A green ribbon of progressive housing projects is emerging in the municipality of Olst-Wijhe. It already had the first ecological and unique earth houses district in the Netherlands, not much later the green seniors co-housing project the Vriendenerf was added. Since this year, the nature-inclusive and circular self-build district Olstergaard has been supplementing both projects.
People build all kinds of different houses in the Olstergaard. Tiny, Tiny+ and bigger, it’s all welcome. Yet when you walk through the neighborhood under construction, you notice that many houses are smaller than what you would normally encounter in a new neighborhood. Living small seems to be the rule rather than the exception in the Olstergaard. Is this the future of building and living in the Netherlands? The first residents are very enthusiastic.
Photo above: Ingrid van Elderen, photo below: Ruben Stellingwerf
Developed together with residents
Early on in the development process, the municipality decided to let the future residents actively participate in the development. A first group of residents set to work to determine the layout and a framework for the neighborhood during meetings together with a project team of the municipality of Olst-Wijhe. This resulted in a roadmap of rules and guidelines that must guarantee nature inclusivity and circularity of the neighborhood.
In exchange for their efforts, the first residents received the first choice from the 50 plots. The remaining plots were allocated by lottery. The majority of the plots in the district are individual self-build plots, in addition there will be a CPO project (grey-green) and social rental housing from housing corporation Salland Wonen. Ultimately 72 households will be located in the Olstergaard. The neighborhood was festively opened on July 9th with the unveiling of the welcome sign by the oldest and youngest residents of the neighborhood. The back of the welcome sign is a bee hotel.
Photo: Municipality of Olst-Wijhe
Nature inclusive and circular
To ensure that not only the houses but also the gardens meet the requirements, the future residents must show a preliminary design of both the house and the garden to a quality team from the municipality. Only with approval can one proceed to the next phase, the environmental permit application. For example, the residents must demonstrate that they apply permaculture principles in the garden and include four of the five nature-inclusive measures in their design. (See the roadmap for these measures.) This should guarantee that the Olstergaard will really become the green, sustainable and climate-proof neighborhood that the municipality and the first group of residents have in mind.
An extensive plan has also been devised for public green spaces, with a lot of attention for biodiversity and native species. A ‘green work group’ of the residents provided input to the plan developed by landscape architects Haver Droeze. Residents also want to play a role in management, no fewer than 94% of them indicated via a survey that they want to help with the maintenance of public greenery in the neighborhood.
Photo below: Chiela van Meerwijk
Tiny Houses and Tiny+ houses are welcome
The Olstergaard is divided into three zones, each with its own rules: natural cultural-historical, natural edible and natural ecological. You can build small on every building plot in the Olstergaard, but the zone natural ecological was designed especially with small housing in mind. It has smaller lots and a communal lot for the Tiny and Tiny+ houses. When everything is ready, there will be a maximum of ten houses that can really be considered Tiny House by Dutch standards (living space up to 50 m2). However, you will also find various small houses of the Tiny + format, ranging from 50 to 100 m2.
De Tiny Houses of the Olstergaard
The following Tiny Houses, in various stages of construction, can already be found in the Olstergaard:
In December 2021, Ingrid van Elderen was the first resident to settle in the Olstergaard with her self-designed 35 m2 Tiny House. Her house was built by Liberté Tiny Houses in Werkendam and transported to Olst by low loader. The cottage is off-grid with its own energy supply from solar panels and batteries. It is not connected to the sewage system but has a helophyte filter and composting toilet. Ingrid does have a connection to the water network. In the Olstergaard you can be completely off-grid, but you can also choose to have all connections if you want.
Photo: Ingrid van Elderen
Marloes – the Suitcase House
Marloes has lived in her Tiny House in Alkmaar since 2018, where she was part of the very first pilot project with Tiny Houses in the Netherlands. In January 2022, her ‘suitcase house’ was literally put on the low-loader like a suitcase, and she moved with house and all to the Olstergaard. Her Tiny House measures 24 m2 and was designed by Min-2 bouw-kunst from Bergen and was inspired by a Louis Vutton purse. In Alkmaar Marloes lived completely off-grid, in the Olstergaard she has connections in her shed that doubles as a home office.
Foto: Marcel van Mierlo
Marjolein – small Sprout
TinyFindy founder Marjolein Jonker has also acquired a plot in the Olstergaard. After having lived in her first off-grid THOW in Alkmaar (next to Marloes) for five years, she sold her house to build a new Tiny House on a screw foundation in the Olstergaard.
Her Sprout is a 24 m2 greenhouse, designed by Woonpioniers and built by Blindwerkt. With the greenhouse attached, the footprint of her home is slightly more than 50 m2, but the greenhouse is not insulated and does not count as living space. Her house is self-sufficient in energy but does have water connection and sewage. Using a smart rainwater system, Marjolein flushes her toilet with rainwater, which also runs her washing machine.
In the blogs on her website Marjolein in het klein you can find a lot of information about the construction, installations, building materials and more.
Photo: Marcel van Mierlo
Marjolein and Ruben – medium Sprout
Marjolein and Ruben have also opted for the Sprout. The young couple has chosen the medium version of 42 m2 of living space, with a first floor where you can stand upright. Half of the side where the greenhouse is located is occupied by an extra room, where a studio/work room will be built. This Sprout will be fully connected to utilities and sewerage, and next year it will have a twin sister/brother further down the neighborhood, both are built by Blindwerkt to a design by Woonpioniers.
Photo: Ruben Stellingwerf
Tiny+ in all sizes
In addition to the Tiny Houses that you can already find in the Olstergaard, you will also come across a variety of Tiny+ houses. They are smaller than regular homes, but slightly more spacious than a Tiny House. Houses with a living space between 55 and 85 m2 appeal to a wide group of people who find tiny just a little too small. There are currently four Tiny+ houses in de Olstergaard. You can follow the construction of Sarah’s house that she builds herself with the Strobox system in her blog.
Photo above: Sarah de Groot, photo below: Marcel van Mierlo
A neighborhood to discover
There is plenty of construction going on in the Olstergaard and will continue to be so in the coming years. The construction world is struggling with personnel shortages and delivery problems, ecological builders with space in the planning are even more scarce. But despite increased construction costs and delays due to nitrogen problems, a unique neighborhood is being created in Olst in Overijssel that is definitely worth a visit. The residents are already proud of their neighborhood and want to organize guided tours in the future. We will of course be happy to include these in the TinyFindy agenda in due course. Until then: it is a public area, so you can always plan a visit and take a stroll around the neighborhood.
Address: the parking lot at the intersection Vink and Notarisappel, Olst.
Photo: Marcel van Mierlo