IAAC & MAA02 Students // Proposal for Torre Baró Self-Sufficient Prototype

As part of the Self Sufficient neighborhood project the City Council of Barcelona invited the Design and Architecture Schools of Barcelona to participate in a competition for the design of a Self-Sufficient Neighborhood in Torre Baró. In particular the schools were given 2 plots of land in which to design a Self-Sufficient house prototype as well as a productive public space. The idea is that these projects be implemented onsite next October.

The schools participating, ETSAB, ETSAV, UIC, La Salle and IAAC, all gathered yesterday at the public library of Torre Baró to present the outcomes of their proposals to an official jury board, led by Chief Architect of the City Council Vicente Guallart, and later joined by the Mayor of Barcelona Xavier Trias.

IAAC’s proposal was that of a Self-Sufficient house and productive land, focusing on 3 main aspects:

-       The use of 100% local materials for its construction, considering these local materials as coming from Colllserola park (wool, woods and local plants)

-       The energetic self-sufficiency based on one side on the reduction of the electric consumption (thanks to passive or more efficient systems) and on the other side on the self-production of the energy needed.

-       Social activation, proposing the development of activities and environments that are able to offer a service to the community as well as to enhance its identity.

The Self-Sufficient House:


The structural system is based on pillars that are sustaining a series of rigid volumes hosting the living spaces. The pillars and the structure of the boxes are of Collserola pinewood. Six volumes contain the private rooms, one volume the kitchen, one volume the bathroom and one larger volume the laboratory. The distribution of the various volumes in space is based on the natural heat distribution and on the solar radiation requirements of the various activities.



The walls of the rooms are made by lightweight sandwich panels composed of two transparent polycarbonate waved panels – containing natural wool on their inside. The wool, which is a local material coming from the Collserola Metropolitan Park, insulates the rooms from both thermal and acoustic impacts. The wooden slab structure is filled with clay in order to obtain good thermal mass proprieties in the flooring. Hot water pipes are embedded in the clay allowing to warm these slabs, and therefore the rooms.



The boxes are wrapped together with a flexible layer composed of natural waterproof fabric and horizontal wool pockets. This second layer allows the creation of inhabitable passively acclimatized interstitial spaces, which are used for distribution and common spaces.



The last layer is a tessellated surface composed of solar and photovoltaic panels. The Active Skin is detached from the building and placed as though it were a cloud, catching the best solar exposure. It is composed of 140 m2 of photovoltaic panels, capable of producing 21.000 kWh/year, and consequently supplying the demand of the house. The 32 m2 of solar panels is capable of heating the hot water that flows trough a pipe system into the floor slabs. The radiant floor system provides a comfortable climate in the winter, whereas in summer the active skin provides the building with shade, as well as transversal ventilation thanks to the umbrella effect.



The house combines a series of active and passive systems capable of guaranteeing climatic comfort between 18 and 26 degrees Celsius over the entire year and in each of the internal environments. The living spaces are divided into three different thermal zones according to the activity to be developed within. T1 is the most demanding thermal zone, with the rooms and the laboratory; T2 is the thermal zone of the kitchen and bathroom, and T3 the circulation and common areas.

The house has a different behavior in winter than in summer. In winter the comfort level in T1 and T2 is maintained combining the greenhouse effect and the radiant floor system in every room. The radiant floor is based on a closed water pipe system that connects the solar panels on the Active Skin with the thermal-mass-floor in the rooms.

In the summer the greenhouse façade opens completely giving the possibility of a cross ventilation through the rooms in T1 and T2. A system of openings on the higher and lower part of the woolen skin allows the vertical ventilation through T3. Finally the Active Skin provides shade and transversal air circulation of the external surface.


The Productive Land:


The plot is mainly dedicated to the development of community urban orchards according to permaculture principles. The environmental parameters of the plot have been analyzed in order to identify the status of the existing vegetation and walls, the solar radiation and wind stress. Based on this analysis, the plot has been divided into 5 areas with different uses that respond to the specific environmental characteristics: 1) sunny and terraced areas for specific cultivation, 2) mid-sun and terraced areas for specific cultivation, 3) windy and steep area to implement a vertical wind mill, 4) shaded and less accessible area for beehives, 5) flat and shaded area to implement a public space.



In order to irrigate the community orchards a sustainable water system is implemented. The system is based on a windmill, an irrigation channel and two water deposits (the obsolete existing one in the upper part of the plot, and a new one built where the existing walls are in the lower part of the plot). The deposits are connected to the windmill, and, between them, by a series of water channels that flow under the wooden pedestrian paths. From these main channels a set of secondary channels distributes the water throughout the plot. A system based on organic waste and trunks are employed in order to make the soil retain more water. When it rains the water is collected and conducted into the lower deposit, when it’s windy the water is pumped up from the lower deposit to the upper deposit, whereas when water is needed for the orchards, it just flows down as per gravity through a system of filters.



The shaded and less connected area of the plot is designated to the implantation of beehives that can be kept by the Torre Baró community, joining the Open Source Beehives Project. The Open Source Beehives Project is an international network of citizen scientists tracking bee decline. Sensor enhanced beehives and data science are employed to study honeybee colonies throughout the world. All of the technology and methods, from the hive and sensor kit designs to the data, are documented and made openly available for anyone to use. The Open Source Beehives Project is supported by IAAC and implemented in Valldaura Campus.



Taking advantage of the natural topography on the lower part of the plot, three Catalan vaults are built to shelter the main public space. These traditional century-old masonry techniques allow the creation of structures capable to cover an extended surface with a very thin layer of ceramic tiles. The Torre Baró community has the possibility to collaborate in the construction of these vaults, as the IAAC students did in its Valldaura Campus for the construction of the Thin Vault Pavilion, in collaboration with Map13 Architects. The vaults indicate the access to the plot from the bus stop, and the space underneath can be used to store farming tools, such as electricity suppliers, or as picnic and barbecue areas.



The shaded and fresh area under the vaults is the perfect environment to grow moss. Taking advantage of the photosynthetic process of these plants it is possible to harvest the energy produced by the bacteria contained in the soil, thanks to a bio-photovoltaic cell system. This system, developed by IAAC in collaboration with the Department of Biochemistry of the Cambridge University and Ceràmica Cumella, consists of a series of ceramic cave moss cells that contain hydrogel and carbon fiber and are capable of producing energy. Two m2 of photovoltaic moss cells can light a led, 4 m2 can charge a smartphone, 8m2 a laptop.


Project Credits:

Torre Baró Self Sufficient District – IAAC

Master in Advanced Architecture MAA02



Silvia Brandi

Javier Peña

Rodrigo Rubio


Student Design Team: 

Natalie Alima

Tobias Lund Øhrstrøm

Ruxandra Iancu Bratosin

Luis Leon Lopez

Alejandro Martinez del Campo

Rasha Sukkarieh

Alessio Verdolino


Student Research Team:

Richard Aoun

Mardet Gebreyesus

Chung Kai Hsieh

Ian Mann

Wen Shan Foo

Sahil Sharma

Remita Thomas

Mohamad Yassin





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