Indoor meets Outdoor / Rehabilitation and responsible architecture

location: luqa, malta
year: 2014-2017
Featured in Places Magazine Issue 18 October 2017 pp. 30-35

This project involved the rehabilitation and restoration of a double-fronted post-war townhouse located in Luqa’s Urban Conservation Area, together with some sensitive alterations and additions, in order to transform the property into a sustainable three-bedroom home for a young couple. At the same time, we could see that it contained a number of well-crafted architectural features, which we sought to retain, restore and enhance. It also contained two underutilised and undervalued outdoor spaces – one on the western flank that was observed to be in shade for most of the day due to its orientation, proportion and enclosure, and another on the eastern side that received a higher amount of sunlight throughout the day. Over the years, the latter space had been largely built up, reducing its potential to work effectively as an external area.

At ground floor, the main design concept centred on exploiting the property’s outdoor spaces, working in tandem with the clients’ brief, which was to have a more comfortable open plan living space revolving around the kitchen at the heart of the entire home. The two external areas and internal living areas work together as one system. During the summer months, the backyards’ different orientation creates a temperature differential that in turn instigates air movement. In the morning, the eastern backyard and the south-facing façades that flank it receive the sun until the early hours of the afternoon, allowing for the space to warm up at the same time that the western backyard is in shade. As the hot air starts to rise by convection, it draws in the cooler air from the western backyard through the internal living area – a phenomenon that is reinforced by cross-ventilation within the entire floor plan. A similar situation occurs at first floor through the circulation space linking the bedrooms on either side. In the afternoon, as the sun moves westerly, there is a reversal in terms of the directionality of the cooler air – the eastern backyard becomes progressively shaded while the western backyard starts capturing the sun’s rays, once again creating a variation in temperature between the two spaces and channelling the cooler air westwards. For most of the year characterisedby warm temperatures, there is enough temperature differential for this system to naturally cool the spaces, without having to resort to mechanical cooling.

The above interventions allow for energy generated at roof level via photovoltaic panels to be used for purposes other than to cool or light the property, effectively creating a nearly Zero Energy Building wherein the energy output roughly equates to the energy input that is produced via the panels. The latter are mounted on the setback floor’s sloping concrete roof, in order to be better integrated within the existing townscape, particularly given the sensitivity of the Urban Conservation Area wherein this property is located. This roof furthermore allows the panels to be optimally oriented and capture sunlight for a significant amount of hours throughout the day.

Photography by Ramon Portelli