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On The Coast Of Portugal Sustainable Practice And New Technology Helped Reimagine Two Ruins As Eco Houses

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Name
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Houses Etosoto Cabo Espichel
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On a rugged headland on the south-western tip of the Setubal Peninsula in Portugal, Studio Combo has transformed two derelict houses into low impact spaces of quiet calm and beauty.

Cabo Espichel is a wild and beautiful stretch of coastline, characterized by looming cliff faces and plains of grass and native flowers. Here, a Paris-based architecture firm took two buildings in ruinous condition, and using local materials and new technology, reimagined them as the forerunner to a not yet realized eco-hotel.

While hardwoods are usually chosen in building because of their durability; they also have a slower growth rate, meaning that they’re generally less sustainable than fast-growing softwood plants. Norwegian company Kebony has created a new form of environmental technology that provides an alternative for those seeking endangered hardwood products. They treat softwood in furfuryl alcohol, a waste bi-product that occurs in the processing of sugarcane. Upon heating, the liquid transforms to furan resin that combines with the cell structure of the wood to increase its strength, while also making it impervious to rot.

Studio Combo utilized locally sourced pine—a softwood—that has been treated via this process to reconstruct the frame of each house, and to clad their exteriors. Inside, the walls, floors, and ceilings have been completed using locally produced eucalyptus. These veneers are polished, and the warmth of their coloring permeates the minimally adorned interiors of the two buildings; the larger of which houses multiple bedrooms, an office space, kitchen, bathrooms and a lounge space, and the smaller, which houses two bedrooms with ensuites.

Both buildings are 100% energy self-sufficient, powered by solar panels that are situated in the surrounding fields. Heating and cooling are managed using a heat exchanger, and all greywater is treated and reused for agricultural purposes. The surrounding land has been left deliberately as is; allowing the wildflowers of Setubal the space to bloom, and the buildings to be embraced by the landscape as nature intended.

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All images © Guillaume Guérin