Meet ‘The Houses of the Sun’

Buildings that don’t devour but actually save energy by fighting the greenhouse effect are no longer science fiction but a tangible reality embraced by many Greeks as well. An introduction to this kind of energy saving comes through «The Houses of the Sun» documentary series, to be screened tonight during the Panorama of Ecological Films organized by the Hellenic Society for the Protection of the Environment and Cultural Heritage. The series comprises ten 10-minute documentaries showcasing different bioclimatic buildings. Three of them will be shown during the Panorama, a small but impressive introduction to various methods that can be used in order to reduce pollution emissions. Saving up The guided tour begins with a complex of 19 buildings in Copenhagen, a square construction based on 19th century architecture, most of which have been renovated based on bioclimatic principles and high technology. This has resulted in energy savings of 20 percent. Two Greek homes are up next: a traditional stone house in Rethymnon, Crete, where photovoltaic panels guarantee autonomy from public utilities, providing up to 80 percent of electricity, as well as a unique house in Thessaloniki’s Elaiorama district which features planted roofs for heat insulation and ecological ventilation systems. These are two excellent examples of buildings adopting various combinations of not necessarily big-budget techniques, reversing dangerous emissions and saving their owners large expenses. The documentary series was funded by the European Union’s Directorate-General for the Environment and Panos Kekas (pk productions), who also produced it. Two seasoned documentary experts collaborated on the creative side: The scripts were written by Vasso Kanellopoulou (a member of ERT’s documentary department for 23 years, acting as screenwriter, director and producer, as well as an environmental columnist), while the director was Angelos Kovotsos, known from NET’s «Periplous» series as well as being the director of numerous documentaries on social, travel and environmental issues. Why did you choose to deal with bioclimatic buildings? Vasso Kanellopoulou: In Greece, 30 percent of energy is consumed by buildings – if we lived in bioclimatic constructions, we could save up to 60 percent of energy. This has been known to architects for the last 20 to 25 years, but the public are nearly completely unaware. Yet people are becoming increasingly concerned about the problems caused by global warming but don’t know how to deal with them. So I wanted to suggest one solution, among many more. What kind of difficulties did you face? V.K.: We were very concerned about how to pass on the information in a way that would not be a dry account of events and statistics – to make it more about people’s own experiences. We decided, therefore, to channel it through those living in these kinds of houses, people who have experienced it first hand. Angelos Kovotsos: We were particularly interested in the house as a living organism. Something you don’t just see as an ensemble of walls but in unison with those who live in it. People develop their own space and these spaces therefore reflect their personality and their stance toward life. At the same time, it was important to inform people, to offer information via visual language. Smart solutions What was it that impressed you the most? Were there any surprises? A.K: Personally I was very surprised by people’s inventiveness. There was the case of a woman architect, for instance, who conducted interviews with people living in a specific area to locate small air currants in order to use them, as well as two couples living in northern Greece who built, on their own, two amazing houses. When people take matters into their own hands you realize how great man can be. This also shows that it’s not that difficult to do something like this; this is the kind of message that comes across through the work of these people. Did you reach your goals with these documentaries? V.K.: Given the reaction of those who saw them, I believe that we did, to a large extent. The documentaries did very well on television as well. They were shown on ERT’s satellite channel and repeated several times, thanks to the positive reaction of the Greek diaspora. They were also broadcast on RAI satellite channel during prime time and were shown on France 3, in the south of France. How do you intend to use this material in the future? A.K.: We are working on the possibility of getting some funding in order to develop a website where visitors will be able to access the documentaries and get all the information they desire. (1) Georgia Zavitsanou is a contributor to Kathimerini’s OIKO magazine. The screenings At tonight’s event, the «Houses of the Sun» series will be followed by a screening of «Come Fossili Cristallizzati» (Like Fossils). This award-winning film was directed by Luca Pastore and will be shown in Italian with English subtitles. The Panorama of Ecological Films continues to March 31 with screenings every Tuesday at 8 p.m. on the premises of the Hellenic Society for the Protection of the Environment and Cultural Heritage, at 28 Tripodon, Plaka. For more information, log on to, or call 210.322.5245/6693. Following the screenings, viewers are invited to the Hellenic Society bistro (Given that seats are limited, bookings can be made at 210.321.5218).