A Cozy, Well-Sealed Cottage in Northwest France Goes Green

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By Emily Shapiro / Published by Dwell
An architect builds an energy-efficient home near one of France’s most popular pilgrimage sites.

In early 2015, architect Patrice Bideau set out to create an energy-efficient home in Sainte-Anne-d'Auray, an environmentally protected area that is home to the Sainte-Anne-d’Auray Basilica, one of the most important pilgrimage destinations in France. Bideau relied upon bio-sourced materials for the project, using tissue fiber wood, brick, concrete, and raw earth to insure the home remains cool in summer and retains heat in winter. 

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The roofs of each of the three sections of the home are constructed of zinc and are insulated for added protection.

Composed of three distinct sections, the home is comfortable and light. A garage and storeroom manage clutter; a living area with a lofted bedroom, study, and bathroom make up the main home; and a kitchen and laundry room are tucked to the side. Each section is separated by concrete elements and plaster-tiled partition walls, while insulation protects against heat transfer between floors, increasing the thermal mass inside the house. Other details, such as a wood-burning stove and a pergola, where a climbing plant will be trained to protect the facade from the sun, provide additional environmental benefits and keep energy costs down for the homeowners. 

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A solid wood exterior retains heat in the winter and keeps the house cool in summer.

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The main volume of the structure houses a ground-level living space and a bedroom as well as a lofted bedroom, bathroom, and study above. Exposed beams and natural light provide rustic charm.

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The building’s interior is still a work in progress, but the residents plan to incorporate as many natural wood elements and low-impact design details as possible as they furnish. The loft’s floor will eventually be finished with floating parquet.

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A low-pitched roof frames the third section of the home, which houses the kitchen and laundry room. Keeping the spaces small and separate allows for better insulation and temperature consistency throughout.

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Wooden brackets arm the house’s frame with additional insulation, limiting the use of metal in the structure and providing the space with a warm glow.

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A concrete wall between the garage and the main house is fortified with external insulation and covered with wood cladding and plaster. The additional protection prevents heat transfer between the concrete floor and heated living space.