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Dutch greenhouse home harvests energy, food & winter heat

When Helly Scholten was offered the opportunity to spend three years living in a home inside of a greenhouse on Rotterdam’s docklands, she immediately volunteered her family. Scholten, her partner and two teen daughters moved into the experimental home and immediately began planting the four greenhouses surrounding and atop the home in an attempt to grow enough food to feed their family.

The experimental home, built by students at Rotterdam University’s department of Applied Sciences led by architect Arjan Karssenberg, was constructed from recycled and recyclable materials. Built on stilts it can be dismantled or moved at the end of the experiment.

In order to keep heating and cooling requirements low, inside the greenhouses the walls are coated in loam stucco to act as a heat sink: the loam traps heat from sunlight during the day and releases it during the cooler evenings.

An exterior wall is covered in plants to create a bee-friendly habitat and help regulate temperature. Water is collected in rooftop storage tanks for irrigating the gardens.

Scholten loved her time in the light-filled home, but says there are things she would improve. She would never put a greenhouse above the ground floor, because without the earth as a heat sink, they get too hot. She’d also be sure to coat the loam with a natural finish as some of it deteriorated during the family’s stay (the idea is it can easily be taken down at the experiment’s end by simply turning a hose on it).