Later this month the Madrid Solar Decathlon will welcome the only Japanese entrant, the Omotenashi House designed by students from Chiba University. The house has been designed for two people to lead a self-sufficient lifestyle, incorporating modern technology with inspiration from—and respect for—traditional Japanese architectural practices. Following the earthquake and subsequent Fukushima disaster, Japan has been looking for inspiration to create a low-carbon future. The students have taken a holistic approach, not only utilizing the talents of the architecture faculty, but students of medicine and horticulture as well. Could this design go some way to assist in Japan's intended transition?
The one story, 60 square-meter house draws a lot of inspiration from traditional Japanese tea houses, but attempts to overcome past efficiency problems by using vacuum insulated wall, ceiling and window panels to vastly improve thermal insulation. The living space is enclosed by the Engawa, a verandah-like structure made solely from recycled wood and plastics, with the intention of promoting outdoor living. The roof is covered by 460 solar panels designed to appear like normal tiles. These are deemed sufficient to supply the homes electricity requirements.
Dangling from the roof are a succession of wires, from which the designers intend to grow climbing fruit and vegetables. This acts both as a food supply for the residents and creates a green curtain around the house which aids with privacy, shade and improves the aesthetics of the building.
Further ideas added into the design intended to aid the residents in their daily life include a “veggie factory”, where various salads can be grown under LED lighting in shelving incorporated into one of the walls. A further nod to self-sufficiency can be detected in the choice of a small paddy field instead of a front lawn. It is hoped the residents can grow half of their yearly rice requirements on their doorstep.
Tatami mats have been given a modern day upgrade for the house; these traditional Japanese movable benches are found strewn throughout the home and contain a heat absorbing gel pad. The gel pad solidifies at 15 degrees Celsius and slowly liquifies when absorbing heat as the room temperature rises. Leaving these outside at night and bringing them back inside during the day is a novel solution for aiding in cooling the interior without reliance on air-conditioning and provides comfortable seating at the same time.
“Omotenashi” translates as thoughtfully and sincerely conveying a feeling of consideration to those who you encounter, and it is hoped that the students have managed to embody this intention within the design for the house, promoting a comfortable home while aiding and promoting increased self-sufficiency for the residents.
Via Japan Times