For its entry in the 2012 Solar Decathlon Europe, a group of Brazilian architects, designers, students and researchers has taken its cues from the native Tupi-Guarani people, one of the largest aboriginal nations in Brazil. Called Ekó House, the project scales up Ikea’s self-assembling concept and combines it with solar power, rain collection, natural lighting, a dry toilet and a system to turn sewage into garden fertilizer.

The Ekó House is erected with modules made of wooden beams and pillars, oriented strand board (OSB) panels and pre-stressed steel cables that connect the modules and allow large spans with small beams. It all starts with the floor, where the wood panels are set one by one, until the top module is finally laid down. The plates fit into slots, which makes positioning more precise, and then fixing is done with screws. There’s also a flexible footing system that makes it adaptable to different types of terrain.

Team Brasil has embraced a tradition-meets-high-tech ethos. On one of hand they want the house to facilitate socializing and revive the Brazilian tradition of gathering in the kitchen, a hub of family interaction. For that purpose, the internal spaces feature flexible furnishing and dynamic layout configurations. On the other hand, the team has also envisaged an automated home with a small meteorological station on the outside and an internal monitoring device to control temperature and humidity.

Electricity is generated by 48 PV panels, with the potential to produce 10 KW, potentially thrice the amount required by the house. Another key feature is the decentralized sewage treatment. Human waste is disposed and treated in a waterless toilet while wastewater from the shower, wash basin and clothes washer will be treated with a combination of filters and macrophytes. The size of the module can be customized to the number of inhabitants of the house and the treated effluents can be used in agriculture and gardens, keeping the water in a closed loop.

For millennia, the peoples who occupied what is now Brazil lived in harmony with nature, so they may have something to teach contemporary people when it comes to sustainability. Ekó is not a variation of "eco" but means "way of living" in Tupi-Guarani. In Brazilian Indian culture the Sun had an important religious meaning and their way of life was completely integrated with the cycles of nature and the environment around them. That is why one of the key features of the house is that it can be adapted to the time of the year and the weather.

Team Brasil hopes to finish the project by July, in time for the 2012 Solar Decathlon that takes place in Madrid in September. The video below describes the concept behind the Ekó House.

Source: Ekó House