In today’s rapidly evolving world, the concept of sustainability in architecture has transcended beyond a mere trend and has become a fundamental principle in design, especially within the luxury housing market. Manuel R. Moriche, the Creative Director of ARK Architects, underscores the integral role that sustainability plays from the inception of their high-end residential projects.
With a philosophy deeply rooted in environmental stewardship, ARK Architects prides itself on pioneering designs that harmoniously blend luxury living with ecological sensitivity. This philosophy is not just a response to a growing societal demand for greener living spaces but is also a proactive stride toward innovating the architecture that encapsulates the essence of well-being, efficiency, and bespoke elegance.
In the following inteview, Manuel R. Moriche elaborates on the vital importance of sustainability in luxury housing, the benefits it brings to homeowners, and the meticulous approach his studio takes to embed sustainability into the very core of their designs. From integrating the Passive House standards to selecting natural materials and employing energy-efficient systems, ARK Architects showcases how luxury and environmental consciousness can coexist beautifully and responsibly.
Join us as we explore the insights and expertise of Manuel R. Moriche on crafting sustainable luxury homes that are not only tailored to the client’s desires but also respectful to the planet.
HOW IMPORTANT IS THE TERM “SUSTAINABILITY” IN THE LUXURY HOUSING MARKET THESE DAYS?
Sustainability plays an increasingly important role in our lives and a growing number of people and companies are showing their awareness of this issue.
We are of the belief that we must become more and more environmentally-friendly; it’s a movement that arose in the north of Europe, and in Spain it has become a social consciousness that is closely linked with the feeling of wellness itself. That is what our international clients tell us, and for this reason we have been implementing this philosophy for years.
Sustainability consciousness is one of the most important values for clients wanting to design a luxury home, clients that tend to be against anything that harms the environment. Consequently, its importance is growing year on year and, in this sense, at ARK Architects, we can say that we have always been a step ahead of the trend.
WHAT BENEFITS DOES IT PROVIDE TO THE OCCUPANTS OF THE HOME?
These are homes that come with a guarantee of well-being, safety, sophistication, peace and quiet, health, and are equipped with the latest technology and boast neuroscientific (ARK Neuroarketing) analyses that result in an emotional balance in every space, enabling people to enjoy unique experiences.
Besides this, the fact that they are efficient and sustainable homes not only enhances this feeling of well-being, but also allows the residents to enjoy all the purity and benefits of being integrated into the location, the setting, the climate…the environment. At ARK we cannot imagine beginning a design without first taking into consideration the characteristics of the plot location, the lifestyle of the owners, and how to produce the smallest possible impact on the surroundings.
HOW DOES YOUR STUDIO GO ABOUT INTEGRATING THIS CONCEPT INTO THE DESIGN AND CONSTRUCTION OF A LUXURY HOME?
We can say that we take care to integrate this concept – fundamental for us – by means of four basic points. The most important stems from the design of the dwelling itself in communion with the environment. It is essential for the home to be completely at one with the location; indeed, our understanding of architecture begins with the site, where the seed of the project is hidden. No two homes can ever by the same as each one is specific to a certain place, the characteristics of which are properly analysed to create a design fully suited to the conditions of the environment, climate and landscape. In this way, the project is sustainable from the outset.
Beginning with this integration with the surroundings, we endeavour to achieve sustainability in other phases of the project, which leads us to the other three points: the selection of pure materials, energy efficient construction and the temperature control systems chosen in the villas. But the first point, adapting to the surroundings, is the cornerstone; the others come later to complete the base of sustainability.
HOW IMPORTANT IS THE PASSIVE HOUSE PHILOSOPHY IN THIS SENSE?
All ARK Architect homes present the highest levels of energy efficiency and follow the standards set out by the passive house philosophy, ensuring that the homes are nearly zero energy buildings. The truth is, long before these certificates came into force, our projects implemented all the requirements and more that our experience has shown us are absolutely necessary.
Our projects come to life to serve people, to suit their tastes and personality, but also at the service of the environment, which they are also adapted to, the surroundings being the starting point of every project. At ARK, we consider that luxury and sustainability go hand in hand these days.
ON A PRACTICAL LEVEL, HOW DO YOU ENSURE THAT THE PROPERTY MEETS THE HIGHEST LEVEL OF ENERGY EFFICIENCY?
This is guaranteed from the first moment in which a multidisciplinary team analyses each and every aspect of the plot of land, lifestyle and wishes of our clients, which is why the design phase is key. Rather than architecture or construction from an office, this is design through an understanding of the place, the climate, botany, the light on the site and who is going to inhabit that villa.
In the construction phase, we always focus on sustainability and energy efficiency. For example, very high walls maintain the temperature better, ventilated multi-layer walls with highly energy efficient thermal insulation; the studio favours high levels of thermal inertia, thereby guaranteeing the building’s efficiency.
Ventilation systems that ensure that the air is purified year round, improving the air quality and preventing odours, as well as condensation or problems stemming from the magnitude of these villas.
In general, special attention has to be paid to different elements:
Sound and heat insulation, water drainage systems, rainwater harvesting systems for watering, the use of natural, indigenous plants and saving existing ones, the use of permeable surfaces to reduce run-off and enable water to filter through the local water table and/or aquifers, promoting natural ventilation, limiting the impact of the sun, the use of photovoltaic energy, limiting artificial light in favour of natural light, water treatment and storage, solar analysis combined with the uses of the inhabitants, etc.
In practical terms, it results in the client going into their villa and saying after a few minutes, “I don’t know why, but I feel more relaxed since I’ve been here.” It’s a simplification, but it’s the reality.
WHAT MATERIALS DO YOU USE?
The materials are a means of expression in architecture, enabling ideas to become a reality. In line with our philosophy of sustainability, we only use natural materials such as stone, unprocessed wood, unadulterated materials; we even use limewash paints to promote healthy living inside our villas.
IN WHICH OF THE HOME’S ROOMS OR FEATURES CAN ENERGY EFFICIENCY AND SUSTAINABILITY BE IMPLEMENTED?
In all of them.
If we are referring to the temperature control systems that we use in the homes; that is, regarding the technology of the installations, everything that we use involves renewable energy.
For example, we use aerothermal energy, which has been shown to be the system best suited to our climate for temperature control, the most energy efficient; we use heat recovery systems or solar and photovoltaic energy in an effort to reduce energy consumption in our villas.
All these systems, along with the design adapted to the setting, the materials and the building itself, result in extremely efficient homes with very high sustainability indices.
WHAT IS THE PROFILE OF THE CLIENT THAT PURCHASES THIS KIND OF HOME? DOES IT DIFFER FROM THE TYPICAL CLIENT FROM THE TRADITIONAL PREMIUM HOUSING SEGMENT?
The client profile is very particular because, although they usually act with discretion and look for peace and quiet, they will demand exclusive products with a high present and future value.
The want distinctiveness, security, health, sophistication, well-being and personalisation and, as we mentioned, they are increasingly concerned about the environment; they demand sustainable projects and develop a stronger and stronger social consciousness with a balanced relationship with their surroundings.
Regarding being environmentally friendly, they are evolving in line with other client profiles, because we believe that this social consciousness is a generalised trend that will become increasingly significant.
WHAT IS THE CURRENT POSITION WITH REGARD TO INCORPORATING SUSTAINABILITY IN HOUSING?
Many compulsory regulations are already in force in Spain; we are talking about European directives that call for a certain level of sustainability in homes, such as suitable ventilation and avoiding the use of chemicals, etc.
We can say that progress has been made in this sense; in many cases these regulations are recommendations, while in others they are mandatory requirements.
In the villas by ARK Architects, we go beyond these regulations, as we had already conformed to them, reaching sustainability indices far superior to those established, this being a key part of all of our projects.
WHAT WOULD IT TAKE, IN YOUR OPINION, FOR THIS KIND OF SOLUTIONS TO BECOME MORE WIDESPREAD IN THE SPANISH REAL ESTATE MARKET?
From my point of view, it would be necessary to bear in mind two basic issues: society is evolving towards ever increasing social and environmental consciousness and the public agencies responsible for regulating the building sector will have to establish more guidelines adapted to the world we would like to live in, and ensure that these regulations are strongly enforced when it comes to building projects.
And let’s not forget a constructive criticism to all architects: in my case, in the housing sector, I always say, “we build home for people to live in, not to win prizes.” Our challenge is to produce a design that is then built. That is residential architecture: achieving the optimal balance with the surroundings to reach the highest level of well-being.”