Dutch home’s design has an angle on the future

Dutch home’s design has an angle on the future

Triangular-shaped architecture, and a series of angled rooms, create a Netherlands residence that delivers a pair of premium relationships.

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

“It soon became apparent that this concept, oriented to the south, also perfectly matched the ambition to create an energy-neutral home,” adds Venneman, with the firm Woonpioniers, which translates to residential pioneers.

Sustainability was a key design factor from the start of the project. Measuring 1,022 square feet, South House (Zuidhuis in Dutch) includes a sleeping area, bathroom, kitchen and living room on the main floor and a sleeping area and music room on the upper floor. The two are connected by a “lazy staircase,” with a long, slow rise.

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

As with all of their projects, Venneman says they try to use materials that can be regrown. With the exception of the home’s concrete piles, plus one steel column and beam, the construction of South House is wood; the exterior facade wood has been thermally treated. The walls and roof are insulated with locally grown flax. Window sheets are triple glazed. The roof is equipped with triple solar panels.

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

Woonpioniers architect Daniel Venneman answers a few questions about South House:

How did you plan this home differently in order to make it truly sustainable?

The design was intensely co-designed with the inhabitants, Kees and Petie. We organized workshops in which we really got to the core of their motivation to build their own house — the possibility of creating a permaculture garden while becoming as self-sufficient as possible.

The cement floor absorbs heat and releases it 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 nuances than simply providing maximum sunlight. The verandah blocks the sun in summer, when the sun is very high in the sky, while capturing the sun and solar heat in winter when the sun remains lower throughout the day.

The windows on the side facades capture morning and evening light beautifully. On those moments the ceiling reflects the light inwards. So, more than providing maximum sunlight, the design sort of doses the light perfectly.

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

What were the design and construction challenges?

To ensure the financial feasibility of the specific energy concept, it was gradually decided during the process to directly outsource the assignment to various specialist subcontractors.

This meant the clients were in the middle of the construction process between the various executing parties. It meant a lot of extra organization for us as an architecture practice, but together with the clients we managed well.

To keep South House within budget, the clients carried out part of the work themselves.

Architects designed a "lazy staircase" with a slow rise that makes it more accessible.

Are the natural cooling and heating sources sufficient?

In winter, the heat pump is needed for the coldest days. Even then, energy needed for that is produced by solar panels. From early spring to late harvest, the building works well without it. In summer, natural ventilation and the heat-accumulating function of the floor keep the house comfortably cool.

The roof features photovoltaic solar cells up front and at the back a thermal exchanger is connected to a heat pump. 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 toward the energy-transition needed to make our civilization more sustainable. Our hope is that it will serve as an inspiring example to people to build more in tune with the elements.

Georgie Binks is a Toronto-based writer and a freelance contributor for the Star. Reach her at [email protected]