When Helly Scholten and her partner Mark de Leeuw learned about Rotterdam University’s experimental CHIBB House, an oversized greenhouse that doubles as a home, they immediately applied to live in it. Under Arjan Karssenberg’s leadership, students of the university’s Applied Sciences developed an “extreme and innovative concept” designed to be sustainable in every sense of the word. The family of four (plus a dog, two cats, and four goldfish) were chosen to spend the next three years helping the university test the viability of their prototype, located nearby in Concept House Village, in part by growing their own food in the rooftop garden.
Despite the menagerie, CHIBB House has ample room for all of them. Upstairs is a bathroom and three bedrooms, each of which has its own door leading to the covered courtyard, while the downstairs kitchen and living room have access to a covered terrace. A great deal of effort has gone into designing a prototypical home that sources materials sensibly in accordance with the Cradle to Cradleconcept, wherein nothing goes to waste, and ensuring optimal thermal and acoustic comfort.
“The CHIBB-concept aims for optimal shape, orientation and use of the sun, light, air and green,” according to the students’ design brief. “Optimal shape means that the transmission loss is limited and materials are used efficiently. The materials are reused, biobased and/or suitable for recycling. Functionalities and streams are linked. CHIBB is self sustaining in food and energy and grey water is used to hydrate the crops.”
Scholten, who is a botanical stylist, is responsible for maintaining the interiors and the garden. She and de Leeuw share photographs of their daily life on Greenhouse Living, an Instagram account that makes the ins and outs of this experimental life available to a large international audience.
“We really like the experiment of living here, due to the sustainable character and growing our own vegetables. The daylight in this house is a gift, especially when the days are shorter,” said de Leeuw.
“Furthermore, we are faced much more with the seasons and we notice conscious the difference between bleak and cold and nice and very hot,” he added. “For us a reason not to live in a normal house in the future anymore, but to go looking for another special project to live (maybe a boat). And of course also a plus is that our children consciously experience how you can live more sustainably.”