Three mansions - three styles
The project Irota EcoLodge was initiated by us, two Dutch nationals, Lennard de Klerk & Jeroen van Drunen. After having moved to Hungary in 2007, we first set foot in Irota in 2010. We had been regular visitors to the region for a while already, so it was time for the next step: finding ourselves a place to settle and to put our ideas of a luxurious, eco-friendly holiday resort into practice.
What brought us to Irota was a mysterious piece of real estate, a dilapidated and deserted mansion - in dreadful shape but oozing with charm. As so many others in similar circumstances, we fell for it, and spent the next three years turning it into a home. By this time, we had become well-acquainted with the village and its inhabitants. Our first impressions had been correct: Irota is a wonderful place to live. This encouraged us to take things to the next level. We started the construction of three holiday villas with a joint swimming pool on what we considered to be the prettiest spot in the village. Construction started in the spring of 2015 and was completed a year later.
Jeroen van Drunen (Nijmegen, 1969): “I studied European Studies and Romanian Language and Literature at the University of Amsterdam. Between 1997 and 2007 I worked the Dutch diplomatic service, both at home and abroad. In 2013, I obtained my PhD from the University of Amsterdam in the field of cultural history. I speak a wide range of languages, of which I use Dutch, English, German, French, Romanian, Hungarian, Italian, Spanish and Russian most frequently.”
Lennard de Klerk (Noordwijkerhout, 1973): “I studied Electrical Engineering at the Technical University of Delft. After graduation, I worked for several years at the Dutch engineering and consultancy Tebodin, both in the Netherlands and Ukraine. In 2004, I founded my own business, focusing on the development of CO2 and energy-saving projects in the heavy industry in Bulgaria, Ukraine and Russia. I speak Dutch, English, German, Hungarian and Russian.”
Ever so often, reducing one’s environmental footprint is associated with negative incentives. “Thy shall not fly!” or “Thy shall live frugally!”. As a result, only a limited section of society can be reached. With Irota EcoLodge, we wanted to show that the good life and environmental awareness go well together. Having this as our main goal, we wanted to meet the following criteria.
- Space and elegance
- A similar layout for each house, but with distinct styles in design
- Full privacy, but at the same time easy access from one house to the other when a large group is hosted in multiple houses.
- Wheelchair accessibility
- Usage of reusable of reused building materials
- Lower energy and water consumption
- Chemical free swimming pool
- Usage of renovated furniture where possible
- Climate-neutral operation
Furthermore, in all design decisions, operation, both in terms of operating costs and operation flexibility, of the resort should be as efficient as possible.
Applying above principles resulted in the following design decisions and benefits:
- Each house has a surface of 170 m2 – guests have ample space, even if they in a group of six.
- The two downstairs bedrooms have their own bathrooms, and in this way guarantee full privacy for all inhabitants.
- One of the bathrooms is completely wheelchair accessible, including a wider door, adjusted washbasin, shower with eat, alarm installation and hand grips.
- Both bedrooms have direct access to the terrace, enhancing the connection to the outdoor nature.
- Beds can made into single and double beds upon request. We are happy to provide a cod for infants, plus potty and chair if so required. This comes at no extra charge.
- The village has limited mobile coverage, which we compensate by providing a land line telephone and WiFi in each house– free of charge.
- Indoor cooking facilities offer a large and completely equipped kitchen, including a wide array of kitchen utensils. This way, our guests can choose to simply heat up take-away – or cook their own eight-course gourmet dinners – and everything in between. Those who choose to refrain from cooking altogether can order a home-cooked meal from one of the village ladies, freshly prepared and brought the doorstep of their holiday home.
- Outdoor cooking facilities provide the possibilities for both cooking and grilling, with all necessary charcoal and firewood provided complementarily by us. Not only can our guests have their own barbecue evenings, they can also prepare an authentic Hungarian kettle goulash.
- Each house has both a garden and a terrace, thus enabling our guests to choose full sunshine – or full privacy.
- There is doors in the fences separating the houses so that, in case of a large group, one can easily walk from one house to the other.
- Each house offers ample parking space, which eases things when larger groups arrive.
- The walls are made of wooden-frames as wood is a reusable building material.
- Between the frames, cellulose has been blown in by means of insulation material. This material is made of used newspapers.
- On the outside, wooden soft board plates have been used to increase thermal insulation.
- The thick insulation (U = 0.16 W/m2K) combined with triple glazing, ensures a pleasant inside climate, both in winter and summer. Air conditioning not needed – not even during extended heat waves!
- The whole construction is damp-open, preventing the built-up of moisture inside, also when the houses are not heated during certain periods in winter.
- In winter, the villas can easily be heated up, which would not have been the case if the walls were made of bricks. At the same time, cellulose has a larger heat capacity than mineral wool, which means that inside temperature does not fluctuate much during the day.
- The villas are heated by a stove located in the living room.
- The natural movement of the warm air is sufficient to heat the bath- and bedrooms. Ventilators in the (high) ceiling of the living room push down the hot air.
- The stove is integrated in a brick wall. Hot air is circulating behind this wall before entering the living room. Due to this heat storage, the temperature remains stable at night during cold spells.
- Locally grown firewood is properly dried two years before being used.
- Rainwater is collected from the roof and stored in underground water tanks with a total capacity of 20 m3.
- This water is used to flush the toilets and to operate the washing machine.
- On top of that, rainwater is used in the central utility building to wash bed linen
- As the village does not have canalization, each villa is equipped with a biological wastewater treatment unit.
- Each unit makes use of bacteria that clean the water and no electricity is used in the process.
- Effluent water is discharged into the lower lying area where it is absorbed by reed.
- Each villa is equipped with solar collectors to generate hot water.
- On the roof of the Middle House, solar panels supply electricity to all three houses and the surplus is fed into the electricity grid.
- Also on the roof of the utility building solar panels have been installed.
- The swimming pool has a separate reservoir in which reed purifies the water. Therefore, no chemicals like chlorine are needed.
- The above-mentioned collected rain water is also used to replenish evaporated water from the pool.
- This is the first, and so far only, public natural swimming pool in Hungary.
- The following used furniture got a new life after renovation: 24 dining chairs, 10 arm chairs, 6 closets, three kitchen cabinets, one couch and one bench.
A further aim is to operate Irota EcoLodge in a climate-neutral way. Carbon neutrality, or having a net zero carbon footprint, refers to achieving either net zero carbon emissions by balancing a measured amount of carbon released with an equivalent amount sequestered or offset, or buying enough carbon credits to make up the difference. For the first year of operation (2016) this calculation has been made and the resulting net emissions were below zero. Irota EcoLodge is the first, and so far only climate-neutral holiday accommodation in Hungary. For further details please refer to the Carbon Footprint Calculation 2016.
We had to deal with several challenges to get the required result. First of all, Irota is a in a cul-de-sac located far from urban centres: distances are large and roads are not always in good shape. There is no or limited mobile coverage, which made communication during construction difficult. There is limited experience and knowledge with local architects or construction companies concerning the appliccation of the latest environmental construction technologies. Given the fact that the Cserehát is a poor region, people generally do not see the benefit of environmental protection, let alone of investing upfront to reduce operating costs later. Although workforce was readily available, it was sometimes hard to have different disciplines working together, in particular when it came to apply non-standard technologies. Nevertheless, Irota EcoLodge opened on the 9th of July 2016 and client satisfaction has been high ever since (e.g. the average rating at Booking.com is 9.8 – Exceptional).
Lennard de Klerk & Jeroen van Drunen