GREENHOUSE

Project by Superuse on site

Photography ©  Denis Guzzo | Digital 5500px available

CONTEXT

GREENHOUSE embodies the classic look of a wooden barn and the typical structure of Dutch greenhouses: reused materials combined with DIY community-based building for a low-impact and comfortable living environment.

In the heart of the Dutch countryside of Drenthe, Superuse on Site designed and developed an exceptional living unit for the “Foundation for The New World.” Formed in 1969, this international community is one of the oldest in the Netherlands. The collective owns 10 hectares of land, where they live following a sustainable and self-sufficient lifestyle, ecological thinking, and spiritual awareness. 

ASSIGNMENT

Superuse on site has been asked to design a flexible house for two families in the community that can be transformed, if needed, into a home for four families in the future. The house must represent an example of a living unit that utilizes as little energy as possible for heating and ventilation and be built with as little impact as possible during construction and once in use. There was a budget of €250,000; exceeding this would be at the expense of the social sustainability of the community. It is preferably built from bio-based materials and reused components, with a natural look.

APPROACH & PROCESS

In addition, a workshop, a canteen with a cafeteria, and several tiny houses were built across the plot of land. The facilities created to support the building process resulted in a relevant upgrade that has strengthened local food production and economy. They remain in use for communal dinners, bartering, trading food with neighbours and friends, and hosting visitors.

By choice, most of the design was created on-site, allowing for direct dialogue and decision-making with the community and for making the most of direct observations of the flows of materials, functions, and the climate study across the seasons.  An initial concept of a mud house in a glasshouse was further developed into a mud coated and wooden cladding strawbale house merged with a glasshouse. S.os then worked closely with SUS ateliers, whose teachers and students developed climate models and calculations.

Photo: Césare Peeren during the design workshop for the GREENHOUSE

Césare Peeren during the design wrshop for the GREENHOUSE

Above: S.os adaption of the concept presented in DeKay, M., Brown, G.Z.

2014  Sun, Wind & Light. Architectural Design Strategies.

Though the project was supervised by the architects and advisors, an environment was created to learn and share knowledge. Furthermore, to feed and house all the volunteer workers with healthy and organic food, the community developed additional facilities.

 

The gardens were cultivated to provide a variety of vegetables. A bakery was set up, and the local company Westerzwam implemented mushroom cultivation on coffee grounds from the daily coffee breaks of a nearby military base.

Image slider: photos courtesy of Hobbitstee & Eva Flendrie.

MATERIALS & TECHNIQUE

The sketch design for the GreenHouse was converted into a shopping list of building materials to be ‘harvested’. Inhabitants and volunteers were trained by Superuse, joining together as the ‘Harvest Team’, scouting and listing suitable material options. The final selection of materials was based on their potential from these findings. As a result, most materials for the GreenHouse were found either on-site or at neighbouring properties. Superuse method is adaptive; many details were not pre-defined but created during the construction process, adapting to the chosen materials and their peculiarities. 

The wooden skeleton, efficiently upcycled, offered flexibility for DIY construction, layout variants, and reuse. All materials were harvested from local businesses and farmers. The attached greenhouse has been reinforced with standard greenhouse materials such that it complies with building regulations. Implementing passive climatisation approaches with optimal orientation, sizing and zoning, thick insulation, and the mass of clay flooring, two mass-heaters, and 16 PV/warm water panels are more than enough added technology to create a comfortable living environment.

Image slider: the building process. Photos courtesy of Hobbitstee & Eva Flendrie.

CLIMATIC SOLUTIONS

An integrated view on architecture: from reuse to climatic solutions, investigating  flows such as energy, water, food, and local economies

The house is designed and built to be adaptable and last for many generations. It can breathe thanks to the straw/clay walls, it is naturally ventilated, and it supplies electricity, resulting in only a short wood heating season being needed.

Sun, shadow, and prevailing winds analyses were considered when locating the GREENHOUSE on the property. Low vegetation on the north facade enhances privacy and cooling ventilation, while a row of trees on the south can provide more shade in the summer. Because of this position, the house warms itself with the low winter sun.