Sustainable single-family house

Architecture, sustainability and clients as a unit.

Sustainable single-family house

What added value can be generated for a building when architecture, sustainability and the client pursue the same goals is shown by the project in Aarau. From the initial idea to the key handover, this triad was of central importance. The final result is a combination of charm and innovative sustainability. 

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As an architect and owner, Annette Berner has a special connection to this house. Read more in the interview.

GAE provided sustainability services throughout this project’s planning phases. How important was it for you to work with a sustainability consultant?

From my point of view and that of the team, it was crucial to have GAE as a sustainability consultant by our side from the outset. Starting with the initial sketches and variant studies, it meant we could discuss and weigh up the sustainable and, in this case, technical issues and aspects. This holistic approach also led us to reject a replacement new building (a volume of 2 – 3 units would have been possible) relatively quickly.

Despite the lack of a label, the construction method is both sustainable and innovative. How is this perceived by the tenants?

The tenants did not primarily cite sustainability as a decisive point, but they loved the charm of the old building combined with the spaciousness of the new one and the attention to detail coupled with the modern and technically intelligent solutions. In the end, we managed to create a very balanced, natural indoor climate with clay plaster, clay casein flooring, wooden ceilings, wood panelling on the walls, solid beech parquet flooring, wall and floor heating, free cooling’ and natural ventilation of the loggia without the need for much technology.

What challenges were there in terms of utilisation and available space? Did you have to make any compromises? If so, where?

Although the plot was very underused, the existing building in the middle of it was already fairly well organised. The rear and presenting section of the plot is relatively narrow and the new footprint was not allowed to exceed the specified green space figure. We wanted the extension to take a step back and the old building to assume and retain the leading role in terms of design and volume. Turning the flat roof of the extension into a usable terrace was discussed for a long time, but in the end we did not implement it for the aforementioned reasons and others.

The term sustainability” is on everyone’s lips. What does sustainable construction mean to you?

For me personally, it means leaving buildings for the next generation that are easily renewable, expandable, refurbishable or, if necessary, dismantlable and recyclable. In this case, my father’s house will eventually become a house for our son (and his family).

What would you advise owners of a house if they were planning a renovation or extension?

It is important to put together a good team comprising various disciplines. Architecture plays the most formative role, but it should be supplemented from the outset with sustainable, technical, legal and economic aspects. The selection of the team as well as the initial sketches and variants require the most time. There should be a lot of trial and error, comparison and discussion in the first phase to then narrow down the choice, knowing that the decision is thought-through and informed. Afterwards, lean and efficient models can be selected, depending on the task and the complexity. If the project involves renovation, never forget that not everything can be planned in advance and that some things are only seen and solved on the construction site. In the case of an extension (or renovation), you should consider carefully whether the house can be occupied during this time.
A motivated and well-connected team that provides the owner with proactive and knowledgeable support right through to the final decision is key to the ultimate success of the project.

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