Dutch house design has an angle on the future

Triangular-shaped architecture and a series of angled rooms create a Dutch residence that offers a pair of upscale relationships.

“With the triangular shape of South House, we initially 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 soon became apparent that this south-facing concept also fitted perfectly with the ambition to create an energy-neutral home,” adds Venneman, of Woonpioniers, which translates to Residential Pioneers.

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

By utilizing the space on the second floor, Venneman says they were able to increase the overall ceiling, 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 grow back. Except for the house’s concrete piles, plus a steel column and beam, South House’s construction is wooden; the wood of the exterior facade has been heat treated. The walls and roof are insulated with locally grown flax. The 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 some questions about South House:

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

The design was intensely co-designed with locals, Kees and Petie. We organized workshops where we really touched the heart of their motivation to build their own house: the possibility of creating a permaculture garden while becoming as independent as possible.

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

How did you optimize the use of natural light?

It’s actually more shade than just providing maximum sunlight. The veranda blocks the sun in the summer when the sun is very high in the sky, while capturing the sun and solar heat in the winter when the sun remains low throughout the day.

The windows on the side facades capture the morning and evening light beautifully. At these times, the ceiling reflects the light inwards. Thus, in addition to providing maximum sunlight, the design perfectly doses the light.

The kitchen has an efficient design and uses materials from the residents' former home which helped them stick to their budget.

What were the design and construction challenges?

In order to guarantee the financial feasibility of the specific energy concept, it was gradually decided during the process to directly outsource the mission to various specialized subcontractors.

This meant that customers were in the middle of the build process between the different performing parties. This meant a lot of extra organization for us as an architecture firm, but with the clients we managed well.

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

The architects designed a "lazy staircase" with a slow climb that makes it more accessible.

Are natural sources of cooling and heating sufficient?

In winter, the heat pump is necessary for the coldest days. Even then, the energy required for this is produced by solar panels. From the beginning of spring to the end of the harvest, the building functions well without it. In summer, natural ventilation and the heat storage function of the ground keep the house comfortably cool.

The roof has photovoltaic solar cells at the front and at the back a heat exchanger is connected to a heat pump.  Electricity and domestic hot water are produced at the same time.

Do you see this as the design of the future?

The house certainly shows a positive attitude towards the energy transition needed to make our civilization more sustainable. We hope it serves as an inspiring example for people to build more in harmony with the elements.

Georgie Binks is a Toronto-based writer and freelance contributor to The Star. Contact her at [email protected]


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