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Urban Masterplan for new zero-energy village // Montreal du Gers, FR // Competition 2006​

The project is a preliminary study for the French developer DIII for a village for Eco-tourism in the Acquitaine region of France, a low-energy community, respecting principles of sustainability, achieved within a limited budget. As well as holiday flats and houses , the scheme includes communal facilities, sports areas, shops and a swimming pool. The complex itself is situated at the edge of a small hamlet, Arquizan. As well as the low-energy architecture and urban design, Kapok addressed how a seasonal and fluctuating community relates to the hamlet, and the communities around, an ongoing dialogue which could become the catalyst for a reciprocal understanding of economy, ecology and the environment for both visitors and the local community.
– The Parcours. A study of local features, accents and points of interest and existing local footpaths inform a network of routes from the village outwards, for exploration of the locality on foot, horseback or bicycle.
– Extending Arquizan. The eco-village is an extension of the existing hamlet, with communal facilities next to the local church, around a village green. The scale of the new development sits comfortably in the the topography and exisitng hamlet.
– Producers / Consumers. Electrical, heating and cooling energy for new village and the exisiting is provided by a new bio-gas station next to the village, with fuel provided by waste materials from local farms.

The disposition of buildings, open spaces and landscaping form a synthesis which work together to exploit and optimise microclimatic conditions around buildings:
– Prevailing winds, the movement and collection of cool air under trees and the topography define a network of landscape spaces for the healthy ventilation of buildings and minimisation of cooling load in Summer.
– Rainwater collection / management from roofs and paved surfaces within these green zones irrigates the flora whilst cooling and humidifying circulating air.

Several fundamental strategies inform the disposition of buildings and open spaces:
– Extending existing infrastructure and respecting topography
– Limiting vehicular penetration into the site
– Prioritising pedestrian / slow circulation patterns
– Following principles of bioclimatic urbanism

The challenge of a limited budget and the rapid development of micro-generation technology meant we designed the houses in accordance with a principle of “eco-readiness”. This means:
– Supplementary investment is focussed on areas that are more difficult to retrofit: thermal mass, optimisation of volume/surface, roof angle orientation passive solar gain etc.
– Openings in buildings respond to adjacent microclimatic conditions, to promote natural ventilation and reduce cooling load.
– Additionally, extra investment is focussed on in supplementary insulation standards.
– Facades, roofs, loggias etc. facilitate for optional integration of future energy producing equipment, shading devices etc.

Client: DIII // Programme: 180 Housing units, Sports centre and swimming pool, shops, bio-gas CHP station // Services: Masterplan