Second to None

With House 2.0, architect Pieter Weijnen demonstrates the exponential rate at which green design is advancing.

Charred wood facade of a modern house in The Netherlands
The striking black facade of Pieter Weijnen's new home is the result of the Japanese practice of charring wood. Weijnen, an architect at the Amsterdam firm Faro, first discovered charred wood through the work of Terunobu Fujimori and later traveled to the Japanese island of Naoshima to observe the traditional technique. Image courtesy of I See For You © Föllmi Photography.
Project 
House 2.0
Architect 

For architect Pieter Weijnen of Amsterdam firm Faro, building his own low-energy home (featured in our July/August 2008 issue) was just the start. A year later, he broke ground on a new home for himself, partner Renske Felkema, and their children, Puck and Finn.

House 2.0, located on the manmade archipel­ago of IJburg, fine-tunes the design of the first house, but it goes further in energy efficiency and sustainability: “It’s a passive house,” says Weijnen. “We’ve got the biggest triple-glazed window in the Netherlands and a geothermal heating ex­change system. There is a wood-burning stove; a rainwater tank; and—a bit unusual for the city—a wind turbine on the roof.” Add to this a whole tree used instead of a girder, adobe walls instead of plaster, and a charred-wood facade, and it’s clear that this isn’t your run-of-the-mill eco-house. “You have to take risks once in a while,” says Weijnen.

Charred Wood

Wood charring traditional Japanese technique
Though traditionally, three Japanese cedar boards are bound to form a long triangle and a fire is started within the resulting tunnel, Weijnen built a brick oven to accommodate two six-foot-long larch wood boards at a time when he charred his wood in Amsterdam. After removing the planks from the brick oven, Weijnen doused them with water if the fires didn't go out on their own. He used his less successful pieces in the kitchen ceiling. Image courtesy of I See For You © Föllmi Photography.

 
House 2.0’s distinctive wood siding uses the traditional Japanese technique of burned wood, a natural way to preserve timber and (paradoxically) make it fire resistant. Chemical preservatives, paints, and retardants are thus unnecessary. A further plus is the silvery beauty of the charred finish. 

Modern Japanese-style house with charred wood siding
Burning the top one-eighth inch of each wood board is a natural way to preserve the timber and (paradoxically) make it fire resistant. Chemical preservatives, paints, and retardants are thus unnecessary. A further plus is the silvery beauty of the charred finish. Image courtesy of I See For You © Föllmi Photography.

 
Your Turn: 
 
Weijnen discovered the use of charred wood through the work of Terunobu Fuji­mori and traveled to the Japanese island of Naoshima to observe the traditional techni­que. Back in Amsterdam, he adapted the process for his own home. Here’s how he did it.
 
Step 1: Though traditionally three Japanese cedar boards are bound to form 
a long triangle and a fire is started within the resulting tunnel, Weijnen built a brick oven to accommodate two six-foot-long larch wood boards at a time.
 
Step 2: Weijnen charred the top one-eighth inch of each board in the gas burner–equipped oven, a process that took ap­proximately ten minutes.
 
Step 3: After removing the planks from the brick oven, Weijnen doused 
them with water if the fires didn’t go out on their own. Though Weijnen left his boards au naturel, you can also finish planks by brushing and oiling them.
 
Step 4: The inevitable learning curve will begin with less successful pieces; Weijnen used his early attempts in the kitchen ceiling. 
 

Reused Timber 

Modern Japanese-style house made of recycled elm wood
As in House 1.0, House 2.0 relies on recycled wood for support–—notably, two enormous former mooring posts of basralocus wood and an entire elm tree, which supports the suspended living room. Image courtesy of I See For You © Föllmi Photography.

House 2.0 relies on recycled wood for support–—notably, two enormous former mooring posts of basralocus wood and an entire elm tree. The hundred-year-old mooring posts, each standing 26 feet high, were placed at either end of the building as its main structural supports. Weijnen used a 75-year-old elm tree instead of a steel girder to support the suspended living room. The tree was felled during the reno­vation of one of the city’s canal quays. “It corresponds to the Japanese practice of incorporating a natural element into architecture,” says Weijnen. 
 
Your Turn: 
 
Salvaged-wood dealers like these provide reclaimed timber that you can use for structural support or more common household projects like flooring, ceiling, planter boxes, and furniture.
 
Cornerstone Floor Group 
 
Longleaf Lumber
 
Mountain Lumber Company
 
Pacific Northwest Timbers
 
Restoration Timber
 
TerraMai
 
Vermont WildWoods
 

Adobe Plaster 

DIY wall adobe plasters
Weijnen used adobe plaster in nearly all the rooms of the house. It's an ideal material for passive houses as it can absorb and release moisture and heat exceptionally well. Image courtesy of I See For You © Föllmi Photography.

In all but two rooms (the kids’ bedrooms because of their propensity for DIY decoration), Weijnen avoided using carbon-intensive plaster. Instead, he finished the home with earth or adobe plaster. “Adobe is an ideal ma­terial in passive houses, as it absorbs and releases moisture well, controlling the climate,” says Weijnen. In the upper part of the house, where temperatures tend to be high during the summer months, the adobe is mixed with PCMs, small paraffin capsules that melt when it’s hot to absorb heat and solidify again and release heat when it cools. 
 
Your Turn: 
 
Do it yourself with earth and adobe plasters from companies like these.
 
American Clay
 
Clay Mine Adobe
 
Tierrafino
 

Wind Turbine

Outdoor donQi wind turbine
Visions of the Dutch landscape are speckled with wind mills. There, wind turbines are also called wind mills, and at House 2.0, the Weijnen's mill produces one-third of the house’s annual electricity. Image courtesy of I See For You © Föllmi Photography.

Though the Netherlands seems like the place that would most warmly welcome wind mills (as they’re called there), planning authorities were ­initially skeptical of the idea of a rooftop turbine in a dense, residential area. In the end, the town relented; and given local weather conditions, the turbine now provides one-third of the house’s ­annual electricity
 
Your Turn:
 
Weijnen chose a donQi wind turbine, which is compact and quiet enough for an urban location. Consider these tips when selecting 
a wind turbine. 
 
Before installing, decide where you’ll mount the turbine by determining the direction from which the strongest winds come. For Weijnen, it was southwest.
 
Be a good neighbor. Consult with residents living close-by as turbines often produce unfamiliar noises.
 
If possible, mount the turbine on an anchor other than the house. Weijnen originally mounted his directly on the home but vibrations proved noisy, causing him to relocate it farther from the wall.
 
 

Originally published

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