“Going green is about respect and about eco systems living in harmony without invasion. Modular architecture – creating a building with what you need when you need it – allows for this”.
Ecomo home is the brain child of Pietro Russo (pictured), an Italian born architect who grew up in Luxembourg and studied in Brussells, Belgium. During his studies, he took part in the Erasmus student exchange programme based in Copenhagen, Denmark. The students were posted in Thailand and Montreal.
In Thailand, they worked on modular housing schemes built with shipping containers modified for comfort. They were connected and stacked to create modular, efficient spaces for a fraction of the cost, labour and resources of more conventional materials.
From containers to modular homes
Work on these projects taught Pietro a great deal about space efficiency and gave him the freedom to construct buildings using panels. A standard container’s inner dimensions are 2.4 meters in width and 5.9 m in length. One has to be very creative with the use of space with such limitations. Pietro came to South Africa to work on his thesis in social housing at Wits University and then returned to Belgium to complete his degree in 2003. Moving to South Africa, with its abundance and diversity in wild life and nature he wanted to encapsulate this in his architecture.
The modular concept he had worked on 9 years before had sparked a desire to develop a building that lives harmoniously and inconspicuously with and within nature. This is how Ecomo home came to be launched in 2010 at Design Indaba in Cape Town. There are 6 of these innovative structures built in the Cape Town area.
The ecomo home is a compact home designed for modern, simple living in collaboration with nature. The design is based on basic sustainable, green design principles. It offers a low-maintenance, modern, well-designed green housing alternative.
You decide how green your home is
The basic three elements – eat, sleep, play – can be arranged to suit a person’s needs, or some of these elements can simply be added at a later stage. This offers greater freedom to simply increase the size of the house when needed. One could even use this for a green office, studio or gallery.
Through the use of renewable solar energy, the ecomo house can be constructed independent of electricity lines. This reduces the running costs to the owner and gives you wider choice as to where in nature you would like to live. In an age of sensory overload it is important for many to be able to escape the concrete jungle and enjoy time in natural surroundings. This home makes it possible for a wider group of people to do this in a space that is earth and human friendly.
These homes also enable the urban dweller to respond and adapt more easily to their changing needs.
Green, beautiful and soft on earth
Here we have a responsible approach to intrinsic design aspects and to the environment in which we live. I like the way in which you can combine having a beautiful home with living responsibly within a contemporary international quality setting.
I was rather curious about the costs and realise that, unlike with container homes, nothing is done on the cheap here. Pietro responded:
“We don’t have a price list as such. Since we broke down every architectural element into components, the prices vary a lot according to the different components you choose. Just to give you an idea, we are looking at 250,000R (25,000 Euros) per module (25m2) depending on the components and finishes. That would come to a price 10,000R per square meter.”
“Also included is from foundation to structure, outside cladding (cedar), windows, plumbing, electrical, LED lights, bathroom fittings, bamboo flooring and a full kitchen (without appliances). We do not take shortcuts with waterproofing, insulation, the sliding glass doors mechanism and the overall quality of the finishes though.”
“A very important factor to our concept is not only that we build much quicker, so you can take occupation much earlier (on average 6-8 weeks) but also the fact that we build 80% off site. This means that we spend little time on site and are very accurate with the time frame.”
What makes this home green?
- They don’t cast a full concrete slab, but put the structure on stilts in order to touch the natural environment as little as possible
- Rainwater is caught in water tanks to re-use as household water or irrigation water
- A solar geyser and solar panels are installed, if that’s what the client wants
- They use LED downlights, cook with gas and do as much as possible in order to use as little energy as possible
- Double glazing can even be offered for your windows
- They use materials coming from sustainable resources and also use a lot of bamboo
- They use insulation made from recycled material or natural fibres
- Sewage water is cleaned to 90% to re-use as irrigation water
- Minimum material waste is created due to the modular design around the available size of timber and other material
Construction wise, they use a light weight steel frame on pile foundation and a steel structure on top. Cladding is Cedar wood. All homes have a flat roof (5% slope) with built in gutters for collection of rainwater.
Security wise they have a whole system of sliding louvers – doors which can be completely locked up. These elements are used not only for security, but also for privacy, wind and sun protection.
Ecomo Home is based in Cape Town, but deliver worldwide.