Doing good: Durable cardboard house

This article first appeared in City & Country, The Edge Malaysia Weekly, on April 13, 2020 - April 19, 2020.

The Wikkelhouse can be placed anywhere and does not require a foundation. Photo by Yvonne Witte

The interior of the eco-friendly house can include a kitchen, bedroom and bathroom. Photo by Yvonne Witte

A machine wraps cardboard around a mould to form one panel of the Wikkelhouse. Photo by Yvonne Witte

Once completed, the panels are transported to the building site (left); a cross-section of a panel. Photo by Yvonne Witte

It takes a day to complete the assembling of the panels. Photo by Yvonne Witte

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Nobody likes living in a house of cards. But would cardboard be a good substitute? Some may say a building made of this material could get soggy after a downpour, but not the house that Fiction Factory builds in the Netherlands. Called the Wikkelhouse, this structure is made of prefabricated moulded segments that can be joined together to form a home.

The Dutch word wikkelen means “wrapping”, and the idea for the house came from a vegetable.

“What inspired the Wikkelhouse? A crate for tomatoes,” says the maker of Wikkelhouse. “Instead of folding a crate to carry fruit and vegetables, a mould to wrap the crates was invented. The multiple layers of cardboard used to wrap the crate increased the strength of the tomato crate. Based on this application, the idea of building a house made of cardboard was born.”

Fiction Factory started out as a theatre scenery company before expanding into doing interiors, fair stands, furniture and much more. It then tried its hand at building a house.

It took four years of research before the final product was achieved. The cardboard makes for good insulation, so there is no need for additional insulation layers.

To create a panel, cardboard is wrapped 24 times around a mould and each layer is held together with eco-friendly glue. The cardboard is made from sustainable wood, which means the entire house is not only recyclable, but it is also three times more sustainable than a normal house.

Each panel measures 3.5m (11.5ft) high, 1.2m (4ft) wide and 4.6m (15ft) long and you can add as many panels as you want to get the desired size of dwelling place.

According to Wikkelhouse, the delivery time for the panels takes about eight months after an order is made. As the panels weigh 50kg each, the house does not require a foundation. This means it can be erected anywhere, be it in a garden, on a beach or even on top of an office building.  And it takes only a day to assemble the panels.

The exterior of the house is finished with waterproof but breathable foil and wood panels made of sustainable stained pine wood to protect it from the weather. Inside, sustainable plywood is used. The house can contain a kitchen and bathroom if required.

The cost of the house ranges from €30,000 (RM160,720) to €85,000 excluding VAT, although the majority sold are between €50,000 and €85,000.

“We have built 60 Wikkelhouses. Many are used as houses; others are used as offices, classrooms or rental holiday houses,” says its maker.

At present, the Wikkelhouse is only available in Europe: the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, France, the UK and Scandinavia. This year, it will also deliver to Chile, South America. The company has no plans to expand further for now.