A natural home, or what kind ofhome? The duo of architects from the mech.build studio, Anna Zawadzka-Sobieraj and Jan Dowgiallo, have a track record of ecological, energy-saving and passive contemporary single-family houses, in which environmental care and the health of their occupants are paramount. Also in the design of the house for two families in the village of Łubno, the designers relied on natural materials, wooden construction and ecological technologies to create a durable and healthy residential building.
A modest one-story block on a rectangular plan, under a gabled roof, on an area of one hundred and twenty square meters, houses a house for two families. The two couples' philosophy of life, the desire to be close to nature and live in an ecological house allowed them to create a minimalist building based on a lightweight wooden frame, which in the future, when it is no longer in use, will become a shelter for animals and plants to eventually return to the earth.
bird's eye view
Ola Kloc: What was the priority for investors?
Jan Dowgiałło: The investors are two couples who are friends with each other. It was very important to create a common living area and at the same time take into account the individual needs of each family. Therefore, a common living room was located on the first floor. While the private parts of the house are already divided according to the specific guidelines of both couples.
first floor plan
The first, feeling comfortable in spaces with slants, took up most of the attic, which also accommodated work and meeting space. She gave up her own kitchen in favor of permanent use of the common area.
The other couple needed to be able to receive guests and seclude themselves from the world - hence they included a small kitchenette in their section and limited the number of windows on the first floor.
Both families wanted to minimize floor space for reasons of cost and living philosophy, as well as healthy, ecological solutions and as close contact with nature as possible. Hence the appearance of natural materials.
Ola: You called the building a natural home for two families. The name itself raises questions - howdid you functionally solve the space to accommodate two families on 120 m²? What makes the house natural?
Jan: The philosophy of sharing space to minimize construction and operating costs, as well as environmental impact, allowed us to accommodate all necessary functions in a small area. Such an approach requires a lot of mutual trust from the residents, but the families, who have been friends for years, had no doubts on this issue. It took a considerable amount of time to accommodate all personal and common spaces in a small block, and the house shrank in the design process by almost half from the original version. Installations managed to fit in the roof top, without wasting floor space.
The house is designed almost entirely from natural materials - a wooden frame filled with highly insulating cubes of compressed straw. The facades and roof are covered with wood, and the walls inside are finished with clay plaster, which regulates humidity. A house made this way provides a pleasant, healthy microclimate inside. During the construction process, there is no waste that is difficult to dispose of - all leftovers can be reused or composted.
The life cycle of such a house is similar to that of a large tree or old wooden or clay huts. When the house is no longer in use, the natural materials slowly decompose, providing shelter for plants, animals and fungi, until they eventually return to the ground. This does not mean that a natural house is less durable than one built with other technologies - inhabited and cared for, it can last just as long.
Ola: Both the roof and facades are covered with larch shingles, what advantages, besides aesthetic value, does such material bring?
Jan: Wood was initially considered as the most durable of the natural finishing materials only on the elevations. After finding an inexpensive contractor in the area, the investors decided to also cover the roof with it. The wood smells beautiful and ages slowly over the years, slowly acquiring a gray natural color. Strongly resinous larch is durable compared to other types of wood. This is especially important on roof surfaces exposed to strong water and sunlight.
The roof and facades are covered with larch shingles
Ola: What was the most difficult part of this project, and what are you most satisfied with?
Jan: Every house we design using natural materials with a negative carbon footprint gives us a great deal of satisfaction. We are aware that with our work we positively influence the world around us in a broader context than, of course, the very important personal needs of our clients.
It was difficult to combine the individual requirements of the two families and to fit within the budget. Several versions of the project were created, each successive version increasingly truncated in terms of space and functionality, not least because of the pandemic's rising prices for building materials and labor.
We had to play the role of mediators all the time, listening to the needs of each party and proposing necessary compromises. The ties that united all the residents turned out to be so strong that the project was happily completed.
Ola: Thank you for the interview.