“Neighbours, everybody needs good bioclimatic neighbours…”

Some mornings, purely by accident, I get caught by those day time Do Up The House programmes, they usually involve some death trap of a place riddled with rot but always “in an up and coming area”. They would say it was an up and coming area even if it was in Baghdad. Well yesterday was my chance to do some house hunting in much better circumstances, it was the official inauguration of 25 bioclimatic houses at ITER, the renewable energy centre in Granadilla.

The calima was at full pelt and the sun magnified through the dusty haze as I arrived with John Beckley from Sorted Sites. The visitors centre was packed with architects, scientists and the media, as well as the usual suits giving speeches there was Princess Alexia of Greece, she lives in Lanzarote most of the time. Thankfully the speeches came to an end and I was let loose to explore the houses, built over 14 years as the result of a world wide competition. So what is bioclimatic? basically it means the houses are designed to make the most of the elements, solar panels, wind turbines, recylcled building materials and desalinated sea water. They are totally self sufficient and produce no CO2 emmisions.

It was a bit of a scramble with hundreds of people touring the houses, most of them battling for good photos, I just dived in and trod on lots of toes. The designs were very ingenious, many of them sunk partly into the ground to maximise insulation and heat. The interiors were pretty stylish with good use of space and natural lighting. The furniture ranged from basic as in the recycled cardboard tables and chairs in Noche Y Dia, to the more elegant and spacious like El Bernegal (both below).

The whole inauguration was handled like a well drilled military operation (but without guns) and the press packs and hand outs must have wiped out the odd forest or two. The houses are spread over a large site with a winding pathway linking them and the weather was scorching, I heeded the pre launch advice not to wear high heels but some of the ladies were struggling in tight designer dresses and crippling stilletos, sometimes I’m glad that I’m a fashion slob. Help was at hand though, golf buggies and electric scooters were freely available to whisk the hot and sweaty around the route as required. I battled it out on foot and later recycled my sweat by bottling it and sending it to the people that make Pot Noodle.

There was a whole flock of smartly suited and very helpful young ladies steering the lost and bewildered from house to house and people were heading back to the visitors centre at their own pace as many others continued to swarm over the dwelllings. I rushed back and did a quick interview with an American architect, Madelaine Fava, and realised I hadn’t seen or photgraphed her creation, El Alisio. thankfully the golf buggies enabled me to quickly put that right even though her building wasn’t open and furnished yet.

All this rushing around meant I didn’t have time to sample the posh nosh and wine being handed around, mind you I’m more of a chocolate doughnut and bottle of Dorada sort of chap. Loaded up with goodie packs we headed back to Los Cristianos leaving most of the others to enjoy an afternoon environmental film show. The bioclimatic village was very impressive and will now provide loads of data as scientists and enthusiasts live in them as they are monitored closely. If you want to read more detailed and technical accounts of the site, you can find more of my reports at www.tenerifemagazine.com or www.canarygreen.net and the official ITER site has all the background and specifications in several languages. Tours of the bioclimatic village run from Tuesday 23 March for a week, at other times you can go and see the rest of the fascinating ITER developments including those giant wind turbines at close quarters, all FREE. Call 922391000 and ask for Elsa.