Among the many initiatives aimed at preserving and improving the environment, the architecture sector occupies a special place and is very active. That has not always been the case. In fact, the construction of buildings, homes and other infrastructure has generated a significant environmental impact,which in many cases still remains. In order to move forward in a diametrically opposite line, numerous initiatives have emerged from both the public and private spheres, either with the commitment to new materials for building and the innovation of construction processes.
One of these interesting initiatives is found in the Balearic Islands. In the municipality of Sant Ferran, located on the island of Formentera, fourteen houses have been built in which its creators have combined the use of new materials with the rediscovery of traditional construction techniques. The result is beautiful homes that have been able to reduce construction waste and emissions. The secret: the use of seaweed as an insulation system. The project was designed by a team made up of Carles Oliver, Antonio Martín, Joaquín Moyá, Alfonso Reina and Maria Antònia Garcías, and was a national winner of the 2017 Green Solutions Awards in the Low Carbon category.
This project is part of another called Life Reusing Posidonia. One of its main objectives is to demonstrate the feasibility of building a multi-family residential building capable of reducing the associated ecological footprint. Thus, with this model we wanted to reduce CO2 emissions by 50% during construction, reduce waste production by 50%, energy use for home heating and cooling by 75% and water use by 60%. Just some, very ambitious, objectives. Also taking part is The Institute for Social Housing in the Balearic Islands (IBAVI), in collaboration with the University of the Balearic Islands (UIB) and the General Directorate of Natural Environment, Environmental Education and Climate Change.
The construction of these first fourteen homes was the pilot project of a plan that is expected to go much further. Apparently, this first step was a success. In its development, strong attention was paid to the life cycle of all the components used, which resulted in a housing complex consisting of two separate blocks. One of the blocks has six apartments, while the other has eight.
Each of them also has street access and an airy private space. In addition to promoting ventilation and health, all homes have a double side that allows cross ventilation of the interiors.
Throughout the process, several very innovative technological solutions were applied to carry out the project, with an eye towards achieving the objectives set. However, one of the most interesting and that seems to be more promising is the reuse of oceanic Posidonia, a very common plant in the Mediterranean. To be able to use it as thermal insulation for the ceiling, it has been necessary to perform a natural drying process.
“We propose a paradigm shift: instead of investing in a chemical plant located 1,500 km away, we invest the same budget for local unskilled labor, which should extend Neptun grass to dry under the sun and compact it in pallets, achieving 15 centimeters of roof insulation. In addition, it turns out that sea salt acts as a natural biocidal product and is completely organic,” IBAVI affirms.
This project is funded by the European Union, from which it received a grant worth 754,012 euros. As its promoters point out, it aims to be an efficient construction model to achieve the objectives of the Europe 20/20/20 strategy. This along with other meaures, public administrations committed themselves to advancing in the line that all their buildings are of almost zero consumption. Without a doubt, an interesting project that can help overcome the important ecological challenges we face.