Energy Box Is an Earthquake-Proof Passive House Built of Cross-Laminated Timber

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©. Pierluigi Bonomo

Most of the homes in Northern Italy are built of masonry, and thousands were damaged or destroyed in the 2009 earthquake. Over 4,000 of them have been rebuilt in cross-laminated timber (CLT); there are five factories turning the stuff out in northern Italy alone. (see Cross Laminated Timber is Ready for Prime Time) It's wonderful stuff, made from a renewable resource that sequesters carbon for the life of the building, and with properly engineered connections is earthquake resistant.


© Pierluigi Bonomo

Architect Pierluigi Bonomo has used CLT to replace a damaged brick house. He has created a new box inside of the perimeter of leaving remnants of the previous building. The architect writes in architectese google-translated from Italian:

Some traces preserved perimeter wall, remembering the material and the shape of the pre-existence, become a boundary enclosing the "new home": a wooden box-like body lowered into this void, distinctive and recognizable as a sign language and technology of today. The footprints of the stone walls, as a memorable photo you blurs progressively mediate the transition between the material and semantic "heavy" and indelible memory and the aspiration to a better future, translated in the light of the "new" with safe technologies , efficient and low environmental impact.

© Pierluigi Bonomo

It's built to Passivhaus standards; according to Designboom:

The integration of bio-climatic 'passive' strategies and 'active' systems helps to reduce the heating demand to 7 kwh/m2year. a photovoltaic ventilated facade, displayed on the southeast elevation, is visually contrasting to the natural wood finish in the planks. paying reference to its past the reuse of demolished materials - stones, steel and wooden purlins for outdoor furnishings and the choice of pre-fabricated construction systems help to minimize energy box's' environmental load over the course of its future lifetime.
south view

© Pierluigi Bonomo

Designboom also notes that "thermal protection in the winter is provided by larch planks on the exterior cladding" but in fact if you look at the details it is really decorative, fastened to the outside of the insulation envelope surrounding the CLT. The slats also act as moveable screens providing shade and ventilation.


© Pierluigi Bonomo

Except for the concrete slab foundation, the entire house is built from CLT with insulation inside and out and the larch cladding acting as a rain screen. It's hard doing Passivhaus detailing like this where the insulation runs continuously around the entire building; even the roof deck is totally isolated and floating free of any structure. Nicely done, both what you can see and what you can't.


© Pierluigi Bonomo