The off-grid, prefabricated Puuhi Community Space was designed to be environmentally and socially sustainable. The space was conceived by the local villagers and it was built using local materials, local tradespeople and local resources. It is a space for the villages to come together for social gatherings, performances, theater and art.
Designed by architectural studio OOPEAA, Puuhi is completely off grid, with no provision for electricity but has been designed to be easily heated by a wood stove when activities are held in the space.
A lot of the materials used were donations or recycled from local sources, which helped bring the project in on a very small budget. Stones used for foundations are recycled from a burnt down school in a nearby village. The stairs are made from locally felled larch trees, initially intended for use as firewood.
The community space was designed in close collaboration with the local builder so they could hone the best structural solutions and details, as well as modifying the design to suit the availability of donated materials. With the weather restricting the amount of time it is suitable to build in the area, the walls, flooring and roof beams were prefabricated locally by the builder.
The interior walls, floor, verandah and roof were all made from locally sourced, hand sawn Spruce which was treated to suit each use. For example, the interior walls were left untreated and unfinished so the texture adds character to the space. The floor was rubbed with oil soap to prevent dirt from sticking to it. The spruce planks on the exterior walls and roof were treated with black Pine tar to provide protection from the harsh weather conditions.
Social sustainability is a lesser known approach to sustainability but it is becoming more widely understood and adopted. Socially sustainable communities are equitable, diverse, connected, democratic and provide a good quality of life.
– Completely off-grid
– Prefabricated elements optimised the seasonal construction window
– Hand sawn Spruce timber, treated only if required for weather or maintenance
– Wood based insulation used in walls
– Low cost project – materials were donated or recycled from local sources
Even if the building itself is small, it is of great significance to the community. In it, the desire for creating a shared space for the community merges with the view of the architect. The seamless collaboration between the architect, the client and the builder were essential in achieving a successful final result. It was a great pleasure as an architect to be part of such a project initiated by the villagers and created to meet the needs of the community.
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.