Construction is one of the planet’s largest consumer of energy and raw materials, which is why sustainability is one of the core principles on which we base all of our work. While environmental protection might appear to be an insurmountable issue, architecture and building are areas where regular people can, and should, make a difference. We take our role in promoting sustainable concepts very seriously. Designing sustainably means taking a conscious approach to energy efficiency, and ecological conservation, from the moment of conception all the way through to completion.
For Blakstad Design Consultants architect Xavier Blesa, questions of sustainability must be addressed and monitored from the very first client meeting. “There are two areas where environmental concerns take place,” he says. “The first is materials and the second is the systems you put in place. If these things are not considered in the design phase, it can be complicated to implement them retroactively.”
One of the materials Blakstad designers turn to again and again are Termoarcilla bricks. These low-density ceramic blocks are geometrically designed to promote strength, and thermal and acoustic insulation. Made from all natural materials, these ingenious bricks are non-toxic and emit zero radiation or allergens. The other failsafe material is limewash paints and finishes. This ancient surface covering has been produced and utilised across the island for millennia and still to this day provides the best and most beautiful protection from Ibiza’s humidity. “We use real lime,” says Blesa. “Chemical-based paints trap the humidity, but real lime is breathable.”
The construction team retains and reuses any stone excavated from the site, channelling it back into the building. Likewise, with residual materials from a demolition or renovation. Doors, window frames, wood and tiling are all carefully stored and recreated into finished pieces for new projects. One area of contention in new builds is air-conditioning – while many Blakstad clients install air-conditioning systems, very few of them actually use them. “A properly designed house won’t need air conditioning,” says Blesa. “We design in a way that takes advantage of the climate and the environment.” Bioclimatic design uses airflow and landscaping to create and retain heat or cooling.
Renovation and refurbishment of traditional farmhouses is somewhat of a specialty for Blakstad Design Consultants. There are few firms who understand the deep philosophical and constructional traditions of the island. “With Can Forn in Santa Agnes, we remade the house using stone only from the surrounding land and built it in a very traditional way,” says Blesa. “Every material used was traditional, from clay, stone and ash to seaweed in the roof. It takes more time to build houses this way but it’s very satisfying to use the methods people have used here for hundreds of years.”
Recently, Dutch based sustainable systems company Metabolic completed an extensive study of the Blakstad Design Consultants methods and systems, awarding the firm one of the highest standards. It’s a badge we wear proudly and will continue to improve on as new technologies and materials come to light in the future.