Urban ecology

Experimental Housing at Svartlamon


Project: Five self built row houses + a common house
Svartlamon, Trondheim (63°26'N /10°24'E)
Client: Svartlamoen boligstiftelse
Nøysom arkitekter
Team: Trygve Ohren, Haakon Haanes og Cathrine Johansen Haanes
Self builders: Torfinn Borkhus, Siri Gjære, Guro Sletnes, John Strandskog, Per Kristian Nygård, Line Anda Dalmar, Markus Lantto, Johanna Gullberg og Iacob Sømme
Carpenter: Arnleiv Overgård
Area: ca. 350 m2
Cost: 3.000.000 NOK
Status: Planning 2013-2015, building 2015-2017.

The five experimental houses at Svartlamon, built in an area designated as a trial site for urban sustainability, challenge the misconception that a sustainable lifestyle is something that you can buy. An experiment in applied urban ecology, it attempts to demonstrate the value of a nøysom (or frugal) use of resources, creative reuse, self building and participation in the architectural process.

The project can trace its roots back to 2013, when Trygve and Haakon, while still architecture students, were made aware of a site at Svartlamon, regulated for “experimental building”, and decided to try to make a concept for a self build project on the site. A 6 months long participatory process with residents at Svartlamon followed, which resulted in an architectural concept for the experimental site.

When the architectural concept was finished, the architects presented their vision to The Resident Organization at Svartlamon, who decided that they would make it one of their main goals for the next 5 years to get the project built.

It was agreed that it would be The Housing Association at Svartlamon that would finance the project and end up owning the houses. The housing association is a non-profit organization that leases the land and most of the buildings at Svartlamon from the city of Trondheim, and rents it out to the residents. Run by a board of representatives from the residents and the city, the housing assocation is responsible for the day to day operation of the urban ecological area. As there is no private ownership at Svartlamon, this would not be an option for our self builders either, but in return for building their own houses they will pay a much lower rent than the market prize in Trondheim. And most importantly they will be able to live in a house that is built by and for themselves.

In 2014 a group of self builders were chosen by an election comittee consisting of the architects, representatives from the housing association and the resident organization. More than 20 applications were submitted, which was much more than anticipated.

For the next two years the architects continued to develop the project, tailoring it to the group of self builders through workshops, meetings and interviews.

The result was a  conceptual architectural framework consisting of five compact, simple and naturally ventilated wooden houses (including a common house with storage space and a guest apartment), built with a traditional stud frame technique, the main design criteria being that the houses would be simple enough for self buidling. The construction is based on new materials from the building materials store, but can be clad with reused materials and filled in with reused windows and doors.

The most uncoventional part of the structural design of the houses are the self built wooden truss beams that carry two connected shed roofs, so that we don’t need pillars inside the house. The windows in front of the truss beams can be opened so that the building can be ventilated efficiently through a double high room. They also let more light into the row houses. A greenshouse in front of each house made from reused windows, is meant to function as a solar chimney. The houses are naturally ventilated, and we are trying out natural, breathing insulation like hemp and wooden fibres.

In line with the project’s urban ecological intentions, the materials we are using are considered from a holistic, ecological perspective, not just measurable technical abilities or greenhouse gas emission equivalents.

The conceptual frameworkfor the experimental houses was presented as Haanes’ and Ohren’s masters thesis at the Faculty of Art and Architecture at NTNU, Experimental Housing at Svartlamon (2015).

After the diploma was submitted, the building application was approved, and with a building permit and a loan from the Norwegian State House Bank, Haakon and Trygve got together with former classmate Cathrine Johansen Haanes and started the architectural practice Nøysom arkitekter, who took over the project, coordinating the building process and advising the self builders.

Since the foundation stone was laid down in September 2015, the 14 (+2) self builders, 7 (+2) adults and 7 children, have gradually taken a larger responsibility for the project, and ultimately made it their own, unique design. A simple, yet robust architectural framework have made it easy for the self builders to adapt their individual house to their wants and needs, as well as what they can get hold of in terms of materials and reused doors, windows etc. This called for a lot of dispensations from the Norwegian building code, which was granted due to the area’s special regulation as an urban ecological trial area. The goal with this way of organising the process is to make the future residents participants in creating their own long term sustainable environment, rather than just being passive consumers. 

The self builders have done most of the construction work themselves, under the watchful eye of Svartlamons own carpenter, Arnleiv Overgård. They also get to decide for themselves how their own houses will be on the inside, as long as they stick to the conceptual framework established by the architects. All of the reused and new materials they have salvaged and bought themselves, and what they can get hold on shapes the appearance of the houses markedly. The project has a really tight budget of 3.000.000 NOK (about 325.000 EUR), which gives a square meter price of about a quarter of what can be expected for new construction projects in Norway. This would not be possible without all the voluntary work being done by the self builders, the architects, and everyone else involved.

The main point with this project has been to demonstrate that by being given responsibility and taking control over ones own environment, one will contribute to creating a more nøysomt (frugal) and sustainable built environment. This could be an important comment on the current sustainability discourse, which seems to focus on increasing energy-efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The self build project at Svartlamon does not only intend to show that alternative models are possible, it also shows the necessity of exploring a multitude of approaches to the biggest challenges of our time. Svartlamon is currently unique in Norway, being regulated as an urban ecological area, but we hope that our project demonstrate the value of creating more areas like these, that facilitate innovation and experimentation in the urban environment.

05.10.18-27.10.18  Små aktører - nye fortællinger, Galleri PIRPA, Copenhagen, DK
17.11.17 2017 Sino-Norwegian Architecture Forum. Tsinghua University, Beijing, China
09.06.17-19.11.17 Et sted å være. Norsk samtidsarkitektur 2011-2016, Nasjonalmuseet - Arkitektur, Oslo

Professional reviews

16.02.19: Experimental Housing at Svartlamon, Archdaily
22.01.19: Experimental Housing at Svartlamon (2017), Experimental Cities
14.02.18: Die Eigenbauer Im Norden, BAUNETZWOCHE #506
18.06.17: Experimental Housing at Svartlamon, Trondheim, Norway, 2017, World Architecture Magazine: New Norwegian Architecture: Progression and Confusion, 2017/6 (ISSN 1002-4832)
21.06.17 Self-build Svartlamon style, Unstructured extra 8 – Way out West – Norway's wild North West Atlantic coast architectural and building scene
18.11.16 Sykt lykkelige selvbyggere?, Arkitektnytt
12.11.16 Nøysom arkitekter, Pollen no 3 - Gjør det selv (s. 8-9)
01.10.16 Boligvisioner: Nøysom Arkitekter, Arkitekten Nr. 10 Oktober 2016 Vol. 118 (s. 12-16)
08.09.16 De nye selvbyggerne (kronikk), Kommunal Rapport
27.04.16 Bærekraftig selvbygging, Arkitektur N nr. 03/2016 (s.22-35)
13.11.15 Drømmen om den ideelle bolig (s. 31-32), Arkitektnytt 09/10-2015
01.10.15 Vil bygge alternativt og billig, Byggeindustrien
30.06.15 Selvbyggerne, Artscene Trondheim
12.05.15 Selvbygging for leieboere, Leieboerforeningen
02.10.14 Bygger husrekke for to millioner kroner, Byggeindustrien

References in academic works
2018: Elisabeth Søiland og Silje Klepsvik: Alternative modeller for utvikling av sosialt bærekraftige boliger. En eksempelsamling av OPEN transformation, FORKOMMUNE forprosjekt “Kommunen som pådriver for alternative løsninger”, s.24-25
2017: Siv Bleiklie: Dette er arkitektur – en introduksjon (ISBN: 9788245019971), s. 208
2016: Frank Båtbukt: Selvbygger i by, selvbygging som verktøy for boligbygging og byutvikling (Arkitektur og designhøyskolen i Oslo, Masteroppgave i urbanisme)
2016: H.O. Myskja, B. Sandberg og S. Osnes: Eksperimentboligene på Svartlamon, gjennomgang og vurdering av prosessen fra idé til bygg (NTNU Trondheim, AAR4815 Plan og byggeprosess)
2015: Haakon Haanes og Trygve Ohren: Eksperimentboliger på Svartlamon (NTNU Trondheim, Masteroppgave i arkitektur)

10.06.17 Kunstnernes hus, Ukeadressa
03.03.17 Gjør det selv-bydelen, Morgenbladet nr. 9 / 3.-9. mars 2017
08.02.17 Vil at flere skal bo billig og alternativt på Svartlamon, Trondheim24
06.01.17 Torfinn bygger hus med gjenbrukte materialer, Newton, NRK Super
24.06.16 Hva skjer egentlig på Svartlamoen? (kronikk), Adresseavisa
11.05.16 Kampen om Svartlamon er ikke over, Byavisa i Trondheim
10.05.16 Studentprosjekt blir miljøvennlige og nøysomme rekkehus..., Trondheim 2030
15.03.16 Husbygging del 3: Andre etasje og taket, Newton, NRK Super
31.01.16 Husbygging del 2: Bygge reisverk, Newton, NRK Super
28.01.16 Husbygging del 1: Første spadetaket, Newton, NRK Super
09.12.15 Arkitekt bygget fem hus uten kontrakt, Østlandets blad
09.09.15 Bærekraftig bygg på Svartlamon, Byavisa i Trondheim
08.08.15 –Jeg tror prosjektet treffer en nerve hos folk, Adresseavisa
29.10.14 Bærekraftig byggeprosjekt på Svartlamon, Under Dusken
15.09.14 Eksperimenterer med fem nye boliger på Svartlamon, Adresseavisa

©Nøysom arkitekter AS, Oslo, Norway