Helly Scholten, a resident of Rotterdam, the Netherlands, long dreamed of building her own off-grid home. But after finding difficulty with permit approvals and building plans, she hit a stroke of luck when she heard that Rotterdam University’s Sustainable Building Technology program was looking for a test family for an experimental sustainable home.
The Concept House, described by Nick Foster in a New York Times article, is encased in a greenhouse and has a 1,450-square-foot rooftop vegetable garden with storm water retention tanks. Located in an industrial section of Rotterdam’s docklands, the house was designed to test whether or not a home could double as a place to grow food while providing inexpensive heating and cooling for the home. The home itself consists of three bedrooms and measures almost 1,300 square feet.
According to Arjan Karssenberg, the professor Ms. Scholten met and the leader of the Concept House project, the dwelling should help architects understand — among other things — how to heat and cool “normal” homes more efficiently. The loam on the inside walls is a key part of the experiment, according to Mr. Karssenberg. “We coated loam stucco on all the interior walls to a depth of 45 millimeters, about 1.7 inches, so there is a lot of mass on the wood-frame structure. Because loam absorbs heat, it lowers the temperature during hot summer days from 2 p.m. onwards, moving the house’s peak temperature to midnight.”
Ideally, the team hopes that the heating and cooling practices in The Concept House could be applied to other residences in Europe and North America.