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Residence design and construction in Aghia Paraskevi, Athens

Project: Residence design and construction
Location: Aghia Paraskevi, Athens, Greece
Area: 195.00 m2
Year: 2009

Architectural design: Maria Ghiata Architects & Kiki Kelesidou
Lighting design: Kiki Kelesidou
Garden design Alexandra Tiblalexi
Photography: Stathis Mamalakis

The 195 m2 house in Aghia Paraskevi, Athens, was built to replace a previous detached house, which had been condemned after the 1999 earthquake. It sits on a 245 m2 lot, last in a row of properties of a cul-de-sac. A prominent feature that has been preserved is a towering pine tree standing next to the entrance, a signpost for visitors.

A basic restriction in the design and construction for replacing quake struck buildings is that the footprint, area and mass of the original building must be adhered to. The prerequisite prescribes the disposition of the building in the site, though not the form it will assume. Since the original house had been composed of two volumes (main residence and guest house) the main concept sought to join the two, creating thus a ‘U’ shaped plan.

A main feature of the new building’s form is to be found in the connection of the two volumes, effected by means of a transparent passage, which maintains an outdoor feel while making an illusion to the form of the original building. The building is characterized by three ‘architectural protrusions’ [a term after the Greek Building Code] jutting out from its facade, which create an intermediate space between indoors and outdoors and can function as sitting areas or as benches. Though the surrounding buildings ‘weigh down’ on the residence and overshadow it, it still manages to identify openings and bring the light inside to all of its spaces.

As far as the program is concerned, the house comprises an open plan sitting room plus kitchen, a study area, two large bedrooms, a storage space, bathroom and water closet, and ample book cases in the rooftop shed.

Principles of Bioclimatic Architecture:

Apart from the architectural approach given to the building, it is worth mentioning the basic bioclimatic architecture principles applied to the Aghia Paraskevi Residence construction. A truly important element that should generally be found in Greek buildings, is the use of high levels of insulation. In this case all the exterior partitions (walls and roof) were super-insulated. All the openings are environmentally friendly, and are properly placed on the exterior of the building. The large south-facing windows work as a passive solar system, allowing the heat of the sun to pass through, during winter-time. During the summer, these are protected by vertical external blinds. It is very important, especially in Greece, to properly shade a building. The large pine-tree that sits on the garden, gives a proper solar-protection to the building. Moreover, all the bedrooms of the residence are to be found on the semi-basement floor and thus remain warm during winter and cool during summer. This is due to the ground’s stable temperature. It is worth mentioning that so far, the occupants of the house have never felt the need of an air conditioning system in their bedrooms, and even during the hottest days of the summer, their bedrooms are kept satisfyingly cool and within the thermal comfort zone. Originally the architects designed the house with a green roof. This element will hopefully be completed in the future. Ideally, the plants that will be planted, will have low watering needs, and the whole system will offer an extra insulation to the house. As an architectural result, the occupants will enjoy another garden level. As far as the mechanical systems of the house are concerned, the heating system comprises of a gas-condensing boiler with a high efficiency, combined with an underfloor heating system. The result is ideal in energy-saving terms. The water running through the system is heated in 45-55 degrees Celsius, whereas in a conventional system with radiators it would rise up to 70 degrees Celsius. Finally, the hot water used in the house, is primarily heated by solar panels, and only 30% of the year, it is heated by the gas boiler. All the elements applied in a building, such as the Aghia Paraskevi residence, can significantly lower its energy use. Bioclimatic architectural design, whether applied on the building’s skin or through the mechanical systems, can provide low-energy results and contribute to a sustainable environment.

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