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How to choose the right land for an ecological house building?

Sustainable architecture consists above all in integrating and adapting the house to its environment, and not the opposite. The land and its environment are therefore key elements in the development of an ecological construction project. It is indeed essential to take into account, from the design phase of the house, the constraints related to the land. Here are our recommendations for choosing the right land to build your ecological house.

First of all, it is necessary to define your construction project: is it a passive, ecological or bioclimatic construction? Do you want to have a natural pool and/or an organic vegetable garden? These elements will determine the total area of the plot, in addition to the building area. 

Once the project is defined, four major points must be taken into account when choosing your land:

  • The climate: The recommendations to be respected established by certification bodies such as Passivhaus Institute, will be different depending on the climate. The area and therefore the climate chosen (for example, a cold climate for Sweden, a temperate climate for France or a hot climate for Portugal), will determine the levels of construction criteria (for windows, insulation,…). Note that the proximity to a river or to the ocean will alter the local climate conditions.
  • Weather conditions and orientation of the land: Exposure to the prevailing winds and sun will play a major role in the rooms layout in the house. It is therefore necessary to choose a plot whose orientation will offer the best living comfort to its occupants. In Portugal, it is recommended to choose a south-west facing plot of land (with an unobstructed view), in order to locate the living room and thus maximize the passive solar gains.
  • Vegetation: In Portugal, especially in the South, it is essential to avoid overheating in summer. If there are installations to counter this (adjustable shutters, sunshades, …), it is possible to take advantage of the surrounding vegetation, with the presence of deciduous trees for example, which will naturally regulate the temperature in summer and let the light and sunshine coming in in winter. The idea is to use natural resources to improve indoor comfort. 
  • The surrounding nuisances: The ecological character of a construction project isn’t only the design of the habitat. It is important to take into account noise and visual nuisances, such as the presence of neighboring buildings that will create solar masks. It is also recommended to make a diagnosis of soil pollution, especially if you wish to set up a vegetable garden. 

Before buying the land, it is strongly advised to consult the Local Urbanism Plan at the town hall, in order to make sure that the land is indeed buildable and to be aware of potential surrounding projects. It is also necessary to be well informed about the local regulations (protected areas, natural parks…), which can strongly constrain a construction project. Once the land is chosen and the topographic survey is done, the architect will define the location and the best orientation to build the house of your dreams. 

Would you like to know more about sustainable construction in Portugal? Download for free our white paper!

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