Karin is a textile designer working for Boller Textile and Manfred is an engineer at PLANFORUM specializing in ecologically sound heating systems. These two just made their dream house in a small Swiss town with their architecht Baenninger + Partner. Together their house is a dreamy testament to the rare combination of good and responsible design.
Their goal is to make a home that draws the least resources possible. Their steps toward achieving this: reducing water consumption, reducing necessary heating of air and of water.
Rainwater is collected from the roof in a tank that can store 3,000 liters. This water is used for clothes washing and flushing toilets.
The house is two stories. The first floor is cast concrete. The second floor is built from prefab parts. In Switzerland the dream of highly flexible, high quality prefab building is very real. To the prefab walls and ceiling Manfred and Karin added even more insulation- giving the walls a total thickness of just over 2 feet. Manfred’s firm calculated the perfect relation ship between having windows large enough to act as passive solar collectors but not too large as to lose heat unnecessarily. Together these this means that the house has very little heat leakage.
Next to the second floor windows are two solar water heaters. Their captured heat is used both to heat water and to heat air.
The air for the house is circulated underground around the house before it enters. This means that in both summer and winter it reaches a temperature of around 60 degrees. From here the air is brought to a heat exchange were it is mixed with interior air which is in constant circulation and also draws stored solar heat from the water.
Switzerland is cold. I visited in August. While Brooklyn was still steamy with summer, I sometimes had to wear a sweater at Karin and Manfred’s. In winter it really lives up to the cliché of an alpine snow filled environment. Last winter they have only had to fire up their wood burning stove for 4 hours every third day.
The air is constantly circulating and not dried out by a furnace. The result is pleasant and humane. This is a world free of hangnails and dry noses.
Now on top of all this eco tech stuff they have used a rich material palette of black slate, light wood floors, concrete, and walls that are either white or a rich red used by Le Corbusier. The Corbi red has lots more pigment than the average paint and has a warmth and depth that balances raw concrete walls perfectly.
Karin and Manfred have built not only a great home for themselves, but also a testament to well designed, beautiful and ecologically sound homes that respect not only the environment, but also the needs and tastes of their occupants.