Hanna and Peder Berne were initially planning to sell their two-bed apartment and buy something larger – preferably a house with better access to the outdoors, as their two children are growing and a third is on the way. But poor availability and crazy prices meant that they ended up in a rented apartment which is no larger than the old one, doesn't have a garden and isn't in any of the areas they had imagined.
Yet there was a positive side. Their new apartment had a lot of other qualities: a closed balcony with an Australian-themed orangery, a sustainable energy system, high concrete walls, something of a collectivist feeling and, last but not least, a heated swimming pool.
Who lives here? Hanna and Peder Berne, a doctor and project manager, together with the children Hedvig, Truls and a new baby on its way.
Location: Västra Hamnen, Malmö
Size: 100 square meters
Architect: Cord Siegel from Hauschild + Siegel
Year built: 2013
Peder elaborates: “It is about illustrating energy use in the home in different ways but also giving the residents the tools to change behaviour patterns, and see what incentives and driving forces that are available to change the way they use energy.”
“The project also includes the aim to develop solutions to integrate the consumer as a producer of energy and become more of a ‘prosumer’. Sometimes you produce your own energy, which you then use, and when you produce more energy than you use, it goes out to households where it’s needed. How can the consumer contribute to more sustainable energy use and society? That is the overall objective of the project, as well as how E.ON can develop and offer the kind of services that contribute to that.”
The greenery surrounding the outdoor areas is meant to create a wildwood feeling, the spaces feel lush and cozy, and stay green even in the winter. Each apartment is connected to a stationary battery (there are two batteries in the building) where the energy is stored when supply is high and consumption low, to be used when needed.
“One of the challenges involved in adjusting our energy system to more renewable energy is that the production of it is difficult to control. You cannot control when the sun shines or the wind blows. We then have to find methods to store energy, but also to adapt the usage to when the energy is available. That is another thing you should be able to get help with through this system, to use energy when there is high availability,” Peder explains.
A gardener looks after all the greenery around the building, including the orangery. It requires someone who knows the specific and unusual plants. The same applies to the janitor, who possesses a good knowledge of the building’s complex and modern energy systems.
Both a gardener and janitor have been included in the project during the three years, and the families hope to be able to keep that facility even when the project is over.
“We really appreciate the greenery and that the house is so social. It is, however, fortunate that we have such nice neighbours, because the building is very inviting,” Peder laughs.
“You share communal areas such as a swimming pool and sauna, which creates natural and pleasant meeting places. In some ways it feels like living in a collective at times, while also having your own place, and that's just the way we wanted it. It is an extremely positive aspect of having had the opportunity to move in here.”
The swimming pool is heated by the solar panels and renewable district heating, while the sauna is run on biogas.
“Now, during the summer, we have used the pool and patio a lot. We chose to buy a large sofa in order to be able to have a bunch of kids or neighbours over. The place is shadowed in the evening so it gets a bit too cold to have dinner here, but it works just fine to dine indoors and open up both doors. Otherwise, we mostly use this space in the afternoon, while the children have fika, play and swim,” Hanna says.
The sofa helped to create a real living room feel. Although the space is limited, it is a completely different experience to that of being in an apartment with a balcony, where one is either inside or outside. Here, the boundary between the outdoor and indoor space is blurred and the kids can run in and out as they please.
The colour and detail coordination of the family’s kitchen makes it feel as if there is some careful planning behind it. But the opposite is true – this is made up of random miscellany that has always been loved for what it is.
“The kitchen chairs are… no idea, they are a container find from when I lived and studied in Copenhagen,” Hanna says.
“They have been brought everywhere since then, they work and are nice. The kitchen table is a Superellipse. The small table is a small sewing table in oak that I also bought in Copenhagen as a student. I have always made sure to maintain it very well, cared so much for it. I love it. The same applies to the small bookcase. Everything I bought was in miniature, considering all the small student rooms you live in while studying. It is the same with the small armchair in the bedroom,” Hanna adds.
The price of electricity is always announced 24 hours ahead of time, which allows you to customize your energy driven devices by the temporary prices. The family has scheduled its fridge, freezer, dryer, dishwasher and electric vehicles so they are not being used or charged when electricity is most expensive.
This is a way to reduce energy consumption during the hours when the energy of the city is at its highest, and even the most expensive, as the only thing that governs the price of electricity is supply and demand. That way you can reduce consumption when the pressure is at its greatest and most fossil or reserve capacity energy is being used.
“The stove gives a floating impression and is the heart of the ground floor, which we appreciate as we are both interested in cooking. It's great to be able to move the pots from different directions,” Hanna and Peder say.
Each apartment has an orangery adjacent to the living room, with a theme that the selection of plants is inspired by.
“Our theme is Australia, as the orangery consists of eucalyptus and other plants specific to the country. Someone else has Mexico as their theme, with palm trees and such. Another has Mediterranean, with a very lavish and beautiful old olive tree. We really enjoy this space. The children play a lot out there, and we also love all the greenery it contributes,” Hanna says.
“In the winter, when it's cold, we sometimes have to shut the door between the living room and the balcony to be able to open a window on the balcony to give the plants a little fresh air. When you then go out in the Orangery you notice the scent of eucalyptus so strongly! In the summer, it is fantastic to be able to open the doors completely – the orangery and the greenery become part of the living room,” she explains.
“My little brother is that uncle who always provide the kids with fun stuff. He used to live in Zanzibar for a while, so these things are from there. He also bought miscellaneous dangerous things, from Bolivia among other countries, with rusty nails sticking out and so on. Not really great toys – he has no children, as you can probably tell,” Hanna says, laughing.
“The children sleep head to foot. They love it! I just think it's good and beautiful for siblings to be near each other. Sure, sometimes it can be a little difficult for them to calm down at night. When that happens we threaten that we will get separate beds for them if they don’t stop, or move so they get their own rooms, that make them really sad, and they stop. But if we stay here we might have to get a bunk bed in the long term.”
The architect Cord Siegel from Hauschild + Siegel’s thought behind the building was to make it so nice that you would rather have a 'staycation' than waste money and energy on travelling. They created a hotel feel in the bedroom where the toilet and shower are linked to the room. There is also a sink and mirror in the bedroom, though “I have never really quite understood why,” Hanna admits. “We never really use it.”
The idea of the property is to encourage more sustainable living, and part of it is that you should not possess things that you do not need.
“One consequence of that is that there is only so much storage space,” Peder adds, “but it is a conscious decision”. Since people rarely live in only one place these days, the bookshelves for example are built-in so you do not have to bring them with you.
Aside from the 'staycation' and sustainability aspect of the architecture, the idea was also to create more of a separate house feeling, even though the neighbours are not far off.
The couch area is lowered to create movement in the space with the help of level differences. You can sit both on the sofa and on the furs along the edge.
The staircase belongs to the apartment and goes from the hall on the ground floor up to the living room upstairs. The stairs are behind the half wall on the previous image. The wall next to the stairs is concrete, but painted white. The half wall around the stairs is made of wood.
The concrete wall on the other side of the room has been left untreated. Even this table is an old student desk, originally a higher table before Peder sawed the legs off.
“All our things are just kind of coming along with us. The paintings have been bought from Bukowski. They are by no specific artist, as far as I know, we buy and decorate with what we like,” Hanna says.
“The disco ball has just been left hanging since ‘the January party’. We invited a few people to a party, nothing special; it had just been a long time since we had a party, without children. There were 45 people, no children, who went all in. Absolutely amazing!”
“When we met, one of Peder’s hobbies was fishing, and I have always had a bit of an aversion to feathers, with the thought that they’re full of bugs and stuff. So I thought it was really disgusting when he was playing with them. But since I started dancing samba, I don’t have much to say… So in May, there is almost a feather celebration here at home – the season for fly fishing and the carnival in Copenhagen!” Hanna says.
“These portraits of three old French prostitutes are something Peder has inherited from his grandmother. They are made by an artist from Skåne, Ivan Jordel. Nothing special, they have also just kind of come along. What I like about them is the expression and the colours,” Hanna says.
The project took place over three years and was completed in March 2016. Now that it's over, some of the test equipment will be taken away. The project has generated a number of lessons, and many of the solutions developed for Hållbarheten are now offered as services available on the market.
In the end, it was not the number of rooms that was important for Hanna and Peder. It was more about what their new home actually had to offer and how it could help the family to contribute to sustainability in our society, more time for family life, and more greenery. Which was also the idea of the architect: to create qualitative, enjoyable time together as well as comfort, despite the increasing urbanization we see.
A large house requires, after all, a lot of time in looking after it. “It's also a way to save time to live here. We are not very handy to be honest. We'd rather spend the weekends at the beach or at the cultural centre Malmö Live, than working in the garden. This is perfect therefore. We have a lot of time together. And several neighbours have done just that, left a large house outside of town to move to something smaller in central, which requires much less time,” Hanna says.