Self-sustaining country home designed by architect Germán Spahr
Self-sustaining country home designed by architect Germán Spahr
Graciela Baduel

BUENOS AIRES — An Argentine architect has won his country's 2016 Sustainable Habitat Prize for his very first project, a self-sustaining country home inspired by Michael Reynolds's emblematic "earthships."

The winning project, designed by architect Germán Spahr and built near Bariloche, in western Argentina, maximizes insulation, is self-powered, has a vegetable patch and even treats its own sewage. It also follows the earthship model's sustainability principles, including use of recycled construction material and the ability to store and filter rainwater.

The Sustainable Habitat Prize is awarded annually by the Nacional University of la Plata and the Buenos Aires Province college of architects.

For the load bearing walls in the 130-square-meter, two-story house, Spahr used quake-resistant concrete. Elsewhere he used a lightweight, metallic structure to build a north-facing facade and slanted roof that will hold six solar panels (plus a wind turbine). The building also has a "thermal wall" that uses earth-filled tires as insulation.

Rainwater flows from the roof into five underground tanks for storage. Some of the water is channeled through a filtering system to become potable. The house also treats its own sewage.

There's nothing run-of-the-mill about the award-winning residence, as Spahr readily admits. "It wasn't conceived for a normal client," he tells Clarín. But even people with "regular" homes can do things to be more sustainable — by cutting back on consumption, for example, and recylcing, he suggests. "Not, this is not a normal house, but I'd like to imagine it could be some day," says Spahr.

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