Amsterdam architects designed themselves a floating home full of sustainable smarts.
Mijke de Kok and Wouter Valkenier, both architects and owners of design agency Studio Valkenier, designed their own 150m2 floating home, which, with 30 other homes, floats in the Johan van Hasselt Canal in Amsterdam.
Mijke and Wouter had to wait a long time for the permit for the plan to form a neighbourhood on the water together with a group of like-minded people. Mijke says, “The entire process from initiation to final construction took 10 years. In recent years we lived with our three daughters in a 55m2 upstairs apartment in the centre of Amsterdam. That was tight, but we had the prospect of this new adventure, so it was doable.”
Sustainable and innovative
The floating home of Studio Valkenier has everything to do with sustainability. The house is part of Schoonschip, a floating residential area in Amsterdam. The Schoonschip district was born from a shared dream of 46 resident-developers: living in a floating circular residential area, with a lot of renewable energy sources and as little waste as possible.
Mijke: “We used recycled materials as much as possible for our floating home: windows from an office building, leftovers of platowood for the facade, bollards from the North Holland canal as floor parts of the balcony… Almost nothing is new.”
In addition to all those recycled materials, more sustainable and innovative measures have been taken in the floating homes: “Every home has a separate flow for the discharge of gray water from the dishwasher and washing machine, and black water from the toilet. In a pilot in collaboration with the Dutch water company, the black water is transported to a biorefinery to ferment it and convert it into energy.
In the kitchen we have a Grinder with which we reduce our green waste, the Grinder is also connected to the drain of the black water. In addition, the houses are not connected to the gas network, the houses and water are heated by heat pumps that extract heat from the canal. In the water-saving showers, only hot water is used to keep the water at the right temperature, they are equipped with an installation to recover heat. There are solar panels on the partly green roofs. They are connected to a smart grid with the entire neighbourhood, so that we can exchange electricity with each other. This grid enables us to exchange electricity in a smart way.”
The fact that the sustainable, floating Schoonschip neighbourhood was built is mainly due to the residents of the neighbourhood themselves.
“One of the initiators, documentarymaker Marjan de Blok, made a documentary about a floating, sustainable house years ago. With her enthusiasm about this she [inspired] friends and gathered a group of like-minded people who also wanted to live on the water.
“During their search for a place where this floating neighbourhood could be realised, Marjan came into contact with people who lived opposite the Johan van Hasselt Canal in Amsterdam. They lived in small workers' houses and had the same idea: if we could live on the water… Those people are friends of us and so we came into contact with Marjan and the other initiators. Marjan's dream also became our dream, we joined forces and worked out our plans together. We held talks with the municipality and after a whole process of submitting permits, the construction of the floating homes could finally begin after 10 years.”
Floor plan on a placemat
“We organised a dinner for all our creative friends and relations, architects, photographers and journalists. We had the floor plan of our house printed as a placemat on which everyone could sketch their ideas.
“Of course, as two architects we could decide for ourselves what the layout should be, but we really wanted to know what other people would do, and out of that dinner session we got some very nice ideas for our home.”
One of the couple’s wishes was a spacious kitchen, also the relationship with the water had to be central in the design.
During the construction process, the couple was their own contractor and the design was adjusted several times.
“That's the fun of self-build: you have the option of making changes during construction. Then you experience the space differently than on paper. For example, we decided to leave the central space downstairs open as a play area and we shortened the wall between the kitchen and entrance, so that we now have a better view of the jetty.”
The house consists of three levels, the spaces of which are fluidly connected.
“Each space offers a beautiful orientation of the sun and water, which makes the relationship between inside and outside very intense.
“The light reflected in the water creates a beautiful pattern on the ceiling through the day. Due to the open space and many windows, we have a very wide view. In our previous home, the sky wasn’t even visible, now we look outside to see if there is any rain to come.”
The residents realise that it is unique to live like this, in their own dream: “We still say to each other that it’s so wonderful!”