Casas Bioclimaticas ITER

… connecting luxury and nature

The Casas Bioclimaticas are located in the ITER technological park (opened on 16th September 1990), where they explain and try to disseminate the running of renewable energies. The houses were opened to the public in 2011, firstly aimed at professionals but now open to anyone, but they mostly attract those who are curious about renewable energy.

Maybe exaggerating a little (but with good reason) the future of the Earth lies in houses like these ones in southern Tenerife, as it is a development which is emphatically self-sufficient with ZERO CO2 emissions.

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Because of many of these features, the Casas Bioclimaticas ITER in Tenerife are a unique place and project worldwide, where many bioclimatic techniques are tested directly in the buildings and renewable energy is integrated for general consumption.

Reserving the night

Origin of the Casas Bioclimaticas ITER

The Casas Bioclimaticas – ITER project started because of the concerns of Ricardo Melchior (president of Cabildo from 1999 to 2013) regarding renewable energies. In the Canary Islands things were constructed in a very spontaneous way with a lack of awareness of what was best for the environmental characteristics, and this had a serious impact on the island surroundings.

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The project started with the idea of generating more awareness about constructing homes in an efficient way (looking for both utilisation and comfort), to save energy in the domestic sphere and ensure the supply of desalinated water.

Therefore the project had an inspiring origin for those who wanted to build their homes in Tenerife. There were some more sustainable houses using individual solutions, which varied according to the unique characteristics of the area where they wanted to build the house: the direction and position of the houses together with the elements which could affect them (like the wind, the sea, the course of the sun, the temperature, etc.). Those individual solutions made the project work.

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In Tenerife there are around 50 microclimates, therefore any of the houses which have been built in this area might not be translatable to another part of the island or the world, as the conditions aren’t exactly the same.

The houses at Casas Bioclimaticas ITER

The Casas Bioclimaticas – ITER started with a competition in which 397 projects from 38 countries were presented, all proposing to integrate renewable energy in architecture. In the end 25 were chosen and, of the 4 winners, the first was to build the visitors’ centre. The other 24 houses have a total capacity of 120 people.

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At the beginning everything was very complicated, because nobody was interested in building houses which weren’t of a standard type and were all very different from each other. The benefit of doing so wasn’t known and each one had its own architect from abroad, which added difficulties in terms of communication.

All of the casas bioclimaticas deceive you. Each one has peculiar architectural elements with specific functions, is decorated with designer furniture (for example a sofa by ByB Italia, or a light from Flos, etc.) and sustainable technologies. Without exception, they are all high maintenance, requiring special and constant care.

Even though they are experimental houses, in general they are all tested and are perfectly habitable. But like with anything there are things to improve and therefore when a problem arises, they try to put into practice the possible different solutions. Now they are in a more privileged position to be able to produce more rigorous data for the measurements which they assess, especially when the houses are being used and ‘lived in’, which is what homes should be.

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All of the houses at casas bioclimaticas have sensors (the only thing which has had financial support from outside ITER) which indicate what happens inside (you can see them if you switch on the TV in each house), where you can see the ‘comfort’ factors (temperature, relative humidity and wind speed).

There are more and more returners who like to try new houses to discover other individual options as well as others who stay in the same house every year. Therefore so that you get a better idea of what you are going to find we will describe a little bit about each of the 24 houses which are available for your enjoyment.

a. The most famous and photogenic houses at casas bioclimaticas are:

1.  La Geria – the house is inspired by the traditional vine cultivation method in Lanzarote, with a wall which protects from the wind and preserves the humidity. It sleeps 6 people.

2.  El Río – a stream crosses the house from the garden to a pond in the solarium. If you open the French doors in the living room, you connect the garden with the terrace, creating a unique space. It sleeps 4 people.

3.  El Gavión – this is a robust house built into the ground and with ‘personality’. It sleeps 6 people.

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The walls are made in a gabion-style metal framework (which is a metal container full of stones) using basalt volcanic rock.

4. La Geoda – it has a sloping roof in the form of a geode from which various thin sheets of glass protrude. It sleeps 7 people.

5. El Alisio – it is said that winds cause its shape, energy, coolness and garden smell, and it has a large common meeting space. It sleeps 4 people, but is not recommended for children.

6. La Arcilla – each part of the house has an extension to the outside, where the 4 basic elements are used (earth, fire, air and water). It sleeps 4 people, but is not recommended for children.

7. El Muro – the house blends into the landscape. The wall divides a night-time area from the daytime one. It sleeps 4 people. Surely one of the best houses at Casas bioclimaticas ITER.

8. El Dispositivo – this is a house which represents a ship which has run aground, open from inside to outside, with a sheet of water which links the living room with the solarium. It sleeps 4 people.

b. The ones which have loyal fans, mainly because of their functionality, are:

1. La Compacta – it has a pyramid which represents the sun (its light and energy). The house mixes tuff, basalt and wood. Inside there is a small pond. It sleeps 4 people.

2. Las Bóvedas is a very inviting house in the style of an underground cave, but to everyone’s surprise it has a very light, well-ventilated interior with two patios. It is one of the houses which works the best: it has a stable temperature, is protected from the wind, and has an indoor air recycling system. It sleeps 5 people.

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It reminds you of a hermitage with its three caverns of volcanic rock and its sacred atmosphere. It is ideal for families.

3. El Pueblo – this is a very pleasant house to live in, as it seems like a town with its streets, trees and main square. It has a ceiling made from tuff, clay floors and chimneys which keep it cool naturally. It sleeps 4 people.

4. El Patio – there is a small pond on the patio at the house where rainwater is collected. It sleeps 5 people.

5. La Duna – this is equipped for people with reduced mobility. It is a house which is naturally ventilated and is protected, but at the same opens onto the sea. It is very balanced. It sleeps 6 people.

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This is the only project, at Casas Bioclimaticas ITER, by a Canary Island architect (from Tenerife). Its shape is not indulgent design; the first thing he calculated was the most efficient angle of the plot and then he designed the outline. The sun does not enter the house in the summer, but it does in the winter when it is not as high. It is the most efficient house per photovoltaic square metre.

6. El Bernegal – this has an entry patio which sinks towards the reservoir. All of the double bedrooms look forwards and there are three bathrooms and a private terrace made from multi-coloured materials. It sleeps 6 people.

7. Bernouilli – this uses a mixture of indigenous construction techniques and those from other similar climates to create an efficient use of energy. Its structure allows brightness and spaciousness in the house. It sleeps 6 people.

8. La Religa – inside there is a light metal grill with water underneath, which works like a humidifier and mirror. It sleeps 5 people, but is not recommended for children.

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This indoor lake produces lots of humidity and, as it is not subject to the parameters of comfort, its shape has changed although still respecting the original idea

c. The most discreet, private houses at Casas bioclimaticas ITER are:

1. El Escudo – this is a more humble house with regard to materials. It is a thermodynamic machine which takes advantage of the bioclimate where it is. It sleeps 4 people.

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It is an example of standardisation and reduced costs which come together to good effect.

2. La Estrella – this is a half-buried house which has gained a terrace this year. On the roof of the house there is rosemary planted which gives a very pleasant ambient smell. It sleeps a maximum of 6 people.

3. El Caminito – this has views but is not a very open house; it is more private, more Mediterranean. It was conceived as an example of a house which could be built on this part of the island. It sleeps 6 people.

4.  El Cangrejo – this is a very pleasant and individual home. Because of its shape, the wind blows upwards over the structure, so the patio is like the eye of a hurricane – on windy days it is a calm place. It is like a vertical parasol. It sleeps 4 people.

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The house is made of metal plating and has carbon insulation inside, so it has a particular natural smell (which is also true of other houses).

5.  La Tea – this is a very intimate house, made entirely from tuff with very pretty internal spaces and various patios. It has also been done up and they have put in a big window to open it up a bit more. It sleeps 6 people.

6, Noche y Día – the majority of its materials and furniture are recycled. There are two blocks which separate the bedroom area from the living spaces. A semi-circular wall protects the home from the wind. It sleeps 5 people.

7.  El Cubo – this has a fascinating interior in a very Japanese style. It is a house which looks in on itself and is made entirely of clay and wood. It sleeps 4 people.

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Soon they will open the rear patio, as the positioning of the solar panel blocked the light

8, La Vela – this is a very light house, where there are some very interesting tricks of the light. It is just at the maximum spot for wind, so the house used to vibrate. For that reason they have made some repairs and it is much better. It sleeps 4 people.

Our experience at Casas Bioclimaticas ITER: El Muro

Upon arrival at the house you receive a few sheets with a questionnaire, a small plan which shows eight important places in the area and other recommendations which you should read so you don’t feel lost. When the project was carried out nothing was standardised, which is the normal approach when building a development, because each house is special and unique.

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Among other details, in the El Muro house there is a frying pan with special dimensions which was bought because the induction hob is a bit bigger than normal.

To try out the house a bit (and to see if we could find any faults J ), we bought food to cook in the kitchen (it didn’t happen to us, but they told us we had to read the instructions for the induction hob – which are stuck to the wall –because it can get blocked), we showered at different times throughout our stay, etc., but everything was perfect.

We loved that separation between the daytime area (where the bedrooms and the bathroom are) and the nightime area with the stone wall. The dwelling blends in with the landscape and the living room, with its large windows which look out on the terrace, is particularly special, above all at sunset.

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There was a lizard on the wall J throughout the development there are small animals, and lizards in particular form part of the indigenous wildlife. They aren’t considered a plague but rather allies, as they eat other smaller, more annoying animals.

The south airport is nearby so airplanes pass overhead, but in our case we were able to sleep deeply without a problem. Clearly if you are on the terrace you will be able to hear them, but they are in no way annoying.

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At the time of making your reservation, you will be assigned a ‘surprise house’. If you want a specific one you must ask for it and pay an extra €25 per day.

Extras at Casas bioclimaticas ITER

In the visitors’ centre at Casas bioclimaticas ITER there is an auditorium with capacity for 200 people and different multi-use areas. Once a week (Thursday mornings at 9:30) they do a guided tour through the houses. The walk (although it can be done on your own) takes you through the visitors’ centre at ITER and so satiates any curiosity you might have for learning about bioclimatic architecture, the project and its multiple applications.

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The guided tour is only offered for those staying as guests at the houses (people from outside need to book in advance), as on many occasions it is the guests themselves who open up the houses where they are staying and tell of their experience.

As the Casas Bioclimaticas – ITER are isolated in a coastal area in southern Tenerife, the houses have minimal services and the management pays special attention to cuisine. They are located in an area which is 60,000m2 and where they have maintained the botany from the area, although there are other things typical of the rest of the island.

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They offer different gastronomic options, from a food shop comprising products from the area, to a chef who will cook for you in the house. Of course, you can cook and buy the products independently too.

A few minutes’ walk away you will find various beaches of different types; some of stone which have accumulated thanks to the force of the water, and others of very fine black sand where you will almost certainly be completely alone.

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The port of Granadilla is just next door (at the time of our visit in September 2015, it was under construction) and we loved giving our personal opinion about it, but I think that in this little description of the houses it isn’t relevant J

Reserving the night

Getting there

From Los Cristianos or the south airport take the motorway towards Santa Cruz and then exit 51. From Santa Cruz or the northern part of the island, on the south motorway take exit 52. Follow the signs and when you get to the industrial estate, stop at the barrier and give your details so that they let you through.

Casas Bioclimáticas ITER - Polígono Industrial Granadilla, S/N. 38600 El Médano, Granadilla, Tenerife

Final comments from the authors

The time at Casas Bioclimaticas ITER was just a unique experience. It is a priceless luxury to experience a house which respects the environment in that way, located somewhere you can get up and spend the day calmly looking at the Montaña Pelada or enjoying a beach almost completely alone.

You will be in contact with a different nature, almost holidays on the moon, without everything you’d normally get at a resort and with an almost private beach. It means holidays to your taste, with complete freedom, for those who want to disconnect in a relaxing atmosphere. This is the ideal place - it is like having your own holiday home full of secrets and details to discover.

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