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‘Honeycomb’, energy efficient building complex in Slovenia

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In Izola Slovenia, an energy efficient building complex, the ‘Honeycomb’ was constructed in 2005, applying a structure that was inspired by the layout of a beehive. Ofis Architects, based in Ljubljana and specialized in various areas of architecture and in social housing designed the complex. The aim was to construct very low budget buildings for young families and couples.

The Honeycomb won the first prize in a competition for designing the two social housing blocks. The entry won the competition for economic reasons and also because of the ratio between gross vs. saleable surface area and the flexibility of the plans.

The site is situated on the industrial edge of the town Izola on the Slovenian coast. The blocks are laid out on a hillside with a view of Izola Bay on one side and of the surrounding hills on the other. Since the blocks are subject to a Mediterranean climate, outdoor space and shade are important elements in their layout. With one veranda for each apartment, each one had an outdoor space which could be part of the interior as well. So the façade was designed in such a way as to protect the loggias from the sun. To offer views towards the sea even when the blinds are closed semi-transparent angled textile shadings were applied. These cover the verandas as a sun-roof and solar shading curtain at the same time.

Determinants

Drivers:
    to provide low budget apartments for young families
    growing demand for energy efficient buildings

Barriers:
    limited financial resources for the investment

Sustainability
The design makes smart use of solar shading and natural ventilation to regulate its interiors all year-round. The balcony modules are designed as efficient system providing shading and ventilation for the apartments. The textile elements fixed on the front of the balconies block direct sunlight and accumulate an "air buffer" zone. In the summer hot accumulated area behind the shadings is naturally ventilated through perforated side partitions (10 cm holes) of the balconies. In the winter the warm air stays in the area and provides additional heating to the apartments.

Lessons learnt

Inexpensive, nature inspired approaches towards social design can lead to successful energy efficient solutions for public housing

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