Architect's prefabricated home uses fungi to protect its exterior

Architect's prefabricated home uses fungi to protect its exterior

This small family uses some innovative techniques and tools

Every now and then, here on Treehugger, we cover interesting specimens of architecture that architects build as residences for themselves and their families. Some might be low-carbon homes that are carved out of heritage-status structures, while others might be modern live-work spaces converted out historic microapartments, or even low-cost affairs built out of repurposed vehicles like this architecture student's bus home. Whatever they may be, it's always fascinating to see how such projects are conceived, designed, and built.

For Tilburg, Netherlands-based architect Joris Verhoeven of Joris Verhoeven Architectuur, constructing a self-sufficient home for himself and his family meant experimenting with some intriguing building techniques and products, while also considering how the home would fit into its natural surroundings.

Verhoeven's home, dubbed the Four Seasons House, is located in the Drijflanen nature reserve and stands on a site where local sheep—part of the region's wool production industry—can often be seen grazing.

As Verhoeven explains, the naturally insulated home is designed to allow him and his family to "experience the Dutch seasons intensely." That's because the "Dutch seasons are known for their versatility: fresh springs, warm summers, very wet autumns, and now and then, an extreme winter."

The architect goes on to explain that the 753-square-foot (70 square meters) home's bucolic setting has been purposely kept that way, with the deliberate use of color, and lack of barriers to keep nature out:

"The building is designed to be a part of nature. With its rough black facades, it hardly stands out next to the surrounding tree trunks. Because the garden is not designed as such, but has been given to nature, the house becomes part of its surroundings. This seems very logical, but it's a peculiar choice in a country where everyone puts a fence around their garden."2

The boxy, wood-clad exterior of the house is strategically punctuated with windows that look out in specific directions, creating carefully framed views out onto the landscape. The natural appearance of the wooden planks is emphasized by their different widths, which are highlighted as the sun's light shifts throughout the day. On the roof, sits solar and thermal panels which provide electricity to the home.

Interestingly, the blackened wood exterior is not done with the protective shou sugi ban method of deliberately fire-charring wood that is so popular nowadays; it's actually a fungus-infused staining product that protects and tints the wood. No word on what the product actually is, but it looks like it could be this one, and what Verhoeven says seems to suggest it may be that very product:

"The wooden facade has been treated with a fungus that has been specially cultivated in this color to protect the sidings in a natural way. In case of damage to the coating, the growing fungal layer will self-repair. When the fungus is fading, it means it's hungry. Then you'll have to feed it with linseed oil for new wood protection and to become matte black again.2"

The interior of the home is minimalist and incorporates various spaces that one might find in any family home, such as a living room, kitchen, bedrooms, bathroom, closets, and a home office.

The aesthetic is clean and modern, thanks to a pared-back material and color palette that features the use of black cabinetry, light-colored woods, and, of course, lots of large windows.

But what might be most important lies hidden behind the walls. That's because Verhoeven developed a system of prefabricated wood "cassettes" that are then filled with flax insulation, while the interior-facing side of these structural wooden "cassettes" use birch plywood, imparting that minimalistic look to the inside. As Verhoeven points out, this approach saved time and money:

"This 'pure' way of building, where the structural work is also the finishing, comes with great benefits when it comes to construction duration and cost. After pouring the foundation floor, the house has been erected in just three days."2

Indeed, as this project deftly shows, thinking out of the box when it comes to building one's own home doesn't have to mean sacrificing any of the things we might associate with a typical home, nor long-term sustainability. To see more, visit Joris Verhoeven Architectuur.



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