Luis Quintano: No balcony? No problem – the Spanish Basque Country looks for ways to add outdoor space to homes | Economy and business
The terraces and balconies have retained the important appeal they acquired during the coronavirus lockdown, as steps are already taken in different areas to increase their number, not only in new buildings but also in existing apartments. without outdoor space.
Very soon, owners in the Spanish Basque Country who undertake a complete renovation of their building will have to add terraces or balconies, provided the structure can withstand them. Each home owner will receive a subsidy of up to € 5,000. In new regional legislation to be approved at the end of the year, these open spaces are now considered an essential part of a home’s livability, along with basic requirements such as floor space. , the ceiling height, insulation, sanitary conditions and accessibility. .
The balcony or terrace must have a minimum area of four square meters with a depth of 1.5 meters and it will not be counted in the usable floor area of the accommodation. This is crucial, as these structures have been viewed in the past as a negative element, likely to devalue a property as they subtract the floor space from the total. As a result, they have been reduced or completely eliminated by both homeowners and developers in recent years.
Housing in the Basque region of northern Spain is among the oldest in southern Europe, making building renovation policies important, with the lockdown offering lessons that have been incorporated into the new legislation. “Before the pandemic, we were already working on this concept of outdoor habitability,” explains Pablo García Astrain, responsible for housing, land and architecture at the regional government. “When the Covid-19 hit, what we did was to go further, so that the decree, which was originally intended only to favor outdoor spaces by not including them in the surface useful on the ground, now puts the renovation of the building on an equal footing with the new construction. and requires the installation of terraces or balconies, whenever possible from an urbanistic point of view. Basque town halls will have two years to adapt their statutes.
Spanish architect Luis Quintano, who created a standardized prefabricated balcony prototype called STAYHÖME, has added his voice to those who demand more outdoor space in buildings. Responding to this basic need, he presented his proposal in an ideas competition called Architecture for the day after, and received an encouraging response. “I have received many messages from interested people who have sent me pictures of their buildings. The problem lies in the administrative barriers, which make its implementation difficult, ”explains Quintano, adding that years ago it was unthinkable to place an exterior elevator on the facade of a building, yet it has become. common in many neighborhoods today.
Designed for suburban housing, Quintano’s balcony allows many configurations, making it adaptable to taste and construction potential. The building material can also vary based on structural requirements and preferences with an array of steel, metal, wood and even bamboo. But for the moment, no company has contacted Quintano to offer to market his invention.
Meanwhile, Bloomframe, the window convertible into a balcony, has gone from a sketch to a reality that adorns the facades. The first convertible window was installed in an apartment building in Amsterdam; then in a private villa in Switzerland, although not for sale until January 2022. “It took us a while to find the right partner to develop and produce an affordable version of the Bloomframe window, which has been around for more. 10 years, ”says Dutch architect Michiel Hofman of Bloomframe. “We are currently working on the last stages of technical development and certifications. »The price of the product, excluding transport and installation, is € 15,000 and the maximum exterior surface is three square meters. Designed for compact apartments in dense urban areas, the window allows the room of a dwelling to be extended outwards. In 55 seconds it becomes a balcony thanks to an electronically controlled process. When closed, it looks like a conventional window.
But adding an exterior element to a facade is not easy. The first step is to make sure it’s technically feasible. “A cantilever is being installed and therefore an unforeseen external load, it is therefore essential to observe the technical feasibility of the solution while ensuring the safety of people”, according to a spokesperson for the Council general of official associations of technical architects. “The installation of these balconies, if they are permanent, may require the reinforcement of the structure. The authorization of the municipal council is then necessary to see if there are any town planning restrictions; and then there is the not insignificant issue of the neighborhood agreement since it affects the aesthetics of the facade and the structure of the building.
The added balcony could be permanent or prefabricated, like that of Luis Quintano; it all depends on the criteria and the technical potential of the building. Although “the non-permanent and possibly retractable type will be more likely to be implemented, according to a spokesperson for the Spanish General Council for Technical Architecture (CGATE).
Outdoor spaces have been in high demand since the start of the pandemic. With the lockdown, people who could afford to move began looking for a property with a large balcony. This was the top of the line product in the Spanish property market in 2020 and still is today, suggesting that it is not just a passing fad.
Another market trend is the massive increase in demand for roof windows since the start of the pandemic. “Many people who had an abandoned attic decided to open a window for lighting and ventilation,” explains Almudena López de Rego, architect in the technical office of Velux Spain. This company markets a window named Cabrio designed for sloping roofs, which can be converted from skylight to balcony window in seconds. It retails for € 2,076.
english version by Heather galloway.