Making sustainable home design: Learnings from the Dutch

Making sustainable home design: Learnings from the Dutch

Do you feel like you are melting by the increasing number of heatwaves in the place where you are living? Can you still get a quality sleep with warm temperature especially during the summer period? The climate has changed in the past years and perhaps you notice that it gets even worse. This calls for a more sustainable way of living, which can be started by making a sustainable home design. Everyone must do their part, regardless of how small or big it is, if we want to save the planet for the next generation. We have seen nowadays some of the consequences of the climate change in every part of the world. Just in the last two years, there were forest fires in Southern European countries (Spain, Greece, and Turkey), flooding in Australia and Western parts of Europe (such as Netherlands, Germany, and Belgium), heatwave during the summer months in Canada and Europe, and even the melting of the ice in the Northern part of Italy. All these catastrophes had costs lives and resources and perhaps might be impossible to reverse the effects of climate change. If we do not act now, the worse parts are yet to come.

Living in the Netherlands for more than a decade has taught me to value sustainability even more. We try to incorporate sustainable way of living in our lives as much as possible. Being sustainable is not only good for the planet, but also for the budget. In my previous blog, Save the planet by saving your pocket: Ten sustainable practices, I mentioned the different ways on how to live sustainably and to save money at the same time. In addition, I also wrote some ways to make travel sustainable (see blog: How to travel sustainably: Ten recommendations). As a traveling family, we believe that it is still possible to discover places and culture without compromising the health of the environment. For this blog, I will discuss five ways on how to make sustainable home design, based on the ingenuity of the Dutch when designing houses.

Sustainable home design based on learning from the Dutch

1. Use of solar panels on the roof

Solar panels are a popular source of natural energy in the Netherlands in the recent years. According to, around one million households in the Netherlands have solar panels installed in their roof. The investment for a solar panel nowadays is cheaper as compared to the past. A household can invest 4,000 euros for a 2700 kWh per year generated solar energy, including the installations. The return of investment for a solar panel is around 6-7 years. In our case, we had solar panels installed in our home 6 years ago, and we had to invest around 7000 euros. Still, we are happy that we started earlier since the solar panel reduces our monthly electricity bill, hence generating savings. At the same time, it also deviates us from using a less environmental friendly fossil fuel. Imagine if many households will be using solar panel, how much energy can we save from the natural light of the sun and reduction in the use of fossil fuel?

The view of houses with solar panels in the background.

2. Use of natural heating and cooling from earth substrate

Instead of using fossil fuels, it is also possible to use the natural heating within the earth to heat or to cool down your house. Many of the Dutch households nowadays incorporate these underground technologies that generate energy from the natural substrate in the soil of the earth, to warm houses during winter or to cool them down during summer. This source of energy is definitely more sustainable compared to using electric powered machines, such as heater during winter and aircon during summer. Like solar panels, it requires investments in the beginning but it generates savings in the long-term. Of course, what’s more important is that natural heating is not taxing to the environment as compared to the use of fossil fuels.

3. (Urban) vegetable and fruit gardening

Is your garden full of stones and cement? Why not remove them and put some ‘greens’ in your place so that it looks natural and happy? According to a study by the European Green Capital, people living in a green neighborhood are happier and have healthier well being than those living on non-green urban spaces. A way to make your garden green is not only through putting flowers and plants, but also making your own fruit and vegetable garden. The feeling of growing your own food and being self-sufficient gives a feeling of satisfaction and mental happiness. Of course, the vegetable and fruit garden also adds beauty to your garden.

Our little grape “vineyard” in our garden.
Harvesting some apples and pears from our little garden.

4. Making Green Roof

Want to contribute in cooling down your area but have a limited space? No problem, making “Green Roof” could be a solution. “Green Roof” is all about putting some layer of vegetation in your roof, which can help absorb water during rainy season and cool down places during warm weather. If all houses in a city do Green Roofs, a city or a place can cool down by approximately 5 degrees (! That’s a simple step to make sustainable home design and yet big positive impact for the environment.

5. Catch rainwater using water barrel (regen ton)

In the past years, the summer in the Netherlands (as well as in other places in Europe) is getting intense and causes drought. This means that some water sources are drying up and plants and crops are dying due to lack of water. If this continues, it is more likely that there will be shortage of water in the future. At the same time, when it is raining in the Netherlands, some areas are also getting flooded. A way to address these problems is by using a water barrel to store rain water during rainy season. The saved rainwater during raint season can be used for dry period and can help at least in ease some flooding in some area.

Sustainable home design using rain barrel (Photo credit: Diana Serik of Unsplash)

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