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How tiny houses can be big

"Sustainability for me is simple: something is sustainable if you apply materials that are local, have the smallest possible 'footprint' and are circular."

Koen Savelkoul, TERRA Tiny Houses

LIOF is helping this entrepreneur with:

a subsidy from the Innovation Project. This is part of the LimburgTourism program. Through our LimburgTourism program, we can help you take your innovative idea or process a step further and thus help your company grow. At LIOF we always do this with a view to a smarter, more sustainable and healthier Limburg. With this program we focus on entrepreneurs in the tourism & recreation sector.

About TERRA Tiny Houses

Koen Savelkoul is an architect, entrepreneur and owner of architectural firm Ontheroad Creatives in Maastricht. But he is also an artist. "I want to combine architecture with much more: with interior, art, objects and own developments. It couldn't be crazy enough. I also want to realize and build things myself." Out of that same desire grew the TERRA Tiny House project. This initiative by Ontheroad consists of designing and building 10 tiny houses in the Maas Valley nature reserve. The little houses of 12.5 square meters of ground area are the ideal place for a sustainable overnight stay in nature. 

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Pictured: Koen Savelkoul (left) and Luc Moreau (right)

LIOF and TERRA Tiny Houses


Houses made of local, reclaimed materials 

Koen also lives on his houseboat according to the principle "small but fine. And that is the lifestyle you should also have for the tiny houses. "They are for adventurous and romantic nature lovers. The houses are very small and are therefore only meant for two people. You sleep on the top floor in a box bed. In the loft is a hanging net, in which you can lie down or sit. There is also a sitting area, kitchenette, study and reading area. And of course a shower, toilet and roof terrace. That's all you need right?" The tiny houses are a unique project in Limburg. One of many in Ontheroad's lineup over the past 10 years....

Expect the unexpected 

Those unique projects began back in 2006 at the Academy of Architecture. "For my graduation project, I wrote 100 people in South Limburg a letter asking them to describe to me their environment around their home. I eventually translated these letters into 16 pavilions (spatial stories) based on a basic building kit, a 2 x 2 x 2 meter square box. I placed these boxes in the city or in the landscape. For example, I made a museum in a box and placed it in Cottessen. I also made a small studio and placed it in the middle of the city near the Bisschopsmolen in Maastricht. From the result I made a film, exhibition and book. 

Radical. But perhaps that also best describes Koen's style. He is not an architect of austere, white building blocks. His clients know that they can often expect something unexpected. "Of course I listen carefully to the client's wishes. But I always want to go a step further, push the boundaries, transform places. For example, we made the unique Novo New Dining in the old Brikke building in Maastricht. And converted Sittards Theater into the Toon Hermans Theater. And now we are working on an office for ZOwonen. No wall will remain white, the canteen will be in the former gymnasium and the office will have unique ancillary functions (is enough)." The colors, the choice of materials or the use of projections or crazy sound effects: it can't be crazy enough for Savelkoul.

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Pictured (left to right): Martin Habets, Janine Lardinois and Sander de Jong

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One's own take on sustainability

Koen also has his own ideas on the concept of sustainability. "Sustainability is a broad concept that they understand very differently in the market: from lifespan to use of materials. For me, it's simple: something is sustainable if you apply materials that are local, have as small a 'footprint' as possible and are circular. That means you can recycle them completely."

Koen also addresses a new term: re-circular. That's circular material that first gets a second life prior to recycling. "We encourage architects to design circularly. For example, the carpet tiles from one of our suppliers Desso Tarkett you can take apart completely and recycle. But the moment you upholster a floor, there is almost always residual material left over. That doesn't go back to the factory for disassembly. We take those scraps over to reuse. In other words, we make re-circular use of these materials."

Koen likes to give buildings and materials a new life. With the TERRA Tiny House project, he can completely indulge himself. "It is the ultimate example of out-of-the-box thinking and really pushing the limit." In doing so, Ontheroad's focus is on nature and culture in South Limburg. "After all, we live in the most beautiful part of the Netherlands." 

Back to nature 

Of course, the name TERRA was not chosen by accident. This is Latin for "earth. Which refers back to the natural materials in the cottages. For example, the facades are made of Limburg soil material. "The facade differs for each tiny house. Depending on the location, it consists of gravel, kunrader stone or marl, for example." And the insulation, too, is made of natural material. From the wool of Mergellandse sheep to be exact. "Twice a year, the shepherds of Schaapskooi Mergelland shear about 3,000 sheep. That makes for a lot of wool. Often not all the wool can be used, and some is even destroyed. For a Tiny House we use wool from 400 sheep. These are in 140 special bins that are mounted on the outside of the cottage." 

The tiny houses now consist of more than 90 percent recycled materials. TERRA's cascal is made from two rejected containers standing upright. "You see what kind of world journey they have traveled. Just as the guests also travel their own journey." All the materials in the cottage have a story. "Even for the smallest details we reuse materials: from the furniture to the curtains. Some of the materials are re-circular residuals. Some are natural products. And finally, some are made up of demolition materials. The only thing that is new is the dry toilet. This is a sustainable alternative that does not use water or chemicals."

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Away from the world

All the techniques in the tiny houses are so well thought out that the houses are totally off-grid. An English term that means as much as "separate from everything." For example, TERRA has its own water and sewage treatment system. In the process, groundwater is pumped up and purified. This creates an internal water cycle. A wood stove heats the water. So that you also have a hot shower. Drinking water is supplied separately. And electricity comes from solar panels and batteries.

The future dream is to place a TERRA every 10 kilometers near the Maas Valley River Park nature reserve. Standing alone at the edge of nature. "Then you walk like a pearl necklace from the first to the next TERRA." You can cross over to the Belgian side at several points with a ferry or bridge, for example. If you walk the entire long-distance route through the Netherlands out and back through Belgium, you cover about 160 kilometers. And you can soon stay overnight in perhaps 10 cottages. "This way, guests are no longer tied to staying in 1 location. You can move from accommodation to accommodation for the ultimate experience of the Limburg countryside."

Building burgundy 

But it's not just about the tourist experience. "That's such a trend word. I'd rather stay far away from that. We hope to convey a bigger message with these little houses. The goal is to make guests aware. On the one hand of ecological construction and innovative techniques and on the other hand of nature and the unique Limburg landscape." The first TERRA Tiny House is almost a reality. In spring, the first one will be erected along the Meuse Valley. In a "very romantic spot." 

Koen also hopes to inspire other entrepreneurs. "Take the term sustainability in the right way. And apply it in the right way." He also calls for "building burgundy" as much as possible. Which means using local and nature-conscious materials. "Limburg has so much to offer: from marl to Kunrader stone. From gravel to sand. You really don't have to go to the Far North for materials or to the Far East for hardwood. We also used to simply make our clogs out of poplar wood instead of hardwood." And we know: everything used to be better.  

Photography: Ron Wiersma (



A magazine full of inspiring stories

The LimburgTourism program has given a strong impulse to the growth and innovative power of this sector in Limburg over the past three years. In this magazine, the Morgen, you can read some of the many stories of entrepreneurs we have had the pleasure of supporting from this program.

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