Cardboard is one of the last materials we’d ever expect to offer safe, durable, and weather-resistant housing. It’s pretty much the definition of “flimsy” and the constant butt of jokes about low standards of living. So would you ever imagine that it could represent a more sustainable future for architecture? Hard as it may be to believe, cardboard can be used as the basis for ultra-strong lumber that will last up to 100 years.
The “Wikkelhouse” (which literally translates to “Wrapper House”) is made up of corrugated cardboard that has been glued together with an eco-friendly adhesive, and the construction process is pretty cool. Each house consists of interlocking cardboard segments, each weighing about 1100 pounds (500 kilograms) and measuring about four feet long. Each segment is composed of 24 layers of cardboard and wraps around a house-shaped mold to create a gabled form. The overall house is just under 15 feet (4.5 meters) wide.
These layers of cardboard and glue create a kind of insulation, which in turn is protected by a breathable waterproof film called “Miotex” and covered by wooden cladding boards on the exterior. Inside, the house is lined with plywood for a minimalist but cozy effect, and it’s full of optional built-in features that slot into the frame, including shelves, desks, kitchen counters, and showers. You can add extra segments or change the floor plan whenever you want, making the Wikkelhouse unusually adaptable. Imagine being able to add an extra bedroom to your house for your growing family or insert new space for a home office or studio, all in a matter of hours.
“Each Wikkelhouse is tailor-made by our specialized craftsmen,” says Fiction Factory, the group of Dutch artists who created the home. “Extra windows, different finishings, or your own color scheme — tell us your ideas and make Wikkelhouse even more to your liking. Since Wikkelhouse is sustainably produced and made of materials that have minimal impact on the environment, it is three times more eco-friendly than traditional housing. Forever, the segments can be reused over and over again and are 100 percent recyclable.”
“A one-of-a-kind holiday home, guest house, or office space — Wikkelhouse can be whatever you want it to be. With its friendly design and premium finishings, Wikkelhouse brings comfort in many ways. Even its acoustics are unequaled.”
Each Wikkelhouse is built at the company’s Amsterdam workshop and then transported to the location of the buyer’s choice, requiring no foundation. It takes just a single day to set it up. Each individual module costs $4,500 USD, with the minimum size of three modules totaling $29,000 once delivery and assembly fees have been added on. A complete house with a kitchen and bathroom starts at around $80,000.
Currently, the Wikkelhouse is only available in select European countries and the United Kingdom, and it’s proven so popular, there’s already a waiting list for it. Only twenty can be made at a time in the factory. But between its portability, modularity, and sustainability, it seems safe to say that the Wikkelhouse could be the beginning of an exciting new way to design and erect housing all over the world.