Going Off the Grid: 5 Examples of Swedish Sustainability

Photo via XPeria2Day, Flickr


Going Off the Grid: 5 Examples of Swedish Sustainability

Going off the grid means that you no longer need state supplied goods and services to survive. The most difficult service to eliminate is electricity, which often is replaced by solar or wind power. Another big component is food, but that can be dealt with by farming your own animals and growing your own vegetables. Last is water, which can be collected during rainfall for later use.

With off-the-grid living becoming more accessible to everyday people, Sweden has begun to see sustainable homes and businesses becoming more prevalent throughout the country. Here are five stellar examples that provide green, sustainable living in Sweden.


Lake Vättern. Photo via XPeria2Day, Flickr

Uppgrenna Nature House (Naturhus)

Located on the shores of Lake Vättern in Sweden, Uppgrenna Nature House is a spa with its eye on sustainability. With walls made of glass and wood, the lines between where the house ends and where nature begins are almost completely blurred. Furthermore these walls can be opened to bring the outdoors inside and complete the seamless transition.

Using sustainably, recycled materials to construct this amazing house, including a salvaged barn, the house is truly an eyeful. Highlights include its rich Falu red paint that’s been used on Swedish cottages and farmhouses since the 1700s. Here are some of the home’s most sustainable features:

  • Heating: Because the house is entirely encased in glass, it saves up to 40 percent over typical energy consumption due to its natural greenhouse warming effect.
  • Sewage: A closed-loop sewage recycling system takes wastewater from the building and filters it into the garden beds outside. This waste is converted into fertilizer for fruits and vegetables. During the summer months, the fruit, vegetables and herbs from the gardens create the menu for their onsite seasonal café.
  • Gardens: The lush plant beds purify wastewater during their growth cycle. The upper entrance level consists of an unheated greenhouse space which extends over the roof, and has lots room for crops to grow.

In 2015, Uppgrenna Nature House was opened as a visitors and conference center.

Smart Student Unit by Tengbom Architects

Tengbom Architects has combined affordable student housing with sustainable living. Within just 10 square meters, the Swedish-based design firm created an efficient and compact living solution for students. Not only are they small, but these units also have numerous environmental benefits.

Collaborating with students, Tengbom Architects carefully tailored these units according to students’ preferences. Each unit features a kitchen and bathroom attached to well-appointed sleeping loft. The units even have a small garden and a patio. Affordability is extremely important to students. In order to accommodate this need, special permissions were required to reduce zoning minimums from the normal 25 square meters to a mere 10 square meters. This subsequently reduced the building’s footprint by 40 percent and rent costs by 50 percent.

These changes didn’t just reduce the building footprint, but the carbon footprint as well. The architects and designers of this unit always kept energy efficiency in mind. By locally sourcing cross-laminated wood, the primary construction material became renewable. The architects also planned on-site assembly to reduce construction time.

Today one of these sustainable units is on display at the Virserum Art Museum in Småland, Sweden. In 2014, 22 of the student units were built and now act as permanent housing for students.

Vallentuna. Photo via briantho, Flickr.

Sundby Nature House

This greenhouse home was built in the suburb of Vallentuna in Stockholm for a family with children. While they kept off-the-grid living and sustainability at the forefront of this project, the architects didn’t forget about the look and feel of the home.

The two-story house is framed by timber and covered by an unheated greenhouse tempered single glass. This gives the house not only a sleek look, but a modern one, too. The glass protects the house from wind, rain and UV rays. The interior of the home is extremely cozy with its wooden paneling. Besides the design, the most important aspect of this house is its sustainability, and it doesn’t disappoint with these features:

  • Sewage: The greenhouse enables a closed cycle sewage system that takes the wastewater from toilets, dishwashing laundry and bathing and purifies it using a vegetable bed inside the house. The plants absorb nutrients and convert waste it to fruits and vegetables.
  • Protection: As a greenhouse, Sundby Nature House provides amazing conservatories protected from rain, wind and snow. It creates a near-perfect climate equivalent to that of northern Italy.
  • Smart Energy: This greenhouse produces energy instead of consuming it. Using technologies such as solar cells, the house is completely powered using the natural elements.

Sundby Nature House will be opened at the end of winter 2015/2016, and will be used as a visitors center before being converted into a family home.

Villa UH1

Inspired by a World War II German bunker, this Swedish home is in the suburb of Saltsjö-Boo just outside of Stockholm. It’s a contemporary, clean-lined approach beautifully focused on ecological design. With comfortable, luxurious furnishings complementing sleek, minimalist surface finishes, this home is less like a bunker and more like a modern, inviting family fortress.

Partially built underground, the home blends in with its grassy surroundings and even has an eco-friendly, moss-covered roof. The living moss-covered roof is not only for show, as it also provides natural insulation and rainwater filtration. Additionally there are a few built-in sustainable systems that include geothermal technology that provides both heat and cooling.

Overall this bunker-inspired house is the perfect simple-yet-luxurious single family home with the benefits of providing sustainable living to its owners. Even though it is not completely off the grid, it is one of the most beautiful and oldest eco-friendly homes in Sweden.

solar energy panels_stockphotoHalo

Located in Göteborg, Halo is sustainable housing for students and completely is run off solar energy. Designed by 25 students from Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Halo was built as their entry into the Solar Decathlon China that took place in Datong, China.

Using the underlying concept of shared space, Halo offers quality instead of quantity while at the same time lowering environmental impacts. The shared spaces of this student housing complex offer large common areas that encourage knowledge sharing and social interaction that can lack in other student accommodations around Göteborg. But this is not the only benefit of this structure as it also has the following sustainable advantages:

  • Heating: The rounded shape of Halo provides a maximum interior area while minimizing the exterior perimeter. This in turn reduces heat loss potential and keeps the structure warm during the winter months. The cooling, heating and hot water are provided by a small air handling/ heat pump unit which is located in a central core module.
  • Plenty of Daylight: Halo structures also have strategically placed windows that take in daylight, mainly from the south.
  • Protection: The curved roof also provides protection from rain, wind and snow, as well as shaded areas during the summer months.
  • Solar Energy: Halo has shown that solar technologies truly can be integrated into the architectural design of a house. The roof doesn’t just have solar panels, the roof is solar panels.

Nearly made entirely of wood – both structure and furnishings – Halo is almost completely recyclable after use. The white interior works as an empty canvas for inhabitants who are encouraged to paint it however they want it to look. The mixture of both fixed and movable furniture allows for shifting styles and multiple room layouts.

From the outside in, Halo not only is an innovative housing solution, but also a modern, beautifully designed one. It also proves that the young people of Sweden are thinking ahead and are already coming up with solutions for sustainable, off-the-grid living.

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