architecture : urban : visual culture

Lodge in a Glade - Sustainable Home in Harghita

As an almost entirely self-reliant home, the alternative family house designed by István Benedek (blipsz) on the hills of Harghita, has some state-of-the-art solutions for sustainability. Its inner contemporary techniques are also present in its outline and shape as the barn-like structures simultaneously refer to their local environment and their revolutionary nature.

The generous property lays in a mountain village where the households are spread along the valley, roads and upon mild hills. The main horizontal topography-volume is partially masked by a sloping green roof and a mineral, gabion wall cladding. Two traditional barn-like structures are growing out from this to break and articulate the huge mass of the construction. The required interior area is quite high especially compared to the traditional, modest, local households. The shapes and materials were chosen to blend in the special scenery. The solar layout, building energetics concepts had been subordinated to this precious perspective, opening towards North.

The building, used occasionally by the large family and their friends, is constructed mostly with natural building materials, following sustainable principles approaching autonomous ("off the grid") passive house standards. The foundations, the slab on the ground and the massive earth retaining structures at the ends are made of concrete, the structure of the house is from large softwood frames filled with locally molded clay bricks, the roof is partially a flat construction with laminated timber beams and locally seeded grass covering layer and partially a shingled, pitched structure.

architects: István Benedek, Norbert Ravasz - interior design: Emőke Kiss - photo: Bence Makkai


Some of the other materials used: formaldehyde-free OSB 4 boards, medium density fibrewood panels, thermal insulations from straw bales, cellulose, fibrewood, lime-based interior renderings, natural Tadelakt waterproof finishes in the bathrooms. The interior thermal mass of the wooden house is made up of polished, thick concrete flooring and clay brick wall fillings (also on the first floor). On the exterior, the compact straw bales are covered in a multilayer clay render and a protective skin of stones in gabion walls as there are no roof overhangs on most parts of the house. The upper floor volume has a black pine-board siding and roof cover (Japanese Shou Sugi Ban weatherproofing wood-burning technique).

architects: István Benedek, Norbert Ravasz - interior design: Emőke Kiss - photo: Dawn S. Black


The photovoltaic panels placed on the southern roof-pitch, together with the battery units, are covering almost about 90% of the building’s energy needs. The house is not fully autonomous, there is a safety backup electrical grid connection for the very cold and cloudy days. The underfloor heating and domestic hot water are run by a soil/water heat pump. For automated irrigation, the rainwater is collected into a large tank hidden into the earth fillings.

One of the biggest challenges in this project was to experiment with these alternative techniques and materials, learning to seamlessly integrate traditional and high-tech elements for the demanding clients who are willing to adopt sustainable, green solutions.

István Benedek


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