Functionally the requirements for the project were straight forward: to design a small retreat on an island in the port of Zhangjiagang. Environmentally, the goal was anything but straight forward, particularly in 2003 when the project was instigated: to research and test green building materials and techniques that were scalable and could be copied by others in China. The owners were willing to pay a premium for pioneering the use of these materials and systems, so long as they could become affordable over time and could benefit China ecologically and socially. By far the biggest challenge was that of structure. A00 Architecture had become experts in green building materials for interiors, but had not yet looked into green structural systems. Their research led them to modernizing the ancient rammed-earth techniques indigenous to China. The requirements for the modern rammed-earth walls was that they be insulated and able to withstand earthquakes, which led the architects to pioneering the SIREWALL system in China. The Main House was the first in the world to be built to the height of 3 stories using an insulated rammed-earth system. Following in the footsteps of the Prototype house, it also pioneered a radiant cooling system powered by a geothermal system.
The house itself has a partial positive impact on the ecology of the site: the green roof brings biodiversity to an area that had none previously and helps sequester carbon. Also, the waste water is captured and used to create topsoil. More importantly, the project is an important part of a greater system which is designed to be ecologically regenerative. Please see the Master plan for more information