Key to Happiness - This family’s extraordinary home within a dome costs almost nothing to run


HOW WE SAVED MONEY AND THE ENVIRONMENT Inspired by a house built inside a greenhouse, the Hjertefolger family decided to build their own, self-sufficient eco-home in one of the coldest places in the world. Not only is it an incredible home in a stunning location, it's saved them a fortune too. Here's how they did it.  
˜HEARTFOLLOWERS' Meet the Hjertefølgers (which translates as 'heart followers'). With a passion for sustainable and eco-friendly living, parents Ben and Ingrid set themselves a challenge: to build a self-sufficient home for their family on the island of Sandhornya, Norway.
TESTING NATURE If building their own house wasn't already a challenge, the couple also needed to take on nature, as Sandhornya is located in middle of the Arctic Circle. Home to just a few million people, areas located in and around the Arctic Circle experience some of the most extreme weather conditions in the world. Winters are long and extremely cold, while summers are short and cool.  
TAKING INSPIRATION The weather wasn't going to stop the Hjertefolgers from taking on a challenge though. We came across an article about a Swedish family living in a ˜nature house' (pictured), which is a house inside a greenhouse with its own water recycling system, Ingrid says. The house was built to help the family survive the cold weather in Stockholm, Sweden
THE 'NATURHUS' Swedish architect Bengt Warne designed the ˜Naturhus' back in 1976. His idea was to wrap a greenhouse around a house, which would help to keep homeowners warm and allow them to grow their own fruit and vegetables, even in the most extreme of weathers.
COB HOUSES And this is exactly what the Hjerteflgers sought to do too. We were doing research online about different natural building techniques, and fell in love with cob houses [homes made with natural materials]. But that seemed like a difficult thing to do in Northern Norway, with short summers and a lot of rain," Ingrid says
RECYCLING MATERIALS Bearing in mind the extreme temperatures and wind, the family had to design the house accordingly. They started by building their three-storey cob house using recycled building materials such as sand, clay, straw and wood.


A SPACIOUS ABODE "The house was built out of cob, which is just a mixture of sand, clay and straws. You can mix the cob with your feet, a cement mixer, or whatever tools you have available," Ingrid says. "Eventually the cob becomes a solid mass, which you can make bricks out of."  
BUILDING WORK "But building takes time," she adds. "It took one year for the initial build and five years all in all. Even when we moved in there were still lots of work to do. Actually, we still have a few unfinished rooms in the house! I lived here for almost two years," Ingrid explains. "I was spending almost every day here. It was very nice to finally move in."


PLENTY OF SPACE The house measures 240 square meters. It was fitted with five bedrooms, two bathrooms, a lounge, a kitchen, dining room and a garage “ plenty of space for a growing family.  
A GLASS DOME True to the design of a 'naturhus', the Hjertefolger family built their cob home inside a glass, geodesic dome. The dome contains 360 glass panels, with double doors, 11 windows and a large door to allow access to an outdoor decking area.  
PLENTY OF HEAT As chilly as it can be on the outside, the glass dome acts just like a greenhouse and retains plenty of heat on the inside. There is even space at the top of the dome to do a little yoga, all while looking out onto the ocean.  
THE NORTHERN LIGHTS What's more, the position of the house and the panoramic views through the dome means there is always a chance of seeing the Northern Lights. In fact, you couldn't get a much better view of them. The couple splashed out NOK3,200,000 ($402,677/£306,609) to build the property, but their lifestyle is now cheaper than ever.  
RECYCLING They now grow fruit and vegetables such as apricots, plums, cucumbers, kiwifruit and grapes, meaning their food bills are kept incredibly low. They have an irrigation system in the garden covered by leca sand, a lightweight sand, to keep it hidden. "A timer regulates the amount of water for the plants. Irrigation and fertilization takes care of itself," Ingrid says.  
THE KEY TO HAPPINESS I think that if everyone fulfilled their dreams and did the things they were good at, the world would function wonderfully," she says. "I believe there's an intelligent design behind everything. Everyone is supposed to do their part, and what's needed. I have devoted my life to permaculture. I want to show that it is possible to do whatever you want, even though no one has ever done it before."


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