Coutras house

2000 Lacaton Vassal architect s
Coutras France


Project description

After the Latapie House, this house is the second low-cost design.
The house is made up of two juxtaposed horticultural greenhouses, each one 150 m2, with a metal frame and transparent polycarbonate sheeting. The outer walls can open up
to 50% by means of sliding doors, some opaque ones of these permitting certain rooms to be in darkness. The greenhouses are equipped on the basis of a simple, intelligent technology enabling the indoor climate to be regulated. This technology controls the ventilation panels in the roof, at the behest of the inside temperature. They close automatically in the event of rain and wind. Rapidly adopted by the clients, the greenhouse option has enabled us to construct bigger spaces at a low cost, while offering numerous possibilities for their utilization and adaptation, plus a varied set of atmospheres and sensations.

Cradle to cradle elements

The Coutras house is not a building designed as a cradle to cradle house. Rather the aim of the design was to design a spacious house for a small budget.
This aim resulted in a house made of cheap materials, applied in the most economical constructive method. The building consists of a flexible greenhouse space made of steel framework with polycarbonate panels, and a smaller wooden volume for the sleeping- and bathrooms. These functional/economical motives for the design can also be red as an interesting realization of the Cradle to Cradle design concept. The 'demountable' design is made of a limited number of materials that are applied in such a way that they can be separated during demolition.
At the same time the technical and biological nutrients are applied where their material characteristics are used best.The technical nutrients steel and polycarbonate serve as a water proof layer, creating the optimal conditions to build an interior volume made of untreated wood products. This clear architectural separation of nutrients makes it theoretically possible to dispose the wooden volume into nature and separate and recycle the steel, concrete and plastic. The standardized building components even allow the building to be demounted and rebuild on another location, bringing recycling to the even higher form of re-use: the direct re-use of constructive elements instead of only the material.

Energy & water
The house does not provide for its own water, electricity and heating. The green house however does collect passive solar energy which results in a conditioned space the largest part of the year. In winter the well insulated wooden volume is the only space that needs to be heated, while the greenhouse serves as an additional insulating layer. This is an effective design characteristic for reducing energy use.



The coutras house shows the relation between demountability and cradle to cradle. Although Cradle to Cradle is about recycling of materials,
the main goal is to seperate the technical and biological nutrients, not about reducing the use of technical nutrients.
Although many people mix Cradle to Cradle up with ecology, it is therefore more about demountability
The seperation of nutrients that is required for this demountability is very clearly visualized in the concept of the Coutras house.