Madrid-based design studio CSO Arquitectura has completed Spain’s first Passivhaus-certified nursing home in Camarzana de Tera. Built as an expansion of the nursing home that the firm had completed in 2005, the new addition provides additional bedrooms and stronger connections with the outdoors. The new, airtight building is also equipped with solar panels to power both the old and new buildings.

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aerial view of tan buildings covered in solar panels

Conceived as an “energy machine”, the new nursing home extension boasts a minimal energy footprint thanks to its airtight envelope constructed from a prefabricated wooden framework system. The prefabricated components were made in a Barcelona workshop and were then transported via trucks to the site, where they were assembled in one week. This process reduced costs and construction time and has environmentally friendly benefits that include waste reduction.

Related: Spanish elderly care center wrapped in a pixelated green facade

dining tables and chairs on an enclosed roof
dark chairs in a communal living area with wood-beamed ceilings

The new construction is semi-buried and comprises three south-facing “programmatic bands” linked by a long corridor. The first “band” houses the daytime services and a north-facing greenhouse with planting beds for the residents. The two remaining sections consist of the bedrooms, each of which opens up to an individual terrace and shares access to a communal patio. Exposed wood, large windows and framed views of nature were key in creating a welcoming sense of home — a distinguishing feature that the architects targeted as a contrast to the stereotypical cold feel of institutions and hospitals.

person sitting at table in a room with two large beds
plants growing in a greenhouse

The new nursing home extension is topped with an 18 kW photovoltaic array along with 20 solar thermal panels and rooftop seating. When combined with the building’s airtight envelope, which was engineered to follow passive solar strategies, the renewable energy systems are capable of producing surplus energy, which is diverted to the old building. The Passivhaus-certified extension also includes triple glazed openings, radiant floors, rainwater harvesting and mechanical ventilation equipped with heat recovery. 

+ CSO Arquitectura

Photography by David Frutos via CSO Arquitectura