Active House

KAW Architects an Advisors as Architects

Dutch studio KAW employed a range of technical and architectural concepts to minimise the environmental impact of this house in Rotterdam, including introducing large windows into its brick facades to promote natural light and passive heating. Additional energy required for heating and hot water is produced by a heat pump that operates in conjunction with solar panels.


Structural wooden panels are left exposed inside the building and treated with a simple bio-based whitewash. The only other colour used throughout the interior is a grey-green hue introduced in the form of the marmoleum flooring and other surfaces including the kitchen units and wardrobe doors.


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The ActiveHouse property is the home of Reimar von Meding, a partner at KAW, who wanted to demonstrate how sustainable principles implemented across the practice's projects could be applied to an affordable contemporary residence.


The studio, which has offices in Rotterdam, Groningen and Eindhoven, regularly works on projects that explore innovative approaches to sustainability, such as its transformation of a former police station into a comfortable and low-impact refuge for victims of human trafficking.


"For our Active House we took the chance being architect, client and user in one."

"This gave us the opportunity to develop a scheme with a range of – for Dutch circumstances – relatively new products, building principles and kinds of energy production."


The house is located within a new urban neighbourhood based on traditional Dutch housing schemes from the 1930s, which occupies the site of a former hospital close to the city centre.


The architects drew inspiration from brick villas designed by German modernist architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe when developing the house's clean lines and strong connection between the interior and exterior spaces.


A partly covered terrace located outside the entrance provides a practical outdoor room alongside an extension that was originally designated for use as a garage.


"Because we stopped having a car, we used that volume for an extension and extra room," said Von Meding. "This gives the volumes of the house that dynamic feeling of stacked cubes you also find in the early works of Van der Rohe."


The quality of natural light was a key consideration when designing the house, which prompted the studio to organise the internal layout carefully to make the most of available daylight.


The decision not to include any doors on the ground floor and the introduction of large openings ensures the spaces feel bright and connected to the outdoors. A staircase divides the ground floor into zones for the kitchen and living area.


In addition to limiting the house's dependence on artificial lighting, the glazed surfaces also facilitate passive heating. Additional energy required for heating and hot water is produced by a heat pump that operates in conjunction with solar panels.


Rather than requiring a dedicated plant room to house the machinery and electronics required by the house's utilities, these technical components are distributed throughout a range of unused spaces around the property.


Other sustainable measures include the choice of cross-laminated timber for the house's structural shell, which reduced the amount of carbon dioxide generated during construction.


The building's framework was prefabricated off-site using a system that minimises the need for adhesives so components can potentially be recycled. The design also negated the need for any additional supporting steelwork or concrete.


Structural wooden panels are left exposed inside the building and treated with a simple bio-based whitewash. The tone of the treated wood matches that of the pale brick used to clad the exterior and protect the building from the salty sea air.


The only other colour used throughout the interior is a grey-green hue introduced in the form of the marmoleum flooring and other surfaces including the kitchen units and wardrobe doors.


'Wooden diamond' is scharp and energy neutral

Forbo Flooring Systems as Manufacturers

The Active House by KAW architects is located near Rotterdam and is notable as it generates more energy than it consumes. Environmental impact was limited by implementing a large number of technical innovations and specifying environmentally friendly materials. Strategies include a heat pump and solar panels on the roof as well as use of large windows to increase natural light. Sustainable materials include use of wood as well as Marmoleum, the first C02 neutral linoleum floor in the world. 


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With the first Active House in Schiedam, architects KAW has realized a home that generates more energy than it consumes. Architect and resident Reimar von Meding has minimized the environmental impact of the home by implementing a large number of technical innovations and making architectural choices. Think for example of a soil source, a heat pump and solar panels on the roof, but also the installation of large windows in the façade to promote natural light and passive heating. In addition, Von Meding opted for sustainable materials such as wood (for almost the whole inside, he calls his house a 'wooden diamond'), stone, glass, steel and Marmoleum, the first CO2-neutral linoleum floor in the world.


The so-called Active House - starting point of that way of building, is that the indoor climate, comfort and energy are in balance, that the living comfort and the health of the residents is central and that the house has a positive CO2 footprint and therefore gives more than the - is located in an urban neighborhood from the 1930s where a hospital used to be. The tight lines, the stacked cubes and the distinctive connection between the interior and exterior spaces of the German modernist architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe served as inspiration for Von Medding's house. This is reflected in the partly covered terrace that also serves as an outdoor room.


Also the decision not to place doors on the ground floor and the introduction of large openings ensure that the rooms feel clear and are connected to the outside air. The large windows also provide a lot of free light and also heat passively. The extra energy required for heating and hot water comes from a heat pump that works in combination with solar panels.


In addition, virtually no glue is used in the building, which makes it easy to recycle parts later. The wooden panels on the inside of the house are painted with a simple whitewash paint on an organic basis and on the floor beautiful green Marmoleum Floors from Forbo Flooring that have recently been produced in a negative way and thus contribute to a better climate. Marmoleum also contains no phthalates, other plasticizers or mineral oils that could be harmful to humans or animals.


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