Enjoying a comfortable, bountiful life isn’t so easy when you live in the Artic Circle. On the island of Sandhornøya in northern Norway, temperatures remain below zero degrees Celsius for most of the year. For three months during the winter, the sun never even rises. These brutally cold and unforgiving conditions are no place for a young family trying to live a sustainable lifestyle–unless you’re the Hjertefølgers, who built an oasis in this frozen land out of cob and a surrounding geodesic dome.
Referred to as “The Nature House,” this family’s three-story home is made from 300 tons of cob, a natural building composite of mud, straw, water, and lime. Cob is especially malleable and can be used to create curved walls, arched doorways, built-in niches, benches, and countertops. The Hjertefølgers constructed the house almost entirely by themselves, which allowed them to incorporate fairytale elements like balconies and lavish wooden doors with hand-hewn hardware wherever they pleased. Cob houses are not usually ideal for such harsh climates, but this home and its outdoor garden are kept warm by the dome overhead.
The family of six purchased their single-glazed geodesic dome from Solardome, a UK-based company that designs and manufactures geodesic glass structures for houses, spas, outdoor living spaces, and community centers. The dome acts as a greenhouse and traps heat so the family can lounge outside all year long and garden for five months longer than they could have without it. In their garden, the Hjertefølgers grow fruit trees, grapes, herbs, tomatoes, squash, and melons: crops you wouldn’t normally expect to find in the Arctic. Besides keeping things nice and toasty, the geodesic dome also protects the cob from exposure to moisture and high winds.
In a recent interview with Inhabitat, the family detailed the sustainable lives they lead in their self-built dream home. On top of composting all of their food scraps, the Hjertefølgers reuse all the gray and black water they produce to fertilize and water their plants. Since the family grows most of their own food, they only purchase biodegradable products, which can later be composted to yield more crops.
“How much did it cost? Everybody asks and it’s ok!” writes Ingrid Hjertefølger on Instagram.”I don’t mind talking about money, and it’s an important detail of the project. The build cost was 3.200.000 NOK = 348838 Euro. The dome cost was 85000 GBP, but today it is more expensive; 130000 GBP. We built everything ourselves, except from the dome. And we used cheap/free materials like straw, clay and sand, plus lots of recycled materials. The house is 240 m2 X 176 m2 greenhouse. In Norway, this is not an expensive 240 m2 three-year-old house. We actually have lots of houses for that amount of money.”
The family also maintains a blog filled with breathtaking photos and personal accounts of life in their glass bubble by the sea. Some of these photos show the roof of the house, which is essentially a large sun terrace complete with lounging hammocks. Outside the dome, a deck overlooks the water. It must be incredible to witness the famous “Northern Lights” from either of these vantage points.
Could you see yourself living in a home like this?