Alpine Cabin design (aka our own house)

We are going to build our own small house and it will be epic! Last week we have been officially submitting our plans to the municipality; so it’s going to be real and that’s why we are finally sharing some of the plans with you. Or actually mostly about our design process on how we ended up at this stage.

Small is beautiful

Together we have lived in a lot of different places all over the world. From the 8,5 years that we have been married we have lived in 15 different places with back and forth 4,5 years in the Netherlands and 4 years abroad. We have lived in student buildings, on a rural farm in the Andes, in African huts, in highly secured compounds in conflict areas, in a campervan, in a community appartment, etc. What we take from all that is that we are able to live with almost nothing, that we are able to adapt very quickly and that actually the people around us are most important. But we have also longed for our own place, or just something to give it our own touch to feel at home. And that’s why we want to build our own house now. A place where we can fall back unto, like a safe haven. A place that is deeply rooted in who we are. A place that is fully made by ourselves.

All our different homes in different places

A house is a home when it shelters the body and comforts the soul

Phillip Moffitt

I remember that years ago I read a book from E.F. Schumacher called: Small is beautifull. I was inspired by his plea for a smaller world economics to empower people in contrast to the pursuit of bigger and better. The song Society by Eddie Vedder has always appealed to us. It sings about the society that we have made where you will never be free until you have it all. Thus, it might be better to escape. I can devote an entire blog to this but let’s keep it short in saying there is a beauty in less. Less expenses. Less space to manage. Less stuff. Less energy waste. Less of our own. Less waste in general (lean). And therefore more time and money left for things that really matter to us. More and deeper relationships. More coziness, atmosphere and authenticity.

The design process

Since the end of last year we started the process of designing our own house. We already watched a lot of episodes from Tiny House Nation and read a lot of books. But it really starts when you actually dare to put your pen on the paper and start sketching. I followed a course at the Tiny House Academy on how to build and design your own tiny house which helped me in putting thoughts to practice. Finally we have met Jorn Mols from House of Concepts, an architect who helped us in creative thinking, combining all ideas together and finally design the house. We went through our whole living history pointing out what we liked and didn’t like about a place. What gave comfort? What was your cozy place? What colours and materials were attractive? What made it feel ugly and frightening? What part of the house will you spend most time?

The first sketches

I can tell you it was not an easy process, sometimes even painfull. You encouter yourself, things you like and dislike. You have to make a lot of choices, but actually it’s all about the interactions. You need to trust that it will all come together. And that’s what happened. Suddenly it was there, and it felt good. It felt so much of ourselves. We came up with a concept that completely fits our lifestyle, passions and interests. We are calling it the Alpine Cabin.

The concept of our Alpine Cabin

The location

Our first idea was to make a movable house as we wanted to start building quickly and the process of finding a small plot (for construction) is just very complicated in the Netherlands. Our attitude was; we will deal with the plot later. But then something crossed our path which completely fitted to our dream idea; a pioneering place with all kinds of weird houses and where people are sharing parts of their land with each other to create something beatifull. It’s called ‘Het Pioniersveld‘ (The Pioneering field) in Culemborg (near Utrecht). Only thing is that we have to buy the land (so we had to sort out our finances and take a mortgage…) and that it needs to adhere to the building regulations (het Bouwbesluit). But in the end we managed to fix everything and it does mean that we are secured for a place of our own for the rest of our lives (or as long as we want), with an amazing community around us.

View on the Pioneering field with our house directly behind the fire place

And what about the energy efficiency?

A big challenge the world is facing is climate change and the impact of fossil fuel consumption on global warming. The way how we are building houses is having a big impact on our carbon footprint, and this has always been in our minds whilst designing our home. The Trias Energetica is a model that is developed in 1979 by the Delft University of Technology to design an energy efficient building. The first step in this model; saving energy, is the most immediate and effective way to slow global warming. Once the house is designed to minimise energy loss you should maximise the use of energy from residual flows and using renewable energy sources for your energy consumption. And lastly if there is no other way to use fossil fuels, at least use them as efficiently and clean as possible.

The way we can fit the choices in our house in the Trias Energetica model is the following:

  1. Reducing our energy demand
    • Building a small house (28 m2 usage area, excluding technical room and loft)
    • Very good insulation of floor, walls , roof and triple glass windows (thermal insulance of 7, 8 and 7 m2⋅K/W for floor, walls and roof respectively)
    • Green roof which cools in summer and insulates in winter
    • Making use of passive solar energy (windows with roof overhang towards the South giving sun in the winter and shade in the summer)
    • Underfloor cooling in summer by pumping water through the natural cooled ground
  2. Using energy from residual flows and using sustainable energy sources
    • Heat exchanger for shower’s hot water
    • Solar thermal collector for hot water and central heating
    • Photo-voltaic modules for electricity generation
    • Using electricity for cooking (no gas)
    • Rainwater catchment
  3. Making most efficient use of the energy sources we are using
    • Using a low temperature heating system (underfloor and wall heating)
    • Only using wood stove for extra heating in winter
    • Having seperate 12 voltage and 220 voltage circuits
    • Using energy efficient devices
Final design and calculations

Other great features in our house

  • The tree trunk in the middle of our house is from an Oak that was harvested recently in Twente, where our relationship began. This is the heart of our house.
  • The roof is shaped by 6 meter long poles giving a resemblance to a yurt, our current home. And the yurt represents our nomadic life style.
  • We love climbing and we love mountains, only a pity that the Netherlands is so flat. So why not make your house a mountain?
  • Above our bed will be a big window half in the roof and half in the (eastern) wall which will give us a view on the stars at night and the rising sun in the morning.
  • The bathroom wall inside our house will be made from recycled wine bottles; for which friends and family are currently having a lot of fun nights 😉

When can I visit?

Our happy faces after submitting the design

Well, constructing the house will take some time (6-12 months) as we will be doing most things ourselves. But you are more then welcome to get inspired and give a helping hand at the construction site! Hopefully we will start building our house in the beginning of October this year. We will keep you updated!


5 thoughts on “Alpine Cabin design (aka our own house)

  1. Hey Bouke en Annegreet, gefeliciteerd met jullie eigen grond en jullie mooie bouwplannen! We zijn heel benieuwd naar het proces en het uiteindelijk resultaat. Heel veel plezier en succes!

    Liked by 1 person

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