Subtropical home and gallery keeps its cool via geothermal

We’ve seen builders and architects accomplish some amazing feats with geothermal heat wells — chief among them, achieving Passive House certification for a duplex in Ottawa, Canada, the world’s fourth coldest capital city. 

Homes built to Passive House standards use 90 percent less energy than their conventionally built counterparts, so it’s an example that goes to show just how much of a building’s fuel consumption can be cut by relying on the temperature of the earth six feet below the surface, which — regardless of the season or climate — remains relatively constant (between 45 degrees to 75 degrees Fahrenheit).

But the closer you get to the equator, the less heating becomes and issue, and the more AC looms large in a building’s carbon footprint. A fine example of contemporary architecture in the Sungbuk district of Seoul, South Korea, shows that geothermal can not only cut fuel oil/natural gas consumption, but electricity consumption as well.

According to eVolo, the Daeyang Gallery and House, designed by Steven Holl Architects, was inspired by a 1967 sketch for a music score by composer Istvan Anhalt entitled “Symphony of Modules.” 

Conceived of a kind of physical composition in sequential movements, the building features three pavilions — one, an entryway; one, a residence; and one, an event space for the gallery. A floor-level reflecting pool helps to unify these elements, establishing a plane of reference from above and below.

Summertime temperatures in this mega-city’s subtropical climate generally run hot and humid, with the East Asian monsoon taking center stage from June until July. But Seoul also experiences winters that are relatively cold, with around a month of snow a year. 

In a climate with such major mood swings, so to speak, geothermal wells coupled with a heat exchanger constitute an ideal solution — and, in this case, take care of the building’s heating and cooling needs year round.

The home and gallery features a bamboo-formed garden wall within its entry courtyard, which then ascends via a series of steps into the entry pavilion, bringing the visitor to the level of the reflecting pool. Sky, water, greenery and the earthy, reddened patina of the copper walls conspire to create an aesthetic experience in keeping with the fine art within the gallery.

The stained wood interiors of the pavilions are punctuated by skylight strips of clear glass cut into the roof, allowing natural daylight to filter in, illuminating artworks and living areas without damaging art. In another variation on the theme — or module, if you will — strips of glass lenses in the base of the reflecting pool bring dappled light to the white plaster walls and white granite floor of the gallery below.

More on the project is available online.

Susan DeFreitas, EarthTechling