No Footprint House (NFH) | A-01 | World Design Awards 2021

A-01: Winner of World Design Awards 2021. The No Footprint House (NFH) is located in Ojochal, a small village at the edge of the vast tropical rain forests along the South Pacific coast of Costa Rica. Placed in a humid tropical climate, the building responds to its surrounding habitat by passive climate control through natural ventilation and solar shading. The NFH is organized around a central service core, which includes all machinery, intelligence, closets, bathrooms, kitchen and laundry area. The compression of utilities in one compact unit enables an open floor plan all around the core. Moreover, it contributes to the building efficiency in terms of assembly and maintenance. Additional furniture pieces are “plugged” into the double-layered facade, which is created by the vertical structural columns and the inclined outer enclosures. The inclination decreases direct impact of sunlight and precipitation, which protects the elevated floorplan from overheating and splashing water. Façade panels can be opened or closed individually in order to regulate views and exposure, augment or reduce air flows, create privacy and security. They convert interior to exterior spaces and play with the dynamic among nature and the built environment, one of the key features of tropical architecture.

The house in Ojochal has been developed as a prototype for serial production, based on a larger toolbox of residential typologies. It was prefabricated in the Central Valley of Costa Rica and transported to the target location on one single truck. The process of making and inhabiting the prototype created valuable experience to optimize the series. In its initial phase, the NFH comes in three different pre-designed sizes that can be auto-configured with regards to the internal distribution and connections, material finishes and desired level of services: from “tiny” (36m2) to mid-size (81m2) and family home (108m2). Each building is customized from a catalogue of prefabricated components, the first of its kind in Central America. The selection of all elements and materials is based on a thorough investigation regarding origin, processing, and environmental footprint. Component options that form part of the NFH catalogue include structural wood and steel, different types of louvres and perforated panels for the facades, bamboo and wood ceilings, as well as mineral and synthetic finishes for walls and floors. They can be chosen according to the specific needs and likes of each client. Fully customized configurations that are based on the systemic design of the project can be produced and have already been delivered to different locations in Costa Rica.

In Ojochal, the NFH-108 was built as a floating steel structure with wooden finishes. It is based on a structural grid size of 12 x 9 meters, which contains a combined living and dining area, two bathrooms, two bedrooms and a multifunctional terrace. The private rooms can be closed off through different layers of glass sliders and “curtain walls” in order to allow for changing degrees of spatial separation or social integration. The upper section of the building remains permanently open in order to assure unobstructed air flows and cross-ventilation. Panels of mosquito netting prevent insects from entering. The house is connected to the public water and energy grid, which is powered almost entirely by renewable resources in Costa Rica. Only water is heated locally through solar power, which is harvested on top of the roof. Auto-sufficient building configurations are available for off-grid locations, as well as a completely de- and remountable kit of parts. The project is designed to integrate with its natural surroundings and minimize the impact of construction on the environment. The prototype forms part of a prefabricated series that offers a wide range of adjustable, affordable and replicable solutions to cater for a broad customer segment. The NFH seeks to attain comprehensive sustainability in terms of its environmental, economic, social and spatial performance.

Project Details

Project Name
No Footprint House (NFH)

Oliver Schütte

World Design Awards Category
Residential Built

Project Location
Ojochal, Province of Puntarenas

Oliver Schütte, Marije van Lidth de Jeude, José Pablo González, Misael Rodríguez, Ronald Carvajal, Mauricio Rodríguez, Pablo Mora, Rafael Cañas, Hernán Mora, Luuc van Wezel

Costa Rica

Photography ©Credit
©Fernando Alda

A-01 is a multidisciplinary network organization for urban and rural development. Our work methodology is designed to break the boundaries of a single profession in order to allow for a holistic approach. We envision a long-term impact that involves economic growth, a responsible use of natural resources, an equal social development and a high-quality spatial surrounding. This complex set of factors is simply refered to as “the 4 E’s of integral sustainability”: Economy, Environment, Equity and Engineering. Each assignment is carried out with a custom-fit team of experts, introducing A Company and its non-profit counterpart A Foundation as operational vehicles.