“Hobbit” housing grows with the trend in France for a low impact lifestyle – .

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“Hobbit” housing grows with the trend in France for a low impact lifestyle – .


Benoît Darré, who has been making the distinctive homes since 2014, says that 80% of building materials are recycled and that the properties can be seamlessly integrated into the landscape, including being dug into the hillside.
He created NaturaDream, an offshoot of his traditional construction activity in the Hautes-Pyrénées, to build housing, and has recently extended to swimming pools.

“The first house I built was for a farmer and was designed to be strong enough to support the weight of a herd of cows on the roof,” said Mr. Darré.

They are built around low carbon concrete arches, using slag from metal recycling plants instead of gravel. The arches support curved sides of corrugated iron, which Mr. Darré recovered from the French Air Force when it began to modernize its hangars.

“No one knew what to do with these panels and they would have been wasted, so I was able to get them back for a very good price,” he said.

“They are ideal for the shape of houses.

The panels are covered with 50cm of insulation made of wood chips from sawmills and a sheet of recycled plastic, which is then covered with topsoil so that homeowners can grow things.

The interior can be left “raw” to showcase the corrugated iron arch | NaturaDreamPhoto:

“Each house is different, according to the wishes of the person ordering it.

“What they have in common, however, is a low carbon footprint during construction and low energy costs as the green roof acts as a natural air conditioner in the summer and the large windows and insulation mean most people don’t need heat. in winter, ”said Mr. Darré.

Many homeowners leave corrugated iron walls in their natural raw state, while others cover them in materials as diverse as wood or brick.

“We even built a house near Bordeaux where the interior was oak made from old wine barrels,” he said.

Homes can be one or two story, and some have skylights in the dome to let in sunlight.

A third generation builder, Mr Darré said his decision to make the houses was driven in large part by environmental awareness.

“There are people talking all the time about what to do, and there are people who are actually doing things, and I’m in the second group,” he said.

Once a project has been agreed with a client, drawing up plans typically takes between a month and six weeks, while the building permit adds an additional three or four months.

“I built mainly in the region, but we made it as far as Normandy.

“In general, the planning authorities are very satisfied, even if once or twice we have been delayed. It is often easier to build one of our domed houses on sites where traditional buildings might have problems because they are so well integrated into the landscape.

Interesting lines of the house illuminated at night | Photo: NaturaDream

Prices start from € 1,385 / m² for the base structure (no interior walls or electricity), with options to build a fully bespoke property at a higher budget. Mr. Darré has also started to offer swimming pools built in reconstituted stone from dust from quarries and falls, in the shape of a sloping “lagoon”.

“That means you don’t need to liner, tile, or paint, and it makes swimming pools with curves and shapes easier,” he said.

“They have been very successful and business has grown 300% over the past two years. ”

It also uses a patented composite of gravel and latex resin to create paths and driveways, 30% cheaper than using concrete.

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