A 100% Brazilian Eco-House

In Madrid, a 100% Brazilian solar house will compete in the Sustainable Home Design Award in Europe.

A group of university students and their professors developed a prototype of a zero-energy house to participate in the Solar Decathlon Europe 2012 competition, to be held in Madrid, Spain next month. The Ekó House was a partnership between the University of São Paulo (USP) and the University of Santa Catarina (UFSC), in collaboration with the universities UNICAMP, UFRJ, UFRN and IFSC.
Before crossing the ocean to be displayed in the competition of autonomous solar houses, the Ekó House can be seen on the campus of IEE-USP in São Paulo, where it will stay until the end of June.

The house has 47 square meters (some 520 sq.ft.) and has a bathroom, bedroom, kitchen, dining room, study area and living room. Despite the defined areas, the only space separated from the rest by walls is the bathroom, the others are part of an integrated area and are separated by elements such as shutters and sliding doors.
This set-up was designed for a couple, but can be adapted to the needs of a couple with children. According to a communication of Team Brazil, the Ekó House was designed very differently compared to conventional Brazilian designs.

It is a zero-energy house, which produces all the energy needed for its operation using the sun as the only energy source. For this, the house has photovoltaic panels to produce electricity and tubes for thermal energy by heating water. The project also hopes to reduce energy expenditure to a minimum by the greatest possible efficiency, both in equipment and in its structure, designed to reduce spending on artificial lighting and thermal conditioning.

And the innovation does not stop there. The residence is built with wood panels with glass wool insulation and also seeks to deal with water in a sustainable way. Therefore rain water is captured and stored, while a composting dry toilet (not requiring the use of water for discharge) and with treatment of other effluents through a system consisting of tanks with filters made from plants.

Inspired by Brazilian culture
The developers claim that Brazilian culture inspired their design, and can be perceived in many ways. The porches, for example, are very common in Brazilian houses, not only as a place to socialise, but also as a buffer zone reducing the entry of the heat into the house.
Inside, the integration of the dining room with kitchen forming the main social area of the house, also refers to the Brazilian habit of gathering in the kitchen. The uses of materials such as wood and bamboo, which can be changed according to where the house is built, reinforce the association with the culture of the region.

The house structure is primarily composed of pieces of certified solid wood and OSB plates (produced through the recycling of scrap wood) that form structural panels with glass wool (which is also produced from recycled glass) inside. Also used is a high performance thermal insulation between the panes and the outer covering, consisting of cemented slabs.  Aluminium, a recyclable and durable material, is also widely used in the house: the constitution of the bearing structure of the photo-voltaics, the bearing structure of the deck and several other structures of the house. Steel is used in the foundation of the house and connecting structural parts. The frames are made of PVC, which ensures a good thermal efficiency and uses 30% recycled material for its production. The windows are high efficiency, being sandwiched with a layer of gas in between.
In addition, the house is designed to be produced in an industrial way.

The Brazilian construction and housing industry urgently needs modernization. The university team hopes to contribute to the development of national options for efficient and sustainable building, reducing the construction period, as well as the production of waste, improve the life cycle of materials, generate local energy and reduce energy consumption by using and reusing materials at the end of the cycle.