In Portugal, A Green Home That Puts Aesthetics First

Ericeira, Portugual, is a World Surfing Reserve. Which is why it makes sense that three-time national surf champion and well-known big wave rider José Gregório would choose to build a home there for his family. It also makes sense that it would be a green building, as those who spend their days riding the waves tend to be eco-minded (if the Surfrider Foundation is any indication). But just because a home is built to sustainable standards doesn’t mean it can’t embrace the clean lines of modern architecture, and Gregório’s U-House offers an eloquent testimony to that idea.

The home was designed by Jorge Graça Costa, a a young Portuguese architect interested by the implications of sustainability and energy efficiency in architecture. His goal for this project was to go green, essentially, while avoiding any “green pronouncements,” focusing instead on the aesthetics of the architecture  The house design takes many of its cues from the surrounding environment. The orientation of the home offers protection from prevailing winds on the coast — from the north in the summer and the south in the winter, the latter of which tends to carry substantial amounts of rain in from the sea. Its orientation also works to keep the home cool in the summer and warm in the winter, via passive solar design.

U-House, Portugal

image via Architizer

The central design idea was to reinterpret the ancient Mediterranean patio house by creating a patio area on a plateau embraced by two long arms interconnected by a third body, making the most of those fabulous views to the west, even in the home’s interior spaces. This building controls the amount of solar gain created by those windows with high-performance glazings. (All that daylighting, of course, also helps the home do with less electricity for lighting.)

Eco-friendly features of the home include a tight building envelope, and both art work and interior finishes made from recycled materials. Cork was used as a primary isolation material, while radiant, in-floor heat supplied via solar by solar panels supported by biomass help to keep interior temperatures comfortable year round. A cool, green microclimate environment is created by the patio and the pool (chemical-free, of course), and harvested rainwater (collected in a preexisting well) takes care of landscaping irrigation.

The result is a house that’s as aesthetically pleasing and comfortable to be in as it is efficient in the areas of energy and water consumption — a green home that puts architecture first.

Susan DeFreitas has covered all manner of green technology for EarthTechling since 2009. She is a graduate of Prescott College for the Liberal Arts and the Environment, and has a background in marketing green businesses. Her work on green living has been featured in Yes! Magazine, the Utne Reader and Natural Home.


  • Reply September 4, 2012


    I dont know what aesthetic qualities the artwork interior hides, but the exterior looks depressingly like a three sided bunker. i just wonder what ‘puts architecture first’ can mean…

    • Reply December 16, 2013

      Jorge Graça Costa

      Mr. Frank with all respect, who cares about your aesthetics consideration!
      This is a multiple Award winning house, maybe you should reconsider your aesthetics ideals.

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