A Century Old Windmill Transformed Into a Cozy Guesthouse

Giving old buildings new life is one of the pillars of sustainable living, so it’s always great to see such renovations take place. A great example is this recently renovated windmill in Suffolk, United Kingdom. The windmill is about 125 years old and was just a ruin for a long time, before the local firm Beech Architects turned it into a cozy guesthouse.

The windmill was unused for several decades, during which time it fell to ruin, yet still retained it’s status as being an important landmark in the area, which is why it was not torn down. The renovation took some out-of-the-box thinking and resulted in a guesthouse with a spacious living/dining area, two bedrooms, and a bathroom, some of which are inside the modern, zinc-clad structure at the top of the windmill.

They first had to make the structure habitable, and they started the process by adding insulation panels to the exterior in an effort to keep the interior walls in the original condition, as well as to protect the building from further decay and take advantage of the thermal mass of the structure.

The newly added pod on top of the structure features a machine-cut Kerto timber rib system that is intended to strengthen it against the wind. The Kerto system, made by MetsaWood of Sweden, is constructed out of laminated veneer lumber (LVL). More precisely, it is made from 3mm thick rotary-peeled softwood veneers which are glued together in order to create a continuous sheet. The end result is a very strong and dimensionally stable material. This framework was covered by more than 200 panels of zinc to create the pod. Due to the round walls of the structure all the interior furniture had to be custom made.

The owners live next door to the structure and have plans to rent it out. While it is fantastic that an old structure was given new life here, I have to agree with some of the critics who are saying that it now looks too “alien”. The resulting structure looks nothing like the windmill it used to be, and all the black and metal cladding make it look like something out of a futuristic movie. But that’s a matter of personal preference and aesthetics, and the renovation is an awesome example of adaptive reuse done right.

Couple converts school bus into their first home

Rising rents and huge student loans, coupled with difficulty finding job security are leading more and more young people to reconsider what a home should look like. Brittany and Steven of Adventure or Bust are one example of a young couple who opted to convert a disused school bus into a full time home. They converted the bus themselves, and will use it to travel and work on the go.

The majority of the interior space is taken up by the lounge/kitchen area. The sitting area features an L-shaped sofa, which can be converted into a full-size bed for guests. There is also a flat screen TV in this area. The kitchen which adjoins this space is fitted with full-size, energy efficient appliances, namely a fridge, stove, and a washer/dryer combo unit. The bus they used for the conversion has a side door, and the kitchen counter they installed across it can be lifted up to make the door accessible.

The bathroom is fitted with a Nature’s Head composting toilet, and a small shower. The bus is very water efficient, since no blackwater is produced, and all the greywater is filtered and used to irrigate the vegetable garden. They use the compost on their fruit trees. The bus also features plenty of closet and storage space.

The bedroom is located at the far end of the bus and is just big enough to fit a queen-size bed. The latter can be lifted up to reveal a storage area, the 100-gallon water tank and grant access to the rear door of the bus.

They renovated the bus themselves, and the total cost came to just $17,600, which includes the purchase price of the bus. While the bus is very water efficient, it has to be hooked up to the grid for power. They are currently saving up for a solar power array so that they can use it completely off-the-grid. They also plan on painting the exterior as soon as funds allow it.

Large Tiny Home

This newly built tiny home for two in Australia proves that downsizing does not mean you must sacrifice comfort. It’s called Zen Tiny House, and it is quite large for a tiny home, and certainly big enough to accommodate the two owners, Nadia and Kester Marshall and their two Australian shepherd dogs. Nadia designed the home herself, and commissioned the local tiny house builder Sam Commerford to build it.

The home is 24.6 ft (7.5 m) long and 9.8 ft (3 m) wide. It also features a window box that is 1.6 ft (0.5 m) long and is quite a clever extension of the space. The home features a large patio, 8.2 ft (2.5 m) sliding door in the lounge area, which effectively opens up the space and makes the interior appear larger. The sitting area features an interesting custom-made couch which is connected to the stairs leading up to the bedroom. The latter is in a loft, which appears quite spacious, with a good amount of headroom.

The generous width of the home allowed them to make the kitchen more spacious. It is fitted with a full-size stove and fridge, and features lots of counter space. There is also plenty of storage room here. The bathroom is quite spacious as well, and features a shower and a composting toilet. There is also an extra door here for easy access to it after a swim in the sea.

They used Weathertex for external cladding, which is made from 98% recycled Australian hardwood that is mixed with paraffin wax and painted with an ageing stain. The window box and the extruded window were clad in cedar treated with the shou sugi-ban technique. All the cabinetry inside the home is made of plywood that was coated with Rubio monocoat oil. They used whitewash v-join pine for the ceiling, and gyprock (dry wall) for the walls. The flooring is made of vinyl wood-look planks. The outdoor deck is modular, and can be completely removed and packed away in a single day.

The total cost of building the home came to $55,000, which does not include the deck.

Sustainable Airport Terminal Built in Norway

There is nothing very sustainable about air travel, but the airport terminals can be, as has now been proven by the architects of Nordic – Office of Architecture who designed and built a new terminal at Norway’s Oslo Airport. The new terminal is equipped with many sustainable and energy-efficient features and was built using recycled materials.

The new extension to the airport is basically a 984 ft (300 m)-long structure and it provides an additional floorspace of 1,237,849 sq ft (115,000 sq m). It was built using primarily recycled and natural materials, such as recycled steel, curved glulam beams, as well as concrete mixed with volcanic ash. The latter is thought to be more sustainable than regular cement, since lower temperatures are needed to mix it, and it is said to have a longer expected lifespan. The cladding and flooring is mostly oak.

The terminal is insulated to Passive House standards, while they also achieved the BREEAM “Excellent” sustainability rating, which is a first for an airport building. They will also be storing the snow collected off the runways in winter and using it to cool the building in the summer. The curved shape of the terminal also maximizes solar heat gain, while the generous glazing lets in ample amounts of natural daylight and eliminates the need for artificial lighting. Oslo only gets about 6 hours of daylight in the winter months, so I suppose artificial lighting will be needed then. As for heating, the terminal utilizes low-carbon technologies like district heating and natural thermal energy.

Overall, this is a great example of large scale sustainable architecture, which needs to become the norm going forward if we wish to preserve the planet.

Helicopter Turned Into a Cool Hotel

This conversion of a helicopter into a cozy, and very unique hotel, takes the concept of repurposing and recycling to a whole new level. Both those practices are, of course, a must in achieving a more sustainable future. This one-of-a-kind hotel is located in Stirling, Scotland and was created out of an old Sea King helicopter.

This so-called Helicopter Glamping retreat is actually quite cozy inside, and features a living area, kitchenette, shower and several beds. The owners bought the Sea King helicopter for $9,125 a few years back at an online auction. They transported it to the build site by land, then used a crane to place it at the campsite. They first sanded down the exterior then repainted it. The rotor blades were missing, so they found some like it on eBay to add to the Sea King. They also kept all the original lights and markings, to retain the authentic look from the outside. The interior had to be changed up quite a bit, though.

They insulated the walls, and covered them with wood paneling to create a uniform look, which is reminiscent of “an upturned hull of a boat”, as they put it. The interior is large enough to sleep five people comfortably, since the hotel contains two large beds, as well as one twin bed. To let in more natural light, they built a sun dome and also added glazed patio doors to one side of the helicopter. They also added a deck.

One of the things they had to remove from the interior was the original sonar station, which was donated to The Helicopter Museum in Weston-super-Mare. This created enough space for a shower and small kitchen. The cockpit was left as is, and now offers amazing panoramic views over the Carse of Stirling. As an added touch they also retained the original dashboard, as well as the roof panel switches and foot pedals, so guests can pretend they are flying the helicopter on a mission.

Staying at this hotel is certainly an unforgettable experience. It can be rented for $195 for two adults per night. For more information, visit Helicopter Glamping.