A good example of a bioclimatic house in Villa de Leyva, Colombia. Traditional architecture made in stone, wood and bahareque
What is bioclimatic architecture?
It is called to those buildings which use the natural advantages of their environment and surroundings to obtain comfort and energy savings. It is achieved through an optimal ventilation, natural lighting, isolation, low water consumption and being environmentally friendly.
No doubt Álvaro and Maria Teresa’s house comply with those conditions to be considered a Bioclimatic House. It was designed and built following those principles. Built with natural materials obtained locally and using traditional building technics like the walls of bahareque (wattle and daub).
What is bahareque (wattle and daub)?
Bahareque, bajareque, bareque or wattle and daub is a traditional way of building walls. It is made of interlaced branches of wood or bamboo, to form a flat structure covered and filled with a blend of mud, clay and straw. The wood gives structure and strength while the mud contributes to isolation, thanks to its thermal inertia and its capacity to absorb heat. In some way, humidity and temperature are naturally controlled softening those outside.
It is obtained a good comfort inside besides it can also absorb bad smells and toxic particles.
It also has a good seismic behaviour very important in many areas.
Such building technique was and still is broadly used in South America, mainly in Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela and Panamá.
In Perú, it is known with the name of quincha (wall, in quechua) and is present also in Pre-Columbian architecture.
However, it is not exclusive of America. They can be seen in all Europe, including in the Tudor architecture of the XVI Century, or in the Middle East and Africa in buildings older than 6.000 years.
Villa de Leyva
Villa de Leyva is a village of Colombia located at about 2.100 m above the sea level, in the Eastern Andes. Founded by the Spaniards in the XVI Century, it is considered one of the prettiest and best preserved colonial village in Colombia. It has one of the biggest squares in South America with about 1,4 ha.
It counts with important paleontological deposits from the Cretaceous Period. That area was an ancient sea before the lifting of the Andes mountains because of the Continental Drift.
In Villa de Leyva, we find two different climates, one dry, almost desert at the South of town and another cold and wet closer to higher mountains typical of the Andes moorlands.
Álvaro and Maria Teresa’s Bioclimatic House
It is located at the North of Villa de Leyva, in the cold and wet area, near the Iguaque river, at about 2.500 m over the sea level. It is at the skirts of the Eastern Andes which reach in that area 3.400 m hight.
Its constructions faced some challenges starting with the location in a piece of land of 16.000 m2 sloped with some water ways over and underneath.
In the higher part of the land, closer to the entrance from the road, the vegetal ground cover was higher than 2 m, so they have to choose an inner place farther away, costing more the water piping and electricity lines.
The worst enemy for a building made of bahareque is humidity.
It was a priority to isolate the whole construction from water affectation. For the surface water, it was built a canal to divert and conduct it to a reservoir. Such reservoir has become a nice pond surrounded by papyrus and flowers with fish and frogs.
It was necessary to build a canal underneath to collect the underground waters to avoid passing by the house and so keep it dry from the ground. Such canal connects with the surface waters beyond the reservoir to discharge on to the nearby stream.
Altogether with a good roof made of canes, clay and tiles protect the building from the rains and the high ground humidity.
The bioclimatic house is formed by 3 buildings attached one to another. The social building counts with a big salon, the dining room, and the kitchen in one piece with wide windows to the South with the view of the garden and reservoir.
The combination of traditional building technics, natural materials, and a modern design surprise the visitors.
The architecture maximises natural light and crossed ventilation that minimise the consumption of artificial light. It looks like a chalet of Northern Europe or the Alpes.
The other building has sleeping rooms and a bathroom, made of bahareque walls and a wooden roof with tiles.
Both buildings are connected through a covered hall in glass serving as a big entrance hall with beautiful views.
Such complex was thought for a big family with children to enjoy weekends and holidays in a great natural ambience.
It is still possible to recover and keep those building traditional technics using local natural materials, applying today’s designs to obtain a high level of comfort with a minimal environmental impact, energy, and water savings.
Climate change affect all of us and so involve us to take all necessary actions to change that suicide trend that led us to kill the ecosystems and life.
Construction, architecture, urban design has a great environmental impact as they affect the energy consumption, public transport, and the use of private vehicles.
We must review our model of city, work, transport, and lifestyle to drastically reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, water consumption and finally our greedy appetite of buying products which is harming so badly our environment.
Such change of trend begins also with us.