Dutch Home design looks to the future

Triangular architecture and a series of angled spaces create a Dutch residence that offers a pair of premium relationships.

“With the triangular shape of South House, we originally wanted to create an optimal relationship between house and garden,” says architect Daniel Venneman of the house in Almere, about 35 kilometers west of Amsterdam.

“It quickly became apparent that this south-facing concept also fitted perfectly with the claim to create an energy-neutral home,” adds Venneman from the company Woonpioniers, which means living pioneers.

Sustainability was an important design factor from the start of the project. The South House (Zuidhuis in Dutch) measures 1,022 square feet and includes a sleeping area, bathroom, kitchen and living room downstairs, and a sleeping area and music room upstairs. The two are connected by a “lazy staircase” with a long, slow climb.

By utilizing the space on the second floor, Venneman says they were able to make the overall ceiling higher while keeping the footprint of the house small — leaving more room for the garden.

As with all of her projects, Venneman tries to use materials that can grow back. With the exception of the house’s concrete piles and a steel column and beam, South House’s construction is of wood; The wood of the outer facade was thermally treated. The walls and roof are insulated with locally grown flax. Window leaves are triple glazed. The roof is equipped with triple solar panels.

The South House, which was completed in 2019, took two years to design and build.

Woonpioniers Architect Daniel Venneman answers some questions about South House:

How did you plan this house differently to make it truly sustainable?

The design was developed in close collaboration with residents Kees and Petie. We organized workshops where we really got to the heart of their motivation for building their own home – the opportunity to create a permaculture garden while becoming as self-sufficient as possible.

The cement floor absorbs heat and releases it again when the temperature drops.  Side windows draw in morning and afternoon light to illuminate the ceiling.

How did you maximize the use of natural light?

It’s actually more nuance than just providing maximum sunlight. The porch blocks the sun in the summer when the sun is very high in the sky, while trapping the sun and solar heat in the winter when the sun is lower all day.

The windows on the side facades capture the morning and evening light beautifully. In these moments, the ceiling reflects the light inwards. The design not only ensures maximum sunlight, but also doses the light perfectly.

The kitchen has an efficient design and uses materials from the residents' previous home, which helped them stay on budget.

What were the design and construction challenges??

In order to ensure the financial feasibility of the concrete energy concept, it was decided step by step during the process to outsource the order directly to various specialized subcontractors.

The builders were thus in the middle of the construction process between the various executing parties. For us as an architect’s office, this meant a lot of organizational work, but together with the customer we managed it well.

To stay within South House’s budget, the clients did some of the work themselves.

Architects designed and "lazy stairs" with a slow climb that makes it more accessible.

Are the natural sources of cooling and heat sufficient?

In winter, the heat pump is needed for the coldest days. Even then, the energy required for this is generated by solar panels. From early spring to late harvest, the building works well without. In summer, natural ventilation and the heat-storing function of the floor ensure that the house is pleasantly cool.

Photovoltaic solar panels are located on the roof at the front and a heat exchanger is connected to a heat pump at the rear.  Electricity and hot tap water are generated at the same time.

Do you see this as the design for the future?

The house certainly shows a positive attitude towards the energy transition, which is necessary to make our civilization more sustainable. We hope it will serve as an inspirational example for people to build more in tune with the elements.

Georgie Binks is a Toronto-based writer and freelance contributor for the star. Reach them at binksgeorgie@gmail.com


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