News Home & Design Bioclimatic Restoration of 1940s House Is Inspired by the 'Urban Forest' An old house is overhauled to make it healthier and more comfortable. By Kimberley Mok Kimberley Mok Twitter Writer McGill University Cornell University Kimberley Mok is a former architect who has been covering architecture and the arts for Treehugger since 2007. Learn about our editorial process Published April 11, 2022 02:00PM EDT Fact checked by Katherine Martinko Fact checked by Katherine Martinko Twitter University of Toronto Katherine Martinko is an expert in sustainable living. She holds a degree in English Literature and History from the University of Toronto. Learn about our fact checking process Milena Villalba Share Twitter Pinterest Email News Environment Business & Policy Science Animals Home & Design Current Events Treehugger Voices News Archive Whether it's converting underused parking spaces into urban infill housing or remodeling existing apartments into new, exciting places to live, designers around the world are finding innovative ways to preserve and rehabilitate housing that is already there, rather than demolishing it and increasing the amount of embodied carbon that's out there. In other words, the carbon emissions that come with extracting, producing, and transporting new building materials. That's why the greenest building may be the one that's already standing, and Spanish architecture firm El Fil Verd seems to have gotten the memo with their recent overhaul of a single-family house dating back to the 1940s in Barcelona, Spain. Using natural materials and bioclimatic principles, the Ca L'Àgata house is a great example of how careful consideration of local climate conditions and locally available materials like cork can help to create a home that is now more energy-efficient, better insulated, and healthier. The redesigned house nevertheless retains its original character, while inside, the layout has been remade to better suit the clients' needs. The two-story main house was originally constructed with baked clay brick load-bearing walls and baked clay brick vaults, some of which were repaired as needed. Prior to redoing the layout, the architects reinforced part of the existing structure, in addition to replacing some of the wooden beams, which had been badly damaged by a wood borer infestation. To solve the humidity issues that were affecting the ground floor, the designers cut into the base of the walls to add drainage and to waterproof them, in addition to adding cork insulation in the walls and a ventilated slab on the ground floor. The exterior of the home is also clad in heat-treated cork panels, which have been fabricated to have an eye-catching and tactile pattern. Milena Villalba The updated layout now has the main rooms facing the southern façade, in order to maintain a visual link with the home's courtyard, which has a small fountain that collects rainwater and a peaceful stand of trees that function like an "urban forest" providing natural shading, thus passively regulating the home's interior temperature. The roof has also been altered with new landscaping and a solarium. As the architects explain: "The daily view of the small urban deciduous forest keeps alive the connection of one’s senses with the immutable rhythms of nature. An attempt to heal the soul from the alterations caused by the frenetic urban daily life." Milena Villalba Much of the interior is clad with cork panels, which have been painted with silicate-based paint to preserve their breathability. Milena Villalba The old pavilion has now been transformed into a library and study, due to its north-facing orientation. Milena Villalba Much of the interior aesthetic and furnishings are also inspired by nature and the idea of the "urban forest." For instance, the warmer tones of wood, cork, terracotta, and structural corten steel (aka weathering steel) are used throughout the project in order to recall this concept. Milena Villalba Custom-built furniture pieces are made with wood species like oak, linden, and walnut and finished with natural oils and waxes to improve indoor air quality. Besides that, construction waste was also reduced as much as possible, by favoring repairing and readapting elements like the home's main staircase, or repairing the brick in the ceiling and walls of the kitchen, rather than building anew. Milena Villalba In addition, cork offcuts from the exterior cladding were ground up and reused inside the walls as insulation. These strategies not only have a positive environmental impact but also make the home more healthy for the occupants, say the architects: "The almost total absence of volatile organic compounds, the control of air quality and indoor humidity and the control of electric and electromagnetic fields together guarantee optimal health conditions." Milena Villalba In the end, the project is a wonderful example of how existing housing stock can be overhauled and updated to create beautiful, new, and energy-efficient living spaces, with a certain sensitivity to long-term impacts on the environmental and personal level. As the designers explain: "The end result of these interventions is a contemporary home that honours its origins and remains connected with them, offering its occupants very high levels of comfort and constant integration with natural elements." To see more, visit El Fil Verd. View Article Sources "Ca l'Àgata." El Fil Verde.