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Design and construction of an ecological and artistic guest room at a yoga/meditation retreat in Portugal

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Project name:Design and construction of an ecological and artistic guest room at a yoga/meditation retreat in Portugal
Project manager:Tycho Huussen
Proposal date:15 Sep 2013
Start date:2013-09-26 09:00:00
End date:2013-11-10 12:00:00
Start capital:€ 500
Fund balance:€ 500


We built an eco-guest room for a yoga/meditation retreat in South Portugal. The project was organized by Tycho in collaboration with volunteers from the Permacultura Portugal network. The result is a healthy living space created from mostly natural and locally available materials. It is both artistic and functional and blends into the landscape harmoniously.


This project is a creative group process to create a beautiful and useful room of about 12 m2 at a yoga and meditation retreat in South Portugal. Natural building techniques and materials and the dimensions of the building are broadly outlined based on the wishes of the owner and also based on availability of (re)usable building materials on site. The rest of the building process is guided by the input from volunteer eco-builders who often bring in experience in eco-construction from other projects. Knowledge sharing, collaborative problem solving, creativity, respectful communication, shared responsibility and having a good time together are the pillars of this project. Essentially we try to follow the basics principles of permaculture: care for the planet, care for people and sharing the surplus (in this case things like knowledge, positive energy, and creativity).


The objective of this project is to create esthetically more appealing and ecologically more responsible guest accommodation for the retreat. The current accommodation consists of six caravans. The eco-guest room will replace one of the caravans. The guest room is experimental in the sense that we want to evaluate the use of a few eco-building techniques in the local climate. Winters are cold at night (-5C) and summers are hot (35+C). To create a more agreeable indoor climate without active cooling or heating we intend to use the "thermal mass" (heat capacity) of large volumes of earth. The use of earth-bermed walls and an earth-covered roof with a green cover are expected to damp the daily temperature fluctuations. The southeast facing wall will be made with cob (a mix of clay, sand, straw and cow manure). The windows will be placed in this wall providing light and passive solar heating.


The result is a wood-frame construction (local pine), covered with soil (a mix of clay, sand and compost), and side-bermed except for the cob front-wall. For the cob wall we used about one ton of local earth (it is almost 100% clay so we mixed in some sand) and the other walls are bermed with a couple tons of earth each. Other materials used are a plastic drainage pipe, rock and lime for the cob-wall foundation, a left-over window from another construction project, glass bottles for additional lighting, tar paper with aluminum for waterproofing and as a root barrier for the roof plants. The roof is planted with a local sedum, a succulent we harvested locally. Other locally collected plants around the house are wild sage, wild mint, strawberry, heather, rose bush, grape vine, olive tree, and fig tree.

A big shout out for the project team:
Ana and Gui

Thanks so much for sharing this adventure with me. -Tycho

See the Photo Gallery for a selection of pictures of the building process. And check our Facebook page if you want to see more.

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