The +hytte – a small technologically advanced cabin offering a modern concept of living.
The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) is taking part in the international competition Solar Decathlon Europe 2012 where it competes with 19 other universities in order to build the best solar powered house in the summer of 2012 in Madrid. NTNU’s project proposal that gave access to the competition was developed with great enthusiasm and close cooperation between students of the 2-year master’s programme “Master of Science in Sustainable Architecture” within the Faculty of Architecture and Fine Art, NTNU. These students have relevant background in architecture and engineering.
NTNU’s contribution to Solar Decathlon Europe 2012 is +Hytte, a small technologically advanced cabin offering a modern concept of living. It can be placed in rough Norwegian nature as well as in the urban jungle. The features of the +Hytte is a positive energy account, flexibility in the use of space, low greenhouse gas emissions and the ability to be moved without leaving traces. The +Hytte can also be attached to already existing buildings. As such it may compensate for the lack of energy efficiency of these adjacent buildings, e.g. the detached wooden houses which represent the most energy demanding architectural typology in Norway.
The +Hytte is meant to be connected to the existing infrastructure, but may if desired be independent ofthe grid and infrastructure, thanks to a clever use of natural resources. Once back from Madrid, the +Hytte will become a LivingLab for action research on technology and lifestyles in co-operation with private industries and public institutions.
Norway is a country of outstanding natural beauty, whose fjords and mountains attract millions of tourists every year. Norwegians revere nature and cultivate an active relationship with it. Cabins – or “hytte” in Norwegian – represent for many of them the necessary tool for conducting a life close to pristine nature, outside modernity. Attachment with nature is therefore transmitted into these small houses, where the entire family can “experience an extensive contact with the surroundings” (Thomas Berker). The hytte is far more than a physical structure: it is almost an icon, a salient trait in Norwegian culture.
With unequalled economic growth based on a relatively evenly distributed income from oil and gas, “hytter” have become more numerous. Nearly half of Norwegians have today regular access to a cabin often located within driving distance from population centres. Also their quality and size increased significantly in the last twenty years. Today’s “Hytter” have an average area of 65 square meters and can be effectively considered proper second houses frequently used in summer and winter time for leisure. Outdoor activities done around the “hytte” include skiing, hiking, watching wildlife, picking mushrooms and berries, relaxing and sunbathing.
“During the last two decades Norwegian cabin tourism has moved from “hard” forms of ecotourism (few, prolonged stays, strong identification with the site) to softer ones (shorter, more frequent stays, commercialization of the site)[…]. This has led to a steady rise of energy consumption and related CO2 emissions in this sector, shifting the desire to live close to nature from a core tenet of Norwegian culture to an unsustainable threat to nature” (T. Berker and H. J. Gansmo).
Furthermore, cabins with improved standards demand the extension of grid infrastructures, putting a strain on local ecosystems. Second houses represent therefore today the most dynamic architectural typology in energy consumption statistics in Norway.
Municipalities and developers have just recently discovered the green potential of more coordinated and denser forms of developments, resembling the image of villages but still trying to accommodate the existing desire to find untouched nature at the cabin. A significant majority feels anyway that the municipality needs to be restrictive and critical when they consider expansion or concentration of second houses areas, both for environmental and social reasons. These people would prefer minimal changes over the next years in infrastructure, extent, accessibility, amount of use, people in the area, etc.
The clear preference for no, or otherwise small changes, can also be an expression of the desire to keep life at the second home as a predictable and stabilizing factor in an otherwise dynamic existence. Holidays at the hytte are still seen as a return to a pre-modern state of peace in a close relation to nature where any symbol of stress should be removed or minimized.
The introduction of new technologies however only apparently contrasts this philosophy. There is a wide margin of action in stressing the use of advanced technologies in coherence with this philosohpy. The +hytte – a small technologically advanced cabin offering a modern concept of living - is indipendent from the grid thanks to the use of natural resources, strengthening the desired feelings of distance from modern society and symbiosis with nature.
The surplus of energy produced by the PV integrated systems will permit the use of an electric car and solve mobility issues and other problematics related to second houses.