The Voxel: Solar-powered “quarantine” cabin built from sustainable materials and under quarantine conditions

A solar-powered “quarantine” cabin, built entirely of wood from 40 pine trees felled within a 1km radius of the construction site, has been built in Barcelona’s Collserola park.

Known as The Voxel, the cabin was built by a team of students and researchers from the Institute of Advanced Architecture of Catalonia (IAAC) Valldaura Labs in under five months under quarantine conditions.

The cabin accommodates a single occupant in a space that not only offers comfortable self-confinement but also showcases the potential of a circular bio-economy in construction. Intended for use as a quarantine cabin, the house can accommodate one occupant for 14 days, providing all material needs during self isolation.

The Voxel is a 12 square metre cross-laminated timber (CLT) structure made of 40 Aleppo Pine (Pinus halepensis) that was milled, dried, processed and pressed on site at Valldaura.

Instead of metal connections, the design team used lap joints and wooden dowels to fasten together the CLT panels to further reduce the project’s carbon footprint. A layer of cork insulation is sandwiched between the structural frame and rain-screen panels made from waste material produced during the CLT production process. The exterior panels were also charred with the Japanese shou sugi ban technique for increased durability.

Valldaura Labs is known for its interest in exploring the limits of self-sufficiency, trying to provide for all living needs without relying too heavily on importation of goods or services. The Voxel strives for a similar independence to achieve its program as a quarantine cabin, made possible by a comprehensively designed water-energy-waste scheme. The cabin is equipped with three solar panels and an independent battery storage, specifically designed to power the lighting and devices for a single resident.

Valldaura Labs said: “The design of the project happened entirely under quarantine conditions, and emerges as an architectural response to the ongoing crisis.

“The most impressive aspects of this project come into focus when considering the constraints of the construction process: the build season lasted just 10 short weeks with an extremely tight budget and while under strict quarantine restrictions, delivery disruptions, limited access to tools and outside help due to the ongoing covid-19 crisis.”

Valldaura Labs

Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief. She writes about lifestyle including sustainable and green living. 

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