The Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia (IAAC)
Collserola, Barcelona, Spain
The Voxel is an autonomous, 12m2cross-laminated timber (CLT) structure clad in a parametric rain-screen, exemplifying an advanced ecological approach to architectural production. Valldaura Labs is located in Barcelona's Collserola Natural Park, and the Voxel's primary materials never left this site. Before being processed in immediately adjacent facilities with manual and computationally-driven tools, the Aleppo pine used in the construction was selectively harvested from the surrounding forest following the sustainable management plan to promote succession toward a mature, resilient, dynamically stable ecosystem. Every timber element can be traced back to its exact point of origin, and all building components have been rigorously quantified in terms of their geographic source and embodied carbon, accounting for each fuel or energy input throughout the entire respective life cycle. It is thus possible to evidence that the overall construction sequesters over 3000 kg of CO2e.
Moreover, software has been developed to display this crucial information with interactive infographics easily understood by non-experts. Such global awareness and hyper-localism are further combined with the reimagination of linear cycles of material waste as circular flows, for instance, by repurposing off-cuts from the CLT fabrication as an organic skin of charred slats with naturally formed profiles that blend harmoniously with the landscape. The wooden rain-screen elements are protected from fire, infestation and rot through controlled pre-burning, inspired by the Japanese yakisugi tradition, which safeguards their potential for eventual composting due to the avoidance of unnecessary chemical additives. Similarly, all CLT modules' structural joints are fastened with regional beechwood dowels rather than conventional steel hardware. The foundations are poured-earth concrete, substituting the industrially produced substrates of typical mixes with filtered soils resulting from the excavation. The structure can consequently be disassembled, leaving nothing behind but four minor points of solidified indigenous dirt. Solar panels with battery storage power lighting and devices, while a rooftop garden, rainwater collection and greywater recycling systems integrate with a self-contained biogas infrastructure for blackwater treatment to generate only usable fuel and sanitary fertilizer as by-products. Containment of all equipment in the ventilated voids of the facades and on platforms suspended below the structure, yet above the ground, facilitate maintenance or removal and minimize environmental disturbance.
The Voxel Cabin by the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia (IAAC) is an example of New Wood Open Architecture. The project shows how advanced digital design and fabrication tools were used to create a prefab CLT construction system that radically reduces architecture's embodied energy and overall environmental impact. By locally sourcing the carbon sequestered Aleppo pine material, this project begins by significantly reducing the embodied energy which is generally associated with sourcing, manufacturing, and distributing wood construction materials. This approach is continued throughout the dwelling design, where it reflects a modest approach to scale and material use. The dwelling is compact and efficiently organized the meet the programmatic needs of its quarantined inhabitants. By reducing the dwelling to meet just the basic requirements of a single occupant, the project radically reduces the total materials harvested from nearby forests. The CLT panels are fastened together with locally sourced beechwood dowels, which creates a non-permanent fixture between each panel. This procedure enables a high level of flexibility and allows the entire dwelling to be dismantled and relocated without significant harm to the site.