Brazilian architect Sergio Conde Caldas builds an enviable eco-friendly villa in Rio de Janeiro

For all us New Yorkers who talk a big game about the importance of sustainability awareness, perhaps it’s time to put our housing where our heart is.

Let go of the greenwashing stigma that there’s no such thing as luxury sustainable housing, which four years ago the Wall Street Journal labeled as a possible “oxymoron.” In fact, not only can sustainable high-end housing be an inspiration to energy-siphoning city dwellers the world over, but it’s also a growing market, as evidenced by the many development companies working toward elevating the profile of glamorous green homes and buildings.


One such team made up of Brazilian architect Sergio Conde Caldas, his in-office partner João Sousa Machado, as well as Miguel Pinto Guimarães and Thiago Bernardes, designed and built Casa 01, a four-bedroom mountain villa near Rio de Janeiro that perfectly exemplifies the possibilities of energy efficiency design when done right. Part of Caldas and co.’s Movimento Terras sustainable residence project, Casa 01 is one of eight residences currently in production that aim to show just how easy it is to develop sustainable solutions for luxury homes. Offered for 1.3 million Brazilian reals (approximately $390,000 USD or the rough cost of your NYC walk-in closet), the villa concentrated on leaving behind the smallest carbon footprint possible, partly by focusing on local suppliers. Caldas used concrete roof tiles — an alternative to burnt ceramic tiles, which release carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere; 8mm thick special rolled-glass windows that block heat and save on air conditioning; and a rain receptacle that retains water for gardening, among other touches.

These sustainable attributes — all materials used contained at least 25 percent recycled material —  and the light wheat-colored cumaru wood interior combine to create the picture of practical elegance and comfort. Talk about a far cry from the outlandish solar-powered boxes or grassy-covered knolls that sometimes come to mind upon uttering “green housing.” Casa 01 even received a certificate from Breeam — the international authority on green building. Homeowners in New York and other metropolitan centers could stand to be a little inspired by this modus operandi — it’s not just exclusive to the Brazilian mountainside.

To be clear, sustainability as a movement is nothing new, but there is a strange dearth of literature on the web when it comes to sustainable luxury homes. A quick search on Google or The New York Times for recent stories comes up fairly high and dry. And even though climate change concerns do need immediate attention — 2014 was the hottest recent year on record —  we don’t necessarily have to all move to a villa in Brazil to act. (If only.) Hometown efforts are indeed under way right here in New York City. Mayor de Blasio announced last fall his ambitious plan to lower NYC greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050 (from 2005 levels), and the recently re-opened Whitney Museum is currently in progress of seeking LEED gold certification, a major stamp of approval from the U.S. Green Building Council. Not to mention the sustainable trend of passive housing that’s slowly making its mark in Manhattan and Brooklyn.

So next time you’re debating the merits of sustainable housing, remember that eco-luxe is real and attainable. And think about how refreshing it must feel to be on the other side of this conversation discussing what you’ve actually done, instead of what you still need to do.

All photos by Celso Brando.