As the Western world become more and more aware of the need to be ‘greener’ and people begin to explore ways to reduce their environmental impact in their day-to-day lives, the houses we live in, how they are built and how they function become increasingly important.
The world of architecture and construction has come through times of plenty; Spain has been the site of many ambitious projects and now looks set to be in for leaner years which, in turn, will require a more cautious approach and surely remind architects of their civil responsibility to design buildings which are sustainable – not only for the environment but also for the society they are going to be serving.
The investment needed for a sustainable project is often the same as for a non-sustainable one
As I discovered when I met the team behind M_SO_ARCHITECTS, sustainable architecture is not only better for the environment; it also uses natural elements to save energy and resources, thereby saving money in the long term for its inhabitants. Margo explained how at the heart of sustainable architecture is the concept of using passive systems to achieve optimal conditions and comfort in the home. This involves making the most of natural sunlight, considering the climate changes, wind and noises the area is subject to, and using the right materials to ensure an effective comfort. ‘‘We have to consider not only the functionality of the house, but also the comfort of its inhabitants and the beauty of a great design. Nobody wants to live in a green but ugly space,’’ Margo added. In passive building design, windows, walls, and floors are made for example to collect, store, and distribute solar energy in the form of heat, to attract solar heat to shady and damp areas, and also to protect from solar radiation, depending on the requirements of the location and the season of the year. It all begins with a comprehensive ‘site analysis’ carried out by the architect before the conception of a project. The requirements will vary from place to place, as will the factors to be taken into consideration. In Mallorca, for instance, some locations will suffer from extremes of damp in the winter and heat in the summer and the architect will need to consider these changes when designing the house so that the inhabitants’ electrical or mechanical requirements are kept to a minimum.
Spain still has a long way to go to catch up with countries such as England, Germany or Switzerland, where national standards have been implemented to monitor and promote energy efficient building but, as Margo at M_SO_ARCHITECTS told me, Spanish architects, like most architects the world over, are increasingly aware of the need for a sustainable foundation to all their work. In Mallorca, thanks to the national state construction codes of practice, the possibilities are growing and it is gradually becoming easier for sustainable architectural techniques to be implemented.
The good news is that the investment needed for a sustainable project is often the same as for a non-sustainable one, and that you will be able to save considerably in energy costs in the long run. Not forgetting the fact that you will be able to achieve levels of comfort and wellbeing in your home that you might never have thought possible.
. . . levels of comfort and wellbeing in your home that you might never have thought possible.
Walking into Margo and Juan’s office in the centre of Palma is like walking into a white oasis of design. The walls are white and almost bare so that ideas can be bounced off them with ease; the desks are clutter-free, so as not to interfere with the creative process.
Margo and Juan have been married for 14 years now, but they have known each other for much longer. Margo is an experienced architect; she studied in Oxford and has worked at different locations across Europe and the United States. Juan is a product designer who specializes in designing lighting and furniture, and together they launched the M_SO_ARCHITECTS brand a year and a half ago. ‘‘We help one another with our projects and respect one another’s opinion – our views are often totally different, which means we are able to give each other honest and constructive criticism.’’ Juan spends most of his time at his workshop in the countryside of Binissalem where he hand makes beautiful light fittings, lamps and furniture, using recycled objects and other sustainable materials. Margo’s work as an architect is very much a vocation. She started working with architects from the age of 14 and soon discovered a desire to unearth intelligent reasons for pursuing the profession. Nowadays she works with a strong philosophy of addressing architecture as a ‘second skin’ and she strongly believes in sustainable architecture as the only way to go: ‘‘If we treat architecture as if it were our own skin not only will we be comfortable and happy in our home, but we will also be respecting the world around us.’’
‘‘I believe beauty can change the world.’’
Together, this charming Mallorcan couple is able to offer clients an honest and personalized service. They start any project with a site analysis, to determine the conditions of the plot of land where the house or building is to be situated. This allows them to identify the best way to design the building, for example: in which direction the house should be facing, what materials are required to ensure the best comfort, etc. They use their international and local knowledge and experience to source the best local materials and to guide and help every client from conception to completion of a project; it goes without saying that the utmost confidentiality and etiquette is maintained throughout. The individual or individuals who are going to end up living in the house are central to every project and their needs and tastes are combined with sustainable techniques, to ensure an end result which is at once functional and beautiful. Margo likes to use literature and art to inspire every project, adding about carrying out high quality architecture: ‘‘I believe beauty can change the world; as humans we need beauty to survive.’’ Architecture should be green but beautiful.
Calle Pere Dezcallar i Net 13, 1º 9º
Palma de Mallorca
Tel. +34 971 903 700