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Architecture architecture General

Living in a greenhouse. #Sustainable, energy efficient with #solar and a air-water heat exchanger

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by: Hans van der Broek
living in a greenhouse   sustainable  energy efficient with  solar and a air water heat exchanger

In 1976 the Swedish architect Bengt Warne built a greenhouse over and around his house, to live energy more neutral and grow vegetables close to home. His greenhouse house proved to be a success in the area of ​​sustainability and environmental friendliness. Now that sustainability and the footprint that we are leaving behind on earth are becoming increasingly important, the greenhouse houses are on the rise, also in the Netherlands. A number of greenhouses have already been built in Culemborg.
Greenhouse living seen from the frontside

How it works

A greenhouse house consists of two temperature zones: one in heavy construction and one in the greenhouse section. The house itself consists of the usual design with bedrooms, bathrooms, living room, etc. In the greenhouse the temperature fluctuates between 15 and 25 degrees Celsius and this room is suitable for use where room temperature is not important. Many residents of greenhouse houses have created a covered garden here, where they can sit and grow vegetables. The greenhouse has an insulating effect on cold days; the greenhouse warms up as soon as the sun shines. On average, it is 30 days above 20 degrees Celsius in the greenhouse section, so you can easily enjoy the sun without a coat. In the summer you can slide part of the greenhouse facade and part of the roof of the greenhouse open. Due to a convective flow, the warm air is then led away and becomes cooler in the greenhouse.


Greenhouses are built using the cradle to cradle principle. This means that the cash houses can now be inhabited and do not damage or limit the living environment of the next generation. The starting point of cash houses is that the house is spacious, sustainable, light and energy-efficient. Reducing emissions and reducing the footprint are central.
A part of the house of a greenhouse house consists of a large glass conservatory. The conservatory gives an outside feeling while you are inside and leaves a lot of sunlight in your home. In the conservatory are glass doors that you can open in the summer, allowing you to blend your home and garden into one another.


A greenhouse is used to generate energy, so you spend less on your energy bill. This happens in 3 ways:
- Solar panels that are placed on the glass sloping roof.
- A solar collector stores the heat of the sun in a boiler with water, so that water heated by the sun can be used in the household.
- The heat from the sun entering the greenhouse is collected by a so-called 'air-water heat exchanger. This exchanger ensures that the heat can be used, among other things, for underfloor heating.

Low maintenance

The roof of your home requires little maintenance because of the greenhouse that is over it. Moss and algae no longer have a free game on your roof covering and this saves residents of greenhouse houses on the costs of demystifying roofs and roof repairs. The glass of the greenhouse house does need maintenance. Horizontally lying glass quickly gets dirty, so it is recommended to use sloping glass in your greenhouse. It is recommended to have the glass of your greenhouse cleaned twice a year. This can be done by a professional company, but you can also choose to purchase cleaning robots from the horticulture industry.

In addition, you have less maintenance on the paintwork in and around your house, also because of the greenhouse that is over here. Weather conditions get almost no control over your woodwork and so there is saving on the maintenance costs of, for example, the painting of the outside frames.
Greenhouses are therefore not harmful to the environment and the living environment, as regular homes are. You generate your own energy and enjoy the sun faster in the large conservatory that is created by the greenhouse. A number of architects and engineering firms are busy building cash houses, but they are not many projects yet. Ask your municipality if there are plans for the construction of cash houses in your area, or call in an architectural firm.Of course you can also start with a greenhouse in which you can grow vegetables. Read here how you can build a greenhouse yourself.

The great experiment of living in a greenhouse

Greenhouse living seen from the backside with #solar panels

It's almost over: for three years Helly Scholten and her family lived in a greenhouse in the Rotterdam port area. An experiment by the Hogeschool Rotterdam in which research was done into sustainable living. The house, which was built in a greenhouse as it were, is being demolished without mercy after 31 May. Then this adventure is on for both the research team and the residents. "It was fantastic. I learned a lot, "says Helly. "And I would like to share this knowledge with others in the coming period." Therefore, until 31 May, she organizes a number of open days where you can view the house and ask questions. You can register for this via the site.

The House

Interior from the greenhousing living area
The house in the greenhouse is built of natural materials such as wood, clay and glass. The sloping glass roof is facing south to take full advantage of the warmth of the sun. The mud walls provide a good moisture balance in the house and retain the heat to release it in the evening. "The house was designed in such a way that in theory we only needed to burn 2 weeks per year with a wood-burning stove, but in practice it turned out that we had to have that stove 24 hours a day from October to April to keep it a little warm . "


Detail backside of the greenhouse living with vertical plants
"Heat was really a thing," says Helly. "In the spring and autumn there was a wonderful subtropical temperature in the house, but in the winter it became freezing cold and in the summer it was hot." There are three floors in the house, including the vegetable garden on the roof. "The temperature rose 15 degrees per floor in the summer. We have measured 66 degrees. "These temperatures can not be used for humans, animals or plants.
In the winter it was just as hard to do. "On a clear night when it freezes, it gets colder inside the greenhouse on the south than outside!" Explains Helly. "That also has to do with the sloping glass roof: the heat keeps going." The whole greenhouse was full of plants that did not survive the first winter, because it was freezing in the greenhouse. Fortunately, things went well in the patio greenhouse in the courtyard. The pop plants are now overwintering there.

Build vapor-open

Interior of the greenhouse with plants
The house and the greenhouse have been built vapor-open. "The glass does not completely touch the ground. There is a slit underneath, which provides fresh air, which blows the fogged windows clean and at the same time repels mold. "But that does not make it easier to keep it warm in the winter, because the draft. The plants were also unable to cope well with the draft and were left under the lice in no time.
Yet, Helly says that vaporizing is better for you: "Nowadays everything is built airtight so that no heat can escape, but in the end that is not good for us people. We spend 90% of our time indoors, especially in the winter. And therefore get too little fresh air. And you need that fresh air to keep your head clear. "

Living inside-out

The kitchen of the greenhouse living with the dining table
Apart from the cold, it was mainly a positive experience. "I really like that inside-out life. For example, we cook outside all year round. As a result, even now that it's getting colder, I'm already working outside for an hour. "If at all possible, the family also sleeps with the doors open. "Thunderstorm, rain, full moon: it is all equally spectacular. And you sleep better. Normally I really could not stand the cold and dark months of January and February. Then I felt very sad and to. But here I really do not suffer from it at all. "Living with natural materials, without toxins, also works wonders. "Thanks to these mud walls, for example, we all have fantastic skin," says Helly.

New adventures

View from abobe in the living room in the greenhouse living with one person and a white bench
At the end of May, this adventure ends for Helly and her family, but she has great plans for the future. "I have learned so much about sustainable building and living. So many people have come along and shared their knowledge with me. "Helly now wants to use that knowledge to make a kind of floating campsite where everyone can stay. Where this new project will come, is still uncertain. Helly conducts both talks with the municipality of Rotterdam and Amsterdam.
You can follow the sustainable adventures of Helly through her Instagram account and her website. There you can also see when the open days are, before the experiment is over and the house is broken down again and given back to nature.

Helly Scholten


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Hans van der Broek , founder Founder and CEO of WhatsOrb, world traveller, entrepreneur and environmental activist. Hans has countless ideas and has set up several businesses in the Netherlands and abroad. He also has an opinion on everything and unlimited thoughts about how to create a better world. He likes hiking and has climbed numerous five-thousanders (mountain summits of at least 5000m or 16,404 feet in elevation)  
Hans van der Broek , founder Founder and CEO of WhatsOrb, world traveller, entrepreneur and environmental activist. Hans has countless ideas and has set up several businesses in the Netherlands and abroad. He also has an opinion on everything and unlimited thoughts about how to create a better world. He likes hiking and has climbed numerous five-thousanders (mountain summits of at least 5000m or 16,404 feet in elevation)  
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