EDITION: August - October 2010


Helen Howard

As the style of building has evolved in different cultures, it has left behind some important pieces of history – evidence as to how people conceptualised things, what technologies and materials were available and some idea of tastes and lifestyle.

For hundreds of years, there has been strong architectural precept in Ibiza – the traditional finca with their thick stone walls, welcoming entradas and warm fireplaces these rustic old farmhouses are often extremely beautiful – though it would be excess-ively romantic to pretend that they are entirely without problems – for example, in the winter, they can get quite dark, and suffer from dampness. Nevertheless, because fincas were built to last and constructed with local materials, their environmental impact was relatively low. Since the 1970’s, in an attempt to accommodate the expanding local and tourist population, there has been an ongoing development of not quite so quaint hotels and apartment blocks. Until relatively recently, many of these were built with low quality materials (often single skin breeze block). They were typically poorly insulated and often were not particularly attractive.

Fortunately, over the last 10 years or so, Europe and the rest of world has benefited from exponential improvements in building techniques, materials and design – the result being that it is increasingly possible to construct buildings which look good, feel good, and have a reduced environmental impact. Realistically, building on Ibiza is unlikely to stop, so it is import-ant that what is built is of good quality, and is as aesthetically pleasing as possible. EU regulations gently push in the direction of energy saving improvements, and hopefully this will continue. As the new approach to building rapidly emerges it is becoming more common for those involved in different aspects of the process collaborate with one another – designers, architects, builders and even environmentalists are beginning to realise that they can offer a better end product and service by working more closely together.

I recently met with Diederik van Maren – a builder and designer, who coordinates one such team including an “in-house” architect and a range of plumbers, electricians and other building professionals. He is aware of too many cases where the builder and architect do not communicate for weeks or even months at a time and he does not consider this beneficial to the process – “where professionals are not part of a cohesive team, they can easily have conflicting interests, and pass the buck of responsibility, which in the end can leave the client having to deal with lots of unresolved problems.”

Diederik also feels it is import-ant to stay abreast of new developments – because there is so much new information out there, so many new products, and so much innovation in the world of design, he feels it can be very helpful for people to be introduced to some of these new concepts and choices by someone who has taken the time to have an overview of what they are – many builders or architects working alone do not consider this to be part of their remit. He also points out that it is perfectly possible to construct 3d models of houses and design features: “This can be really important, as it is often hard for clients to vis-ualize what a house will really look like simply from flat architectural drawings.” It also allows him to go to town on his main passion which is creating beautiful and light living spaces, with many individualistic features.

In many of his constructions he uses special bricks called “Ytong” – they have much higher insulation properties than clay bricks or breezeblock and therefore keep the house cooler in summer and warmer in winter as well as offering excellent protection against humidity. He has also developed a special way of finishing roofs, giving better insulation and protection against leakage. Another increasingly significant development in the world of building is the emergence of a wide range of environmentally friendly choices, for example: water recycling systems, chemical free swimming pools, and non-toxic or low impact ma-terials, such as ecological paints, and natural insulation and flooring – and a growing number of professionals are finding that their clients request these type of options.

In the end, it is worth remembering that each building project is a unique combination of factors. Some of these, such as budget, may be fairly fixed – though clearly there are big choices to be made around design, location, and materials. Few people get the chance to build a house more than once in a lifetime, if ever – making it a relatively rare and extraordinary creative opportunity – the fruits of which will (hopefully!) be enjoyed by many future generations. As there is usually no chance to practice in advance for this great work of art, it is perhaps not such a bad idea to invoke the assistance of someone who has developed the skills and knowledge to utilize the best of what is available and who can help to make the opportunity and the end result all it can possibly be.

Text: Helen Howard