Water Shortage Design of Rain Harvest Home


Robert Hutchison Architecture and Javier Sanchez Arquitectos include an extensive rainwater collection and reuse system for a nature retreat for families in a mountainous region of Mexico.

The rainy harvest house, or Casa Cosecha de lluvia, is located in the rural town of Temascaltepec, about 140 kilometers west of Mexico City.

The retreat was designed by Robert Hutchison Architecture of Seattle and Javier Sanchez Arquitectos (JSa) of Mexico City, who have worked together on projects in the past. The retreat was designed for the founder of JSa and his family who wish to make it their permanent residence in the future.

The property consists of three independent structures – a main house, a bathhouse and an art studio.

The landscaping elements include organic agricultural gardens, an orchard and a network of trails.

Permaculture principles were used to “establish a holistic and integrated relationship between people and place,” the team said.

Permaculture – an artificial word for permanent agriculture and permanent cultivation- is an approach to land design and management that is inspired by natural ecosystems.

One of the main objectives of the project was to pay attention to the use of resources, in particular water. In turn, all structures are designed to capture and reuse rainwater.

The harvesting system covers 100% of the house’s water needs, according to the architects.

“Here, as in the surrounding region of central Mexico, water has become an increasingly valuable resource as temperatures rise and the population increases,” the team said.

The region has a robust rainy season, but the collection of stormwater is unusual. Instead, water tends to be pumped from distant watersheds.

“Rain Harvest Home takes a different approach and suggests an integrated approach to regenerative design with water,” the team said.

The main house covers 1,200 square meters (111 square meters) and has been designed as a Pavilion for year-round use and has a large amount of covered outdoor space with views of the countryside from all sides of the building.

The common area of the house consists of an open living room, a dining area and a kitchen. The private areas include two bedrooms, a den, a small bathroom, a guest toilet and a storage/laundry room.

Nearby, the team placed the Public Baths With a total area of 172 square feet (16 square meters). The building is designed to offer “a poetic dialogue with the experiential qualities of water”.

The Public Baths have a circular plan and four rooms surrounding a central cold diving pool open to the sky. The rooms contain a hot bath, a Sauna, a steam shower and a laundry room.

The final structure is the 206-square-meter (19-square-meter) art studio. The rectangular building has a main level and an “Outdoor Skyroom”.

The three buildings have a wooden frame and a black stained pine cladding. The concrete slab foundations are covered with Recinto volcanic stone pavers. The roofs are covered with vegetation.

In the main house, thin steel columns support deep roof overhangs. Protruding light monitors protrude from the roof, sheathed with unfinished steel plates that develop a patina over time.

The interior decoration includes Recinto stone and Southern yellow pine plywood.

The three buildings have strategies to capture rainwater. In addition, the landscape Bioswales help direct the water to the upper and underground reservoir system of the property, where the water is stored and purified.

“The on-site water treatment system is completely autonomous and is mainly managed by gravity gespeist.Es contains five cisterns that provide drinking water and treated water,” the team said.

“A chemical-free blackwater treatment system treats all wastewater on the site and returns it to the site’s water cycle in the form of gray water for use in toilets and orchard irrigation on the site,” the team added.

In addition to water conservation, the architects also paid attention to energy production. A 10 kW photovoltaic system produces electricity for the three buildings.

Overall, the house is supposed to be a model of how water conservation can be integrated into the design of the house.

“This speaks to the potential of stormwater harvesting for autonomous off-grid water systems that eliminate dependence on municipal water sources,” the team said.

“At the same time, the water element contributes to the spatial and experiential quality of the project and reconnects people to their environment through the involvement of the senses.”

Other rural houses in Mexico include a cruciform-plan house with bold stone walls by HW Studio Arquitectos and a brutalist-style concrete house in a pine forest designed by architect Ludwig Godefroy.

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