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Architects defy expectations with luxurious high-rise building of the future: 'These are basic principles that were lost during the last century'

"It is embedded in our design decisions."

"It is embedded in our design decisions."

Photo Credit: OHLAB

From the outside, a building designed by architects at Spain's OHLAB looks a bit like a large version of a popsicle-stick house you may have built when you were a kid. 

The wooden slats that cover the Palma residential complex's facade, however, are a bit more substantial. They filter sunlight, creating changes in lighting and shade, as noted by the designers on the project's description page. 

It's part of a trend among energy-saving designers — who are trying to use better materials and geometry to control temperatures in their buildings. The concept is called passive building, and the goal is to achieve a "rigorous level of energy efficiency" while not sacrificing comfort, according to Phius, a Chicago nonprofit that provides training for passive design. 

Architects Paloma Hernaiz and Jaime Oliver, co-founders of OHLAB, designed the Paseo Mallorca 15 complex to be pleasing to the eye and sustainable, Interior Design reported

"If you know it's polluting the environment, it probably won't appeal to you," Oliver said in the story.

The designers seemed to have nailed sustainability with this one. They say there's a reduction of "air heating and cooling requirements" by nearly 90%, drastically cutting energy costs.

The interior doesn't lack luxury, per the description. A green wall of Spanish cane welcomes visitors. Inside, a courtyard utilizes vegetation to provide a cool atmosphere, along with floor-spanning waterfalls. Spas, pools, and intricate landscaping fill the design description, bringing to mind historical descriptions of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon

But perhaps most importantly, features like the sliding wooden slats allow residents to maximize the power of the sun, utilizing its heat when it's cold. When it's hot, the beams can be blocked to provide cooling shade. Pergolas and shutters also help with air flow, according to the design notes

"These are basic principles that were lost during the last century, but it's a much smarter way to build," Hernaiz said in the Interior Design story. 

The building is 38,000 square feet with 10 units. Since the structure faces three streets with varied zoning rules, the result is a unique, uneven roof line, towering up to eight stories in places. There's still plenty of luxury at the top, including a 5,000-square-foot penthouse, all per the Interior Design report. 

The design style is being embraced stateside, as well. In Boston, city housing planners have ambitious sustainable goals. As part of the mission, a public housing unit is being renovated to meet passive standards. 

It's proof that comfort, even high style, doesn't have to be sacrificed as we develop building concepts that improve our energy use, ultimately saving money

"For us, sustainability is not just an add-on," Hernaiz said to Interior Design. "It is embedded in our design decisions."

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