2022

MCHAP

No Footprint House (NFH)

A-01 (A Company / A Foundation)

Ojochal, Costa Rica

December 2018

PRIMARY AUTHOR

Oliver Schütte

CONTRIBUTING AUTHOR

Marije van Lidth de Jeude, Ronald Carvajal, José Pablo González, Misael Rodríguez, Mauricio Rodríguez, Rafael Cañas, Pablo Mora, Hernán Mora, Luuc van Wezel

CLIENT

Confidential

PHOTOGRAPHER

Fernando Alda

OBJECTIVE

The house in Ojochal has been developed as a prototype for serial production, based on a larger toolbox of residential typologies. It was prefabricated in the Central Valley of Costa Rica and transported to the target location on one single truck. The process of making and inhabiting the prototype created valuable experience to optimize the series. In its initial phase, the NFH comes in three different pre-designed sizes that can be auto-configured with regards to the internal distribution and connections, material finishes and desired level of services: from “tiny” (36m2) to mid-size (81m2) and family home (108m2). Each building is customized from a catalogue of prefabricated components, the first of its kind in Central America. The selection of all elements and materials is based on a thorough investigation regarding origin, processing, and environmental footprint. Component options that form part of the NFH catalogue include structural wood and steel, different types of louvres and perforated panels for the facades, bamboo and wood ceilings or floors, as well as a series of mineral, synthetic and natural finishes for walls and furniture pieces. They can be chosen according to the specific needs and likes of each client. Fully customized configurations that are based on the systemic design of the project can be produced and have already been delivered to different locations in Costa Rica. Several iterations of the pre-designed typologies are currently being constructed. The structural wood system of the NFH offers an option for a fully “home-grown” building in Costa Rica, it has been developed by A-01 in collaboration with a Swiss-Costa Rican company called Novelteak. Solutions like this one are based on a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) that was made for the overall project. The LCA of the NFH was first presented at the United Nations conference for climate change in 2019, it forms a roadmap to continuously improve the performance of the overall project.

CONTEXT

The No Footprint House (NFH) is located in Ojochal, a small village at the edge of the vast tropical rain forests along the South Pacific coast of Costa Rica. Placed in a humid tropical climate along the iconic Whale Bay (Bahía Ballena), the building responds to its surrounding habitat by passive climate control through natural ventilation and solar shading. The NFH is organized around a central service core, which includes all machinery, intelligence, closets, bathrooms, kitchen and laundry area. The compression of utilities in one compact unit enables an open floor plan all around the core. Moreover, it contributes to the building efficiency in terms of assembly, maintenance and usage. Additional furniture pieces are “plugged” into the double-layered facade, which is created by the vertical structural columns and the inclined outer enclosures. The inclination decreases direct impact of sunlight and precipitation, protecting the elevated floorplan from overheating and splashing water. Façade panels can be opened or closed individually in order to regulate views and exposure, augment or reduce air flows, create privacy and security. They convert interior to exterior spaces and play with the dynamic among nature and the built environment, one of the key features of tropical architecture.

PERFORMANCE

In Ojochal, the NFH-108 was built as a floating steel structure with wooden finishes. It is based on a structural grid size of 12x9 meters, which contains a combined living and dining area, two bathrooms, two bedrooms and a multifunctional terrace. The private rooms can be closed off through different layers of glass sliders and “curtain walls” in order to allow for changing degrees of spatial separation or social integration. The upper section of the building remains permanently open in order to assure unobstructed air flows and cross-ventilation. Panels of mosquito netting prevent insects from entering these “cocoons”. The house is connected to the public water and energy grid, which is powered almost entirely by renewable resources in Costa Rica. In sum, this proved to the most sustainable solution overall. Water is heated locally through solar power, which is harvested on top of the roof. Auto-sufficient building configurations are available for off-grid locations, as well as a completely de- and remountable kit of parts. The project is designed to integrate with its natural surroundings and minimize the impact of construction on the environment at affordable cost. The prefabricated series offers a wide range of adjustable and replicable solutions to cater for a broad customer segment. The NFH seeks to attain comprehensive sustainability in terms of its environmental, economic, social and spatial performance.