Haute Écologie: A tony residence near Athens combines glitz and green pldp architects

Posted on September 21, 2010

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Best Green Houses
pldp architects
By David Sokol,Via:greensource.construction.com

Does this house look familiar? The Kavouri Residence, perched on a 150-foot cliff overlooking the historic port of Athens in the outlying town of Kavouri, Greece, helped inaugurate the new Discovery Network channel Planet Green when it began broadcasting in April 2008. Yet “World’s Greenest Houses” paraded the building across America’s television screens without citing the architect. In this month’s Best Green House, we give credit…

 

Photo courtesy pldp architects

The creators of the Kavouri Residence are Sergio Palleroni and Margarette Leite, the husband-and-wife partners of the Austin, Texas- and Portland, Oregon-based pldp architects…

 

Photo courtesy pldp architects

Architects as well as educators now teaching at Portland State University, Palleroni and Leite are perhaps best known for socially responsible work done under the banner of pldp and of BaSiC Initiative, a design-build community outreach program affiliated with multiple schools…

Photo courtesy pldp architects

The homeowners of the dramatic Kavouri Residence site, a pair of photographers, first learned of Palleroni and Leite through this body of work. Attending a wedding in Mexico, the married couple stayed in a pldp-designed house adjacent to a BaSiC Initiative-designed library and weaving workshop, and quickly decided to hire pldp for their own project…

 

Photo courtesy pldp architects

Intended to replace the dilapidated home of the wife’s grandfather, the Kavouri Residence—or, more specifically, its budget—bears little resemblance to pldp’s do-good works. Yet architect and client used the extravagant resources for achieving high standards of sustainability and execution, rather than ostentatious or energy-gulping display. “The building ends up being very simple, but there’s a lot of thought about how it fit into the site, the views it had, and the extraordinary selection of materials,” Palleroni says…

Photo courtesy pldp architects

Like Greek temples and vernacular coastal homes, the Kavouri Residence looks out toward the port and the Acropolis. Fully completed last year, it stands exactly on the footprint of the old homestead, and reuses a sizable portion of that structure…

Photo courtesy pldp architects

“We took all the materials after the excavation, sorted it out for earth and clay content (there’s probably 3 percent cement in there), and made rammed-earth floors,” Palleroni points out,…

Photo courtesy pldp architects

The material was laid carefully on top of radiant heating and cooling pipes, and the results have the appearance of old leather…

Photo courtesy pldp architects

They are finished simply in linseed oil, because, Palleroni also notes, “finishes are where a lot of the contaminants are.” …

Photo courtesy pldp architects

In another example of reuse, an old stone wall is incorporated into the photography studio adjacent to the house…

Photo courtesy pldp architects

Bordering those elegant floors, the house rises on a concrete frame filled in with Porotherm, a honeycomb brick produced in Austria. The brick’s cellular construction earns it an R35 rating, but still allowed local masons to erect the house according to tradition…

Photo courtesy pldp architects

“We put a rigid layer of insulation over the structural columns, so they were equally insulated,” Palleroni adds. “ Basically, if you shut all the windows and doors, the interior and exterior could be totally isolated from each other.”…

Photo courtesy pldp architects

The tight envelope places that much less stress on the hot- and cold-water heating and cooling systems, which are fed almost entirely by a rooftop solar hot water system and from two submerged rainwater cisterns located near the kitchen, respectively…

Photo courtesy pldp architects

Of course, the Kavouri Residence isn’t intended for self-containment. Configured around an internal courtyard and punctuated with clerestory windows all around, it begs to be unfurled into the landscape…

Photo courtesy pldp architects

And just as the photographers’ kids easily skip from deep, low window sills into the courtyard, or down the terraced landscape that surrounds house and studio, so breezes from the harbor of Athens dart and tumble through the building.
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