A zero energy house that does not look like one: The main living area of Mo Ventus is made entirely of glass. On hot days, a retractable screen insulates the futuristic building from the sun and heat, providing cooling. Although only a prototype as yet, the passive house could be a blueprint for the future – worldwide.
A house that generates as much energy as it uses is an ideal of modern sustainable architecture. Climate change and rising energy costs have, for years, been influencing the design of buildings, some of which appear more, some of which appear less conventional.
A luxury passive house that is setting new standards
The American Todd Fix from FIXd Architecture/Design in Boston and a team of engineers of various disciplines have designed a concept for a luxurious passive house with a design different to what has ever been seen. Here, too, the focus is on independence from the power grid, self-sufficient generation of wind and solar energy, and storing excess energy in several hydrogen fuel cells for later use.
The architect drew his inspiration from a more or less unrelated area: According to Todd Fix, the idea for the curved design was taken from sailing. “The idea came to me not only from watching sailboats – windsurfers, kiters, paragliders and windmills too harness wind energy for their purposes. The Mo Ventus design aims to capture as much wind as possible.”
The vision of wind and movement
The visionary building consists of several building structures, which can be combined for the customer in many different ways. One the one hand, there is the sail-shaped or paddle-shaped part of the building, which captures the wind and transforms it into usable energy. Living spaces can – but do not have to be – integrated into this huge C-shaped structure.
It is also possible to erect a separate residential wing. Fix recommends that his Mo Ventus is built along a slightly sloping beach with a temperate climate, as this is where the best use can be made of the building’s features. However, any location is possible, as long as there is ample wind, or at least a constant breeze.
Even the name of the house describes its two most important characteristics: “Mo Ventus is derived from the Latin words ‘motus’, meaning motion, and ‘ventus’, meaning wind. And we combine the two.” Motion, in this case, means that some parts of the outer building shift their shape. This is necessary because the entire living area is made from glass – everything from the floor to the walls to the ceiling, to be exact. This opens up the living area to nature and minimises energy requirements, because translucent walls need less electrical light, and illuminate the interior naturally. But how is the glass cube cooled in hot weather? After all, turning up the air conditioning would defeat the purpose of the ecological design.
Instead, there is a grid-shaped light screen and an insulated shell, both mounted on rails, which extend and envelop the glass structure, protecting it and insulating it. “The technology offers flexible control over the heat gain from the sunlight,” Fix explains, comparing the light screen and shell with different layers of clothing that can be put on or taken off. “Sensors decide, for example, whether both layers should be closed on a cold day in order to retain the heat in the interior. But if more light is needed, you can still open the opaque outer shell.” The shells can be controlled both manually and automatically. Due to the lightweight construction of the shells – and also because they are mounted horizontally on rails – they use up very little energy and can be opened without much effort.
Although it sounds somewhat like a machine for living, and is highly complex in technical terms, the house is also designed to be fun. Fix intends to build an amphitheatre at the foot of the sail-shaped building, where it is possible to watch movies on a retractable screen.
Furthermore, the luxury passive house is to have an outdoor kitchen and a built-in dining table. The roof is to accommodate a garden as well as three pools, which are not only intended for swimming, but also for absorbing heat. The interior of this extraordinary house contains a slide by conceptual artist Carsten Höller, which leads down across all floors right to the beach level – “fun functionality”, as Fix calls it. At the present time, the futuristic Mo Ventus only exists virtually.
Unlimited design options
How good the energy-saving measures really are cannot be said as yet, as this could not be tested under real-life conditions. But what makes the building so interesting apart from its energy intelligence, is the complete freedom with regard to size and interior design.
The living area, consisting of bedrooms, living rooms, bathrooms and studies, can be sized anywhere between 465 and 1,115 sqm. It goes without saying that a house that, according to Fix, costs between 3.5 and 10 million US dollars, simply must offer this kind of flexibility.
About the creator of Mo Ventus
Todd Fix studied architecture at Harvard University, the University of Nebraska, the Architecture Association in London, and the ETH in Zurich. In the course of his career, he has planned infrastructure projects, apartment buildings, commercial building complexes, museums as well as exhibition design. He says: “It was my professional experience that inspired me to design Mo Ventus. For me, it embodies a combination of the various intertwining aspects of architecture: design, health-promoting building techniques, material research and green building technologies.” Fix wants his design to bring together social and political considerations, cultural and visual factors, as well as high-tech and quality of life. For the Boston architect, this also includes being surrounded by nature, which is what Mo Ventus aims to do, on the one hand in terms of location, on the other hand by using glass as building material and creating the option of opening up the building to the outside.
More information on this breathtaking architectural project can be found on the Mo Ventus property details page.
Further information: GG Magazine
TEXT: Uta Abendroth PHOTOS: FIXd Architecture/Design – Todd Fix