The terraces and balconies have not lost one iota of the gigantic prominence they gained during the pandemic confinement. So much so that steps are already being taken to the fore from different areas to extend its presence, even in existing flats that do not have any outside space.
Very soon, homeowners in the Basque Country who undertake a comprehensive renovation of their buildings will have to add terraces or balconies, provided that the morphology of the property allows it. Each neighbor will receive a subsidy of up to 5,000 euros per home. In the decree of habitability of the Basque Government, which faces the last phase of processing and which will be approved at the end of the year, terraces are considered an essential element for a home to be habitable. The terrace meets the level of basic requirements such as surface area, height, thermal comfort, health or accessibility.
This outdoor space must have a minimum of four square meters with a depth of 1.5 meters. And, most importantly, it will not count as a usable area of the home. This is essential, since terraces and balconies were undervalued and penalized because they subtracted useful surface and, in fact, in recent years they have been reduced to the maximum or have been directly eliminated, both by individuals and developers.
The Basque Country has one of the oldest housing parks in southern Europe, which makes rehabilitation policies far-reaching. The new decree includes the lessons of confinement. “Before the pandemic we were already working on this concept of exterior habitability. When the covid arrives, what we do is take a step further, so that the habitability decree, which originally only sought to promote outdoor spaces by not calculating buildability, equates the new construction to rehabilitation and requires terraces or balconies, whenever possible from an urban point of view ”, explains Pablo García Astrain, director of Housing, Land and Architecture. Basque city councils will have a period of two years to adapt their municipal ordinances.
The clamor to recover the exterior spaces has been joined by the Spanish architect Luis Quintano, who has created a standardized prototype of a prefabricated terrace called STAYHÖME. Seeking to respond to that need of citizens, he presented this proposal in the ideas contest Architecture of the day after. And it has not gone unnoticed. “I have received many messages from interested individuals who have sent me photos of their buildings. The problem is the administrative obstacles, which make it difficult to implement it, ”says Quintano. Although years ago it was unthinkable to place an elevator on the façade and today it is common in many neighborhoods, he recalls hopefully.
The prototype, designed for outlying neighborhoods, could be adapted to each building and neighbor. Its modules allow numerous configuration possibilities. The material could also vary depending on the structural needs and tastes of each resident: steel, metal, wood, bamboo… At the moment, no company has contacted Quintano to offer to market the system.
Instead, Bloomframe, the window that becomes a balcony, has gone from paper to facades. The first convertible window was placed in an apartment building in Amsterdam. Later, in a private villa in Switzerland. It’s not really for sale until January 2022, though. “It took us quite a while to find the right partner to develop and produce an affordable version of the Bloomframe window, which has been around for over 10 years. We are currently working on the last steps of technical development and certifications, ”explains Dutch architect Michiel Hofman from Bloomframe. The price of the product, excluding transport and installation, is 15,000 euros and the maximum exterior surface is three square meters.
This window, which has been designed for compact apartments in dense urban areas, allows the room of a house to be extended to the outside. In 55 seconds it becomes a balcony, an electronically controlled process. When closed it looks like a conventional window.
But adding a terrace or balcony to a facade is not easy. First you have to make sure that it is technically feasible. “A cantilever is being placed and, therefore, an eccentric load, where it was not foreseen, so it is essential to observe the technical feasibility of the solution, guaranteeing the safety of people. The installation of these terraces, if they are permanent, may require an action to reinforce the structure ”, they explain in the General Council of Official Associations of Surveyors and Technical Architects. Afterwards, the permission of the city council is needed to see if there are urban limitations. Without forgetting the agreement of the neighbors, since it affects the aesthetics of the facade and the structure of the building.
The added terrace could be permanent or prefabricated, like that of the architect Luis Quintano. This will depend on the criteria and technical possibilities of the property. Although, “what is not permanent and possibly collapsible, will have more possibilities of implementation”, they specify in the CGATE.
Outdoor spaces have gained enormous prominence since the beginning of the pandemic. With the confinements, people who could afford to move houses began looking for houses with large terraces. This has been the star product in the purchases of the Spanish real estate market in 2020. And even today it continues to be so. It was not a passing fad.
The pull has also reached single-family homes. The Velux company reports the tremendous increase in demand for roof windows since the pandemic. “Many people who had an abandoned attic decided to open a window to gain lighting and ventilation,” says Almudena López de Rego, architect of the Velux Spain technical office. This company markets a window (Cabrio) for pitched roofs and underdecks that lose a lot of height, which goes from roof window to balcony window in a matter of seconds. Its price is 2,076 euros.