Program: Retrofit Home
Location: Balzan, Malta
Status: Completed, 2021
Photography: David Zammit
Text: Ann Dingli
Pragmatic sustainability drove the design for Treetop House – a retrofitted, contemporary home. Intended to perform to high energy standards via low-intervention solutions, the design prioritises robust insulation, solar energy, and passive temperature control. Strong visual links to outdoor space are also a focus, with considerable liveable footprint dedicated to green and terraced zones for gardening and home horticulture.
Spread across three linear levels, the existing layout is flipped on its head to accommodate sleeping and living quarters on the first floor and an airy, bright kitchen-dining space on the second. This allows the most active parts of the day to be elevated to the top floor, bookended with outdoor space and nestled in foliage from surrounding gardens. A large, openable vent allows hot air to escape during warm months, facilitating a house-wide system of cross and stack effect ventilation. Photovoltaic panels power the home through solar power – their energy production exceeds overall energy use, enabling negative consumption, lower bills, and consistent energy contribution back to the national power grid.
Sunlight cascades onto all levels through a slender skylight above a compact staircase, penetrating the central downstairs space and energising users as they walk up through each level. Materials and colours are kept neutral to backdrop the sculptural quality of the light, as well as to contrast the vibrancy of the vegetable garden and trees outside.