Naturhus: A Glass Act From Sweden

Images: EcoSol.

Frightful winter weather got you down (I’m talking to you, Southern California and Europe)? Well, imagine stepping outside of your home (kind of) and taking in a deep breath of fragrant air as you take a leisurely stroll around your very own lush, Mediterranean-style garden teeming with figs, kiwi, peaches, roses, and a plethora of exotic flora. In the dead of winter. In the snow. In Sweden.

A Winter-Time Greenhouse Option

Thanks to the late, pioneering eco-architect Bengt Warne’s Naturhus (Nature House) concept, maintaining a vibrant topical garden while cutting back on household energy costs during the middle of a brutal winter is indeed possible. Basically, a Naturhus is a normal, modestly sized abode completely encased in a greenhouse that “functions as an outer barrier” and allows for the year-round growing of plants that wouldn’t normally survive in frigid climates.

Warne’s Naturhus concept has garnered a small but devout following in his native Sweden (Warne completed his own Naturhus in the mid-1970s) that includes Rosemary and Anders Solvarm, a couple whose own Naturhus consists “of a climate-shell, living quarters and a self-contained ecological system.”

At the Solvarm’s Naturhus, the actual living quarters are made from wood and measures only a little over 1,500-square feet. And then there's the massive patio with a pool, sauna, open fireplace, barbecue, lounge space, and a play area for the couple's three children. The glass shell that covers the structure is over 3,200 square feet. In line with Warne's original vision, the gardens within this particular Naturhus receive nutrients via a grey water system and compost while an efficeint hot water masonry heater heats the structure’s living quarters. And as noted by TreeHugger, because the living space of a Naturhus is completely enveloped by an insulating glass shell, its inhabitants can expect to spend roughly half on electric bills compared to those living in traditional houses. And by traditional, I mean houses not completely surrounded by greenhouses.

Other Naturhus Advantages

Other advantages of living in a Naturhus as detailed on EcoRelief, a website dedicated to the Solvarm project:

• The greenhouse protects against the rain, snow and wind.

• The greenhouse gives daytime warmth due to the greenhouse effect.

• The greenhouse reduces ultraviolet radiation and minimizes maintenance.

• Incoming air is pre-warmed in winter and pre-cooled in summer, in an underground pipe.

• Daytime heat is retained within the living quarters for the night.

• The self-contained ecological system conserves energy and nutrients which are transformed by plants and trees into flowers, fruits and vegetables.

• Any misgivings concerning circulation, window cleaning, problems with humidity, sensitivity to storms etcetera, can now be dismissed.

Like what you see? Live in Sweden? The Solvarms apparently offer Naturhus consulting services and will “inspire and guide you through one of the most meaningful investments of a lifetime.”

Bottom Images: EcoRelief