Architects Diana Salvador and Javier Mera have designed for themselves a refuge from city life called Huaira Cabin, nestled next to a river on an orange, banana and cocoa farm in Ecuador. Their aim was to create a retreat with a negative carbon footprint which creatively solved the site’s most significant design challenges – keeping cool in a hot humid climate and protecting against heavy rain for most of the year.
The strategies used in this carbon negative cabin were simple ‘low tech’ and low cost strategies. To protect against flooding, the home was raised off the ground on gabions, which are cages filled with rocks. The void underneath the house traps cool air which is used for ventilation and to cool the interior. Double walls, made up of Tetra Pak on the exterior and plywood on the interior, allow cool air to circulate through these layers via perforations in the walls and floor.
The bathing experience in this home is like no other, with a cantilevered glass box providing the chance to shower outdoors, looking out over the lush vegetation.
At the opposite end of the cabin a full height glass wall has oversized bifold doors which open out to a protected deck. A large operable skylight provides expansive views of the sky and can be closed to shade the interior and keep the cabin cool.
This small footprint home, of only 40 sqm, makes full use of it’s compact space by being tucking a mezzanine sleeping area over the kitchen and is accessed by a metal staircase which can be slid against the wall when not in use. This opens up the ground floor area and allows for a more flexible use of the space.
– Roof and external cladding made from Tetra Pak corrugated sheets
– Main structure is prefabricated plywood
– The plywood has been left exposed internally
– The footings are stone-filled gabions
– Materials were selected for their low-carbon footprint
– All materials can be recycled or reused at the end of the building’s life
– Naturally ventilated using cross flow ventilation
– Large skylight provides abundant natural light
– Skylight has a retractable cover which can provide shade to the interior and keeps the cabin cool
– Carbon negative cabin
Huaira becomes a constructive system itself, a set of techniques and decisions for a problem that needed to be solved, the sum of multiple simple processes that solve a great complexity. Comparing it with a conventional construction system, Huaira obtains an encouraging result where the carbon footprint is negative, sequestering 3360 kg of carbon and emitting 1679 kg.
The greatest contribution of the Huaira system is to generate local technology by itself and, simultaneously to transform the space into experiences linked with imperceptible details of life.
Nadine is the founder and editor of Eco Edition and founder of the Eco Edition Design School. She’s an experienced interior designer, sustainable materials consultant, speaker and serial home renovator.