Slow Nature Suites , sustainable housing architects, is a project that implements the principles of sustainable architecture as a real and necessary alternative to traditional brick architecture. This project was born from the interest of a young architect, Lluís Raich, in designing houses that were committed to and responsible for the values of sustainable development. During his studies at the University of Valparaiso (Chile) Lluís saw the need to change the model of construction that prevails nowadays. Together with its partner Jorge Matas, they created an innovative initiative that is being highly praised worldwide: prefabricated housing that merges with the environment and has a very ecological impact.
You studied architecture between Spain and Chile, did this experience lead you to gain different perspectives of architecture or was it basically the same? How do you think your stay in Chile influenced your vision and your concept of architecture?
Architecture degrees are studied in a very different ways at the UPC in Barcelona and at the School of Architecture and Design of the PUCV in Valparaiso, Chile. The first one works on a very technical level and the other one is much more creative. One day in 5th year during a legal architecture class, I realized had not yet found the architecture I had been pursuing since I was a child, and I went to Valparaiso to look for it.
My 2 year old stay in Chile helped me reconnect with the profession. New ways of teaching, drawing, projecting, in short, another way of seeing. They trained my eyes. That stay in Chile, and the trips throughout the country left a deep mark on me. The force of nature left its mark on me.
Slow Nature Suites proposes model of architecture that is far from traditional. What is the difference of your Suites with respect to the houses we are currently used to?
During the time of the housing crisis in Spain, I reflected on what I thought could be improved in terms of access to housing. Open budgets, mortgages, indefinite construction periods, used materials, environmental impact... If our lives change so much every 10 years, why not suggest that homes can be mobile or more mobile than the current ones?
Slow Nature Suites was born with the desire to answer as many of these questions as possible.
Whatever type of construction we choose, we cannot escape generating a minimum ecological footprint. Is it really possible to live sustainably in a non-urban environment? To what extent do you think Slow Nature Suites reduce footprint compared to other kinds of housing?
We as a company have the premise of not imposing anything, even environmental awareness. We give the possibility to be as sustainable as possible, but we also adapt to the clients' willingness to be sustainable to the right extent.
Even though zero footprint does not exist, we only use sustainable materials in the construction of our Suites and their foundations. For energy sources, we have customers who are looking for autonomy and self-sufficiency, and customers who just choose to be connected to the general line. The main material used in the construction of the Suites is wood from PEFC-certified forests, a lightweight and easy to transport material, with high performance in terms of both thermal and acoustic insulation. We build in a workshop, so the land on which the Suites are located is not affected by the construction work. We only need 2 to 3 weeks on site. Regarding the foundation, we propose micro-piles systems that leaves no footprint on the ground in contrast to concrete. We think that when the life of a Suite ends, so should its footprint on the terrain. None of our materials will pollute the soil.
Bioclimatic architecture, low impact architecture or other similar models are becoming increasingly popular, especially in Northern European countries. However, in the southern countries, including Spain, they do not seem to take off despite their benefits. What do you think is the reason? Do you think it responds to a lack of ecological awareness, or a lack of knowledge about this type of housing? Is price a determining factor?
I think there are several factors involved. There is no wood building culture in Spain. In northern Europe they have been building their homes out of wood for centuries, it's history etched in their minds. Here, people often associate wood buildings with constructive precariousness. Our job is to explain that we don't make campsite bungalows, our Suites are of much better quality than traditional houses.
In Slow Nature Suites we work with the highest standards of quality, which means we are not the most economic option of the sector, but we are highly competitive considering the quality of our materials and constructions. And we make sure the Suites are perfectly insulated, which allows for the best possible energy efficiency. In order to fight the lack of knowledge about this type of house construction, we also explain the virtues of our building system, which allows you to have your house installed in just 3 months and also to know from day one how much it will cost you without last minute surprises.
SNS has widely praised internationally, and you have been awarded the RTF Award 2014 (Rethinking the Future). What has this award meant for such a young architect, and does this recognition make it easier to land new projects?
At the end of the day awards support work well done. They give credibility to your project and, as we mentioned before, credibility in this sector is very important. We always invite our clients to visit our Suites, to see them and touch them, and if possible to stay in Mas de Torrent, a hotel in the Empordà (Catalonia) where one of our Suites is located. Talking about energy efficiency and all the qualities we offer is difficult, but when you go there and experience it first-hand, you immediately see the quality of our buildings and our distinctive design. To give the reader an idea, a member of the prestigious Relais Chateux company who spent a night in the Mas de Torrent Suite claimed that it was the best acoustically isolated hotel room he had ever been in, to the point where he could hear the silence.
Architecture in Spain has been going through some difficult times in the last decade. According to your experience, what do you think the current situation is? Is the activity recovering?
Nowadays there are many factors influencing the trends in this sector that are above the knowledge and expertise of architects. Activity is picking up somewhat, but it is also true that we do not know whether this growth will be consistent in the medium term. So I can't help you very much...
SNS has joined forces with Ekohunters in their mission to inspire a shift towards a more sustainable and environmentally friendly system. What role do you think architecture can play as a transformative force in the context of the climate crisis in which we live?
Architecture has a great power of transformation, but today the power is actually in the hands of the consumer. I am increasingly convinced that the world is in the hands of what each one of us decides to purchase and use.
As for architecture in particular, it is evident that being aware of the materials we use, the construction processes we choose and the way in which we obtain the energy, influences both those who live in the constructions and the environment in which they are located. In Slow Nature Suites we choose a type of construction that is respectful with the environment and benefites the inside of the house (toxic free), its immediate environment (not polluting the soil, the air...) and the planet in general (for us and for those to come).
That is why it is so important that companies such as Ekohunters and Slow Nature Suites join forces to inspire this shift towards a more sustainable and environmentally friendly system.
It is a pleasure to be able to work with young and talented people like Lluís Raich, who through their work demonstrate the commitment and responsibility necessary to transform society. Find out more about the Slow Nature Suites project and how a modular home will transform your life and also commit yourself to sustainability.
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