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Architecture Served from the Sea

Friday, July 12, 2013

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Seaweed is not just for salad, soup and sushi, folks.

It’s also a building material that’s been hard at work on the Danish island of Læsø since the 1200s.

Now, the architecture firm Vandkusten has come up with a modern home that connects 21st-century aesthetics with the venerable material, according to reports.

Seaweed Modern

The new seaweed house is insulated and sheathed inside and out with eelgrass.

modern seaweed house
Realdania Byg

Seaweed is used as a roofing and insulation material in the "Modern Seaweed House," by Vandkusten architecture.

Reports say the tropical plant insulates just as well as mineral insulations; is non-toxic and fireproof; and offers an expected life of more than 150 years.

The project team says that the tropical kelp home has a negative CO2 footprint, with seaweed used as both insulation and roofing.

It’s the “ultimate sustainable material,” according to the team.

Eelgrass Homes Dwindle

Realdania Byg, the group that commissioned the modern home, said on its website that the dwindling stock of seaweed homes on the island inspired the project. There are only about 20 left, the group said.

"It is our hope that others will embrace the experiences from this project and develop the ideas even further,” according to Realdania Byg director Peter Cederfeld.

inside of seaweed home
Realdania Byg

Does it smell fishy? No, says the architect, "there is no smell whatsoever."

The team also restored some of the other historic seaweed-clad homes on the island.

Questions and Answers

On Dezeen, project manager and architect Jørgen Søndermark answered some questions from a commenter, Francios, who asked, “But what happens to the seaweed if it rains? Do they swell? And the smell in the house—is it so strong? Does the seaweed repel insects or attract them?”

The architect responded, in part:

“The seaweed does not swell as such when it rains; it will be wet, though. In the beginning all the way through, but later on, we expect the seaweed to form a layer that stops the water, as it does in the old seaweed roofs that you find on the island of Læsø.

“There is no smell whatsoever. Also, this is the same in the old seaweed houses.

“Insects and larger animals such as mice are repelled; probably because of the content of salt. But birds some times build nests into the large roofs of the old house—we believe this roof is too thin for birds to enter it.”

So, if you are looking for the next big sustainable building material, you might want to check the menu.


Tagged categories: Aesthetics; Architecture; Building materials; Cladding; Color + Design; Design; Green building; Sustainability

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