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These tiny cardboard homes could be the future of sustainable Dutch living

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The Wikkelboats are transforming Rotterdam’s old harbours giving them a unique look and a new purpose.
The Wikkelboats are transforming Rotterdam’s old harbours giving them a unique look and a new purpose.   -   Copyright  EBU
By Hannah Brown  & Maxime Caron  with AP

Rotterdam, home to Europe’s largest port, has a space problem. The whole of the Netherlands, in fact, is pretty small and as its cities continue to boom, urban planners are grappling with how to expand them.

One company, Wikkelboat, has an idea: tiny floating homes made from cardboard.

Yes, you read that right. Cardboard and water usually don’t mix, but these small buildings are coated with a waterproof and a wooden layer which keeps them lightweight and durable enough to use.

They have low production emissions. Plus the cardboard also offers great insulating and sound proof qualities.

Why are floating homes a good idea in Rotterdam?

"With all the abandoned inner city harbours, we want to connect the water with the areas behind them. So we are now thinking about developing the city in connection with the water," explains Vera Bauman, who works on the city’s 'Water within the Municipality of Rotterdam' project.

The Wikkelboats are transforming Rotterdam’s old harbours giving them a unique look and a new purpose. All while limiting their impact on the environment.

The floating mini-buildings have a variety of uses such as hotels, event spaces, offices and temporary accommodation. And it’s hoped they could be part of a solution to develop Dutch cities on the water.

A flagship example is the floating Global Centre on Adaptation (GCA) building in Rotterdam.

It's the largest floating office in the world, moored in the Rijnhaven harbour, and illustrates the necessity for climate adaptation.

What is a Wikkelboat?

Founded four years ago, Wikkelboat, which is also the name of the company, has seven houseboats in Rijnhaven harbour, Rotterdam and two more afloat on the river Dieze in 's-Hertogenbosch.

The houses are made of 1.2-metre-long cardboard segments weighing 500 kilograms each. The segments are modular so the length of each house can be extended or reduced.

Inside they range from 32 to 42 square metres, accommodating four to six people. Much like other small living spaces they use every inch ingeniously.

Beds and desks fold out from the wall, the TV is a roll down projector and outside there’s a hot tub hidden below the deck. They are also powered by their own solar panels.

The company is now planning new projects in Dutch and Belgium cities which have old harbours that are longing for a new purpose.

Watch the video above to learn more about these tiny floating homes.