An eco-friendly architectural solution to quarantining during the pandemic has popped up in Barcelona’s Collserola park. A team of students and researchers from the Institute of Advanced Architecture of Catalonia (IAAC) Valldaura Labs recently completed The Voxel, a solar-powered “quarantine” cabin built entirely of hyper-local structural CLT in just 5 months. The cabin accommodates a single occupant in a space that not only offers comfortable self-confinement but also showcases the potential of a circular bio-economy in construction.

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staggered dark wood cabin surrounded by forest

The Voxel, short for volumetric pixel, was designed and built from April to August 2020 as part of the IAAC’s immersive Master in Advanced Ecological Buildings and Bio-cities (MAEBB) program. A team of 17 students and five volunteers from 15 countries built the cabin using 40 Aleppo Pine trees felled within a radius of less than a kilometer from the construction site and processed at the nearby Valldaura Labs carpentry facility. The hundreds of resulting pine lamellas were individually catalogued to allow for accurate tracing back to the original source tree before they were pressed into over 30 CLT panels used for the cabin’s 12-square-meter structure.

Related: Prefab Danish home was built from CLT and weathered steel in just 3 days

person standing beneath loft inside wood cabin
raw wood cabin interior with built-in desk and small toilet cubby

Instead of metal connections, the design team used lap joints and wooden dowels to fasten together the CLT panels to further reduce the project’s carbon footprint. A layer of cork insulation is sandwiched between the structural frame and rain-screen panels made from waste material produced during the CLT production process. The exterior panels were also charred with the Japanese shou sugi ban technique for increased durability. “These off-cuts were turned into a facade that showcases the organic complexity of the tree that is usually hidden in most wooden constructions,” the design team said. 

person writing while sitting at long wood desk
elevated bed near large window overlooking forest

The “quarantine” cabin is equipped with three solar panels, independent battery storage as well as a sustainable water system that collects rainwater, recycles gray water and treats black water within a self-contained biogas system.

+ IAAC Valldaura Labs

Photography by Adrià Goula via IAAC Valldaura Labs

dark wood cabin on a hill