As scores of refugees seek safety in the Netherlands, the government is scrambling to provide affordable and humane temporary housing. To that end, the central agency responsible for receiving asylum seekers and the State Architect launched Home Away From Home, an open design competition that invited innovative proposals. One of six winners designed by Bureau Zondag and dNArchitectuur, Solar Cabin combines prefabricated, modular design and renewable energy to provide temporary to permanent sanctuary while contributing to Netherlands' 2020 clean energy goals.
With prefabricated gypsum walls and a western red cedar facade, Solar Cabin is an aesthetically-pleasing design that offers profound environmental and social benefits. Comprised of a modular kit of parts that allows for a variety of configurations, the cabins can be stacked together or stand alone. The roof is comprised of a rooftop solar array, or solar field, that provides energy for the home itself and neighboring buildings. In this way, the housing serves two essential functions – sheltering displaced people while also increasing the overall clean energy share in any given city.
The design also incorporates rainwater harvesting and a constructed wetland that helps to filter blackwater. The architects point out that because of its various green components, potential investors will qualify for various government subsidies, including the Energy Investment Allowance. Albeit designed for refugees as part of the Home Away From Home design competition, this project is equally suitable for students, graduates and other low-income residents, offering housing for up to 10 years. Along with the other five winners, Solar Cabin is currently on display at the White Nights Festival in Rotterdam until 17 July, 2016, and prototypes of the buildings will be on display in Eindhoven later this year during Dutch Design Week.
The Solar Cabin crew notes that their design will enlist various sectors of society to work together to address the tragic increase in asylum applications – as a result of wars across the Middle East. dNA writes, “Investing in Solar Cabin is an investment in the environmental objective of the Dutch government in 2020 and a preview of Dutch Design with added value to other countries.” Of course it also offers a more dignified alternative to the shabby tents far too many people around the world currently call home, and we hope to see its widespread implementation soon – in the Netherlands and beyond.