Our vision when we began this project was to create a place that would serve both as a home for the four of us, and an educational centre where people could learn, both in theory and in practice, about a wide range of topics broadly related to ecology. The buildings would be built at low cost with natural materials. After gaining experience with Snail Cabin we started to build the main house in summer 2008. Four years later, after a lot of hard work with the help of hundreds of volunteers, we are enjoying the results.
The crescent shape of the floor plan creates a sheltered patio to the south, a form which gives the building its name — Abrazo (“embrace” in Spanish) House. The load-bearing main wall is built of solid earth (cob) on the first floor and on the second, straw bales with thick earthen plaster inside and out. Most of the wood in the house is recycled, including the main beams which came from a 100-year-old demolished building. The house uses passive solar design, with large areas of south-facing double-glazed windows; our hot water comes from the solar panels, too. In the winter a wood stove is enough to warm up both the house and the hot water.
The house was very inexpensive to build compared to a conventional house. Over the seven years of the project we have spent a total of about €155,000 — this includes the cost of the land, materials, fees, permits, labour, etc. For this we have not only a 200m2 main house that is comfortable and cheap to run, but also a guest cabin. Compare that with the average cost of a Spanish house (€221,200 for 100m2) and you can see that it was well worth the effort.