yök's green bathrooms save water and use friendly and recycled materials

It seems there is more to tackle than saving water when you want to go green in the bathroom. A while back, I wrote about why reclaimed sinks were the most eco-friendly option for wash basins at yök Casa + Cultura.

image© Carlos Barruz for yök

Regarding mirrors, the most eco-friendly option, since they are not recyclable, is also to choose them second hand. This, as with all reused objects, avoids more of them being made. In general, we tried to use as less material as possible without making the bathrooms uncomfortable. Instead of shelves for example, we placed plenty of hooks on the walls.

image© Carlos Barruz for yök

When it comes to the wet areas, we only covered those with tiles that needed to, like the inside of the shower and the bit above the sink. These square coloured tiles are the classic bathroom tiles used in Barcelona. Made in Spain by Fabresa, dry clay is locally obtained and undergoes a quick double firing process, saving energy and CO2 emissions both in the transportation and in the fabrication process. As with all tiles, it will be difficult to recycle them (only a downcycling is possible), which is why it is important to choose a timeless design, good quality material and as less surface as possible. The rest of the walls are painted with white low-VOC paint, suitable for humid environments.

Most of the floors have a fabulous mosaic flooring from 1900 which we restored. Where areas were missing (one of the rooms used to house the kitchen, which didn’t have a noble floor) we just filled up the small area with cement and sealed it. We managed to avoid shower curtains, usually made from PVC and not long-lasting, by installing recyclable glass doors.

imageyök Casa + Cultura’s Instagram/via

The lights are second hand porcelain arms which we rewired so that they can fit LED bulbs. The vintage switches and plugs are new and very long-lasting as they are made of porcelain. They are also made locally, by Fontini.

After careful studies by Xavier Mor from Renòwatt, we came to the conclusion that the greenest option to heat our hot water for the showers are efficient gas heaters if we offset the CO2 emissions; which we will!

image© Carlos Barruz for yök

Last but not least comes the water in the bathrooms. At yök we do not only work hard to save energy, but also water. According to Airbnb, guests in Europe renting a home use 45% less water than when staying in a hotel. Even though, there is a lot one can do to reduce the water consumption in holiday lettings, especially in a country that is feeling the stress of the water crisis.

Here is a recap: we installed Roca’s L20 series of shower heads and faucets. They are equipped with aerators and Cold Start, meaning the hot water is only triggered if you move the handle to the left. Most taps fire up the hot water every time you lift the handle in the middle position, wasting energy unnecessarily. The toilets have a dual-flush system as it is the easiest for guests from all different cultures to understand without having to leave instructions.

image© Carlos Barruz for yök

Upstairs in our office, we installed the w+w toilet by Roca (top photo). It recycles the water used in the sink to flush the toilet. However, as it is made from a huge amount of un-upcyclable material (porcelain), we are not sure saving some water will make up for that. In fact, Roca had LEED analyse their different toilets and some of them, like the Meridian series we installed in the apartments, save the same or more water depending on how you use it. In the end however, we installed it not only as a water-saving and conservation maker (this is definitely working) but for space-saving reasons. The only way we could fit a toilet and sink in the small space provided was to install the w+w.

Coming up next are our branded soap dispensers to remind our guests that water is precious while they soap themselves with 100% natural citrus soap made in Valencia.

A couple of years ago I came across Catalan designer Curro Claret’s upcycled shop design for Camper, fabricated by former homeless people. So when we needed 16 bedside tables for yök Casa + Cultura, we called Curro Claret, and he got to work, together with the guys from Arrels Fundació. Here is the result!

image© Juan Lemus

Claret’s metal joint allows for many designs according to the reclaimed material they found in the street. In the workshop, Aurelio, José Luis and Valerio then combined, cut, polished and assembled recovered pieces of furniture to turn those scrap materials into beautiful bedside tables and stools.

image© Juan Lemus

Since 1987, Arrels Fundació has been helping homeless people in the city of Barcelona. Up until now, they have accompanied over 8.000 homeless people in their path towards work, autonomy, offering them housing, meals, social attention and health care.

image© Juan Lemus

What does Arrels do to help people feel useful?

Pieces of wood with a second life
With a simple piece of metal, wood picked up from the street and a desire to create and transform, since 2010 a group of homeless people construct stools, lamps and other pieces of furniture. The project has won awards; however, until now, the most important recognition has been a collaboration with the company Camper to decorate one of its shops with the furniture.

image© Juan Lemus

image© Juan Lemus


© yök Casa + Cultura

When you design an apartment for holiday letting, everything has to be easy and self-explanatory. At yök, we want our guests to be able to reduce the ecological footprint of their stay without sacrificing the experience. Investing a bit into home automation was therefore necessary.

A key card system in an apartment for a minimum of 4 people is no use- you can’t force people to take out one of the cards when they leave. Instead we believe that if we make it straightforward enough, people will participate. We installed a lovely ON/OFF switch by Fontini in the entrance of each apartment. When you go out, you turn it off, knowing that everything electrical switches off except the fridge and a plug in the kitchen in case you need to leave something charging. It’s easy and you don’t have to look after a key card, as the entrance door opens with a code.

imageyök Casa + Cultura’s Instagram/via

We also installed sensors in all of the windows and balcony doors, so that the AC/heating system switches off automatically when you open a window. Since the apartments are quite large (2-4 bedrooms), and the system is centralised for each one, this is important in a place with a climate like Barcelona (quite cold in the winter and really hot in the summer).

We were debating for a while whether to install AC at all, but in the end we had to give in, in order to provide comfort for people used to different climates. After analysing various systems and brands with local energy expert Xavier Mor from Renòwatt, we decided to go for Mitsubishi’s Ductless Air-Conditioning and Heating Units. It is ENERGY STAR® certified for its energy use both for cooling and heating. With one system doing both, we did not have to install a secondary system to heat the place in winter. However, we believe that our guests will hardly use the AC/heating if they follow our guidelines of traditional ways to deal with the local climate.

imageyök Casa + Cultura’s Instagram/via

When it is hot, first open the windows and get a breeze in there! Cross ventilation does wonders. If there is no breeze (like now in August!), use the ceiling fans in the communal areas. If you are out during the day, close the traditional sunblinds so the rooms stay nice and cool for when you get back later in the day.

Insulation is also key, both in the summer and winter as well as for acoustic reasons. We insulated all our walls with natural wood fibres, and managed to insulate the traditional wooden sliding balcony doors. Double glazing was relatively easy to install, but getting rid of the thermal bridge in the gap where the doors slide in was trickier. In the end, our very talented carpenter, Maño, managed to insulate the doors by fitting them with rubber bands and brushes.

imagePetz Scholtus/via

After having sorted out the climate, we looked at everything else that consumed energy and managed to only get A+ certified appliances in. Together with the local lighting experts Anoche, we fitted out the whole place with LED lighting. In places like corridors the lights switch on and off thanks to motion detectors. By doing most of the lighting ourselves and using a lot of indirect LED strips, we saved a lot of material. Revamping old lamps from the second hand market was also fun. The wooden ceiling fans and recyclable aluminium reading lights are traditional designs, locally produced by Faro Barcelona.

imagePetz Scholtus/via

To date, we don’t have solar power yet for two reasons. First, we don’t own the building and therefore the rooftop, where the panels would have to be installed, is not ours. While this might be able to be negotiated with the owners, the current spanish law on taxing solar power is not negotiable. Sadly, our current government, with the excuse of the crisis, wants to drastically cut its subsidies and even retroactively cut subsidies for existing solar projects, resulting in homeowners and companies facing insolvency. Spain would then possibly be the only country with a tax solely on those who generate their own electricity. So until the Spanish government comes to their senses and gets rid of the proposed “sun tax”, we are not prepared to invest into solar power.

imageSom Energia/via

But what we can do now, is join Som Energia, a renewable energy cooperative. By becoming a member, Som Energia provides us with electricity and certifies that the amount of sold energy has been generated by wind turbines, solar panels and biogas plants and invests directly in renewable projects to develop a sustainable economy.

We also believe in saving energy by making the consumption visible. The company Habitat Projects, who also set up our home automation system, installed electricity and water monitors for each apartment. We will use this information to get guests to compete for the most responsible amongst them, and will reward those that manage to use less during their stay.

If you have any more ideas regarding reducing the energy consumption of short term lettings, please share them!

Casa A. 60m2, 2 double bedrooms with luxury queen size beds and balconies. A fully equipped kitchen with a large dining table in the living room and a bathroom with a shower. Total sleeping capacity: 4 people. Catalan modernism features, eco-design and newly eco-renovated in 2014! From 240€/night. Photos by Carlos Barruz.

This is Casa C. Think of this as your own little hotel! A brand new 95m2 apartment with 4 double bedrooms, each with an en-suite bathroom. A fully equipped kitchen with a large dining table and a living room with a gallery. Light, spacious, modern and fun! Total sleeping capacity: 8 people. Catalan modernism features, eco-design and newly eco-renovated in 2014! From 420€/night. Photos by Carlos Barruz.

Here are the photos of our Casa B by Carlos Barruz. 2 double bedrooms, 1 bathroom, fully equipped kitchen and living room with balconies. Central, light and modern! Catalan modernism features, eco-design and newly eco-renovated in 2014! From 240€/night.

Here we go!!! Thank you to everyone who made this happen so far; you know who you are ;) 

Come upstairs and enjoy the view from #terrazayök: Barcelona, Sagrada Familia, the Torres Gemelas. Torre Agbar, the sea and the Hotel W!

Each of our rooms has a different floor pattern! Original 1900 mosaic flooring, now completely restored and shining. 

We like to connect with our guests, locals, the city, modern culture, tradition and nature. And we like to connect people. The more the better. 

The real deal; we will serve catalan breakfast & catalan food.

Barcelona! yök could not be anywhere else!!