the soil type is slow draining clay. The residential area has only been partially developed with some owners holding the land as an investment. As a result, there is uncertainty about when lots will be developed, including the neighboring lot that lies between Inch Cubed and the beautiful views across the sand dunes to the ocean. Developed properties consist of mainly single family dwellings of one or two stories while undeveloped lots are mostly covered with scrub grass and sea grape vines.
Inch cubed is an abstract composition of a series of interlocking volumes with concrete flat roofs and stacked patios, punctuated with a stair tower to provide a vertical focus for the entrance. The house embraces the ocean views and cooling breezes from the east and turns its back on the hot afternoon sun while the garage does the opposite to protect the owner’s car from the harsh environment. The house is elevated on concrete columns to avoid flooding and to facilitate views over the dunes. The building envelope employs a combination of operable aluminum louver windows and sliding or top hung hurricane rated shutters to allow the patio and living spaces to be opened or closed off to satisfy the client’s desires. These shutters permit cross ventilation while allowing the house to be secured easily in a hurricane. Sustainability is tackled on a number of fronts. The open plan layout and louver windows allows for natural day-lighting and passive cooling through cross ventilation, removing the need for mechanical air conditioning. Energy requirements are further reduced with reflective roof coverings to minimize heat gain, efficient light fixtures (80% LED), a solar water heater and a 4 Kw photo-voltaic system. Water consumption is addressed by efficient faucets & toilets and a grey water treatment system that reuses the water for toilet flushing. Rainwater is harvested and re-used for irrigation and secondary purposes. The landscaping and pond contribute to a cool micro-climate with semi mature trees and hardy plants suited to the environs.