Dutch duo Daniel Venneman and Mark van der Net have created an open source home kit that allows DIY advocates to build and customize their own micro house. The Hermit House features a unique zigzag floor plan that aims to create a multipurpose interior with a spacious feel, despite its 14 square meter (150 sq. ft.) footprint.
The creators say the “folding structure” of the design system means the final building is strong enough to be constructed with inexpensive and lightweight materials.
“The Hermit House was developed as a university project and was the first house we realized,” designers Daniel Venneman and Mark van der Net told Gizmag. “We came to the folded shape in our search for an easy and cheap way to construct DIY using standard sized plywood.”
Applying the motto 'Life Unplugged’ to the Hermit House, the designers wanted to create an opportunity for users to build a personal space where they can relax and disconnect from the outside world. “We see the Hermit Houses as a comfortable small laboratory where people can experiment with living modestly, completely energy-neutral and in interaction with their surroundings,” said Daniel and Mark.
The home features a single open interior space which faces the large floor-to-ceiling glass windows and opens out onto an outdoor deck. With eight different versions to choose from, each home can be customized to include features like an eco-bathroom and kitchen. The tiny homes can be used for a variety of purposes including a studio, guesthouse, temporary festival pavilion, holiday retreat or backyard office.
The system's online interface lets users play around with the Hermit House model and parameters on the 3D design app to develop a customized version. Then by pressing ‘generate manual’, the personal plans are finalized and generated, ready for one to head out, choose building materials and get the kit cut out.
“Most important is the cutting plan of the floor construction, the walls and roof panels. The panels are like a puzzle,” said Daniel and Mark. “It can hardly go wrong if you follow the instructions correctly and saw the panels precisely.”
For those who wish to build a stronger structure, insulated wooden ribs can be added. With the inclusion of photovoltaic panels, a compost toilet, a water tank and the use of recycled materials, the Hermit House has the potential to become a low budget and sustainable off-the-grid home or retreat.
“Most small dwellings like caravans are still very plastic-fantastic. Our Hermit House uses natural and recycled building materials. Mostly wood. We think that sustainability is about constantly striving for a less energy and material intensive building and its usage. In our latest houses we used solar power, compost toilets and wood stoves. We are still studying on how to make the shower facilities as off-the-grid as possible.”
The hermit House has a lifespan of approximately ten years depending on which materials are used. More durable materials will obviously last longer and age more gracefully.
The home is also available for purchase in a prefabricated kit. The kit is produced slightly differently from the DIY method; it uses even less materials and features wooden interior finishes and better insulation. “It’s a way people can build a house for about €700 per sqm [approx. US$936 per 10 sq. ft.], excluding VAT, installation and transportation costs,” said Daniel and Mark.
Furthermore the kits are compact enough to be transported in a van or shipping container and are currently available for delivery within the European Union. However, the designers have strong ambitions to get the kit onto the global market and they are also working on a bed and breakfast online project, which will allow owners to rent out their Hermit House to passing travelers.
"Everybody that builds a Hermit House will be able to use our online booking system to rent it out as they please," said Daniel and Mark. "DIY building becomes DIY B&B, sharing ‘life unplugged’ with others. We see the Hermit Houses as a test bed and are constantly looking for ways to make design more mainstream and introduce mass-customization to full-scale houses.”