Rotterdam, the Netherlands, home to a giant horsehoe-shaped market, Tron-esque modern home, and potentially the world's chicest McDonald's, is known for pushing boundaries in architecture and design. And now, the same forward-thinking spirit is behind a fascinating residential experiment in the city's docklands, where a Dutch family has been test-driving a greenhouse home designed by students at the University of Rotterdam's Sustainable Building Technology program.
As The New York Times reports, the 1,291-square-foot house, which the "botanical stylist" Helly Scholten and her family moved into in June 2015, is essentially a wooden dwelling topped with a 1,450-square-foot rooftop vegetable garden and wrapped in glass. As Scholten's family lives there, the research team will be examining just how well "a home could double as a place to grow food for its inhabitants a well as provide inexpensive heating and cooling." Currently, the garden, which also harvests rainwater to flush toilets and irrigate plants, supplies most of the food consumed by the family of four during the warmer months.
The idea of living in a greenhouse isn't exactly new. There is, for example, the Swedish couple who enclosed an old summer home on the Stockholm archipelago in a larger gabled glass house, raising the "indoor" temperature to 15 to 20°C when the outside temperature would be -2°C. Marie Granmar and Charles Sacilotto based the design of their house on the work of Swedish "eco architect" Bengt Warne, whose concept of a "Nature House" sought to "return to nature what is taken from it." His first "Nature House," built in the 1970s, is effectively a greenhouse where heating would come from the sun and rainwater would be used for bathing, dishes, and laundry, and then sent back out for irrigation. Tour Granmar and Sacilotto's house in the video below.
According to the Times, research in the University of Rotterdam's greenhouse, called "Concept House," will continue until 2018. Scholten's family still has a few years left in the home, but they've already learned some lessons. Scholten tells the paper that conditions can get pretty "extreme" in the house, and they have to remember to water plants twice a day and be vigilant about opening "enough windows to cool the place down." On the flip side, a greenhouse home really "gives you the feeling that you're living outside" without getting cold, even in winter—that means good times on swings and hammocks all year round under the glass.
Intrigued? Follow Scholten's adventures on her Instagram: @greenhouse_living.