Five questions for Frank van der Linden

Sustainable community building in Eindhoven

A green experimental garden in a very sustainable neighbourhood in Eindhoven: that is the Airey district. On behalf of housing corporation Woonbedrijf, Heijmans applied many new techniques and concepts to the development of 68 apartments and 14 terraced houses in this district. The needs of the future occupants, the so-called Green Tenants, were given priority. They will help each other to lead sustainable lives and will set-up and maintain the communal facilities. Resident Frank van der Linden (50) tells how sharing knowledge about sustainability has resulted in him gaining a warm circle of friends. 

February 22, 2017

How does it feel to be a guinea pig?

Good! Time and attention has been paid to your living environment and you can feel it. To me, this house is a gift from heaven. Not only do I look out over the beautiful Airey homes where the people lived who made Eindhoven great, I enjoy living here so much that I never want to leave. Sustainable living is important to me, but so are aesthetics. Through my work as an exhibition designer and art consultant, I pay attention to quality. And that’s what this home has: it is light, tall and spacious.

Another advantage is that Woonbedrijf and the municipality really help us to find solutions, whether it concerns subsidies for designing our roof terraces, an extra water butt or green recycling bins.

This building is equipped with all kinds of energy-saving solutions, such as the re-use of warm water from the shower for the underfloor heating system. It is too bad that the wind turbines on the roof did not materialise. They would have sent out a clear signal: this is a sustainable building!

What about the financial gain?

Although I don’t keep a close eye on my energy bill I feel I don’t have to heat the rooms as much as I used to. It is always a comfortable temperature here. I only need to adjust the thermostat twice a year; in the summer to 15 and in the winter to 20 degrees. I have left the cement floor just as it was delivered. The only thing I have done is paint it, so I am getting the maximum out of the underfloor heating. It is so peaceful here. You don’t hear any outside noise through the triple glazing.

Airey Eindhoven Groene Huurder Fotograaf Maikel Samuels 4.jpg

Do you have a close relationship with the other residents?

Living here has enabled me to make many new friends. Together with a group of neighbours we regularly clean the building; first coffee, then we clean and afterwards we enjoy some soup. I am one of the initiators; I coordinate the designing of our roof terrace and the greenery. Others organise yoga evenings. There are small clubs for every task: for the allotment, the neighbourhood barbecue, the neighbourhood Halloween parade, etc. That’s how you get to know each other. So if you are ill, you can ask the neighbours to do some shopping for you. There is enough trouble in the world so at least let’s help each other here.

Airey Eindhoven Groene Huurder Fotograaf Maikel Samuels 3.jpg

Don’t you find that it’s always the same people who invest energy in the building?

At first, but you see the numbers growing. When neighbours see me working on my plants it seems to catch on. We now hold a competition every year for the finest balcony. Because my kitchen faces the gallery other residents can see how I have furnished my house. ‘Oh, how nice! May I come in? How do you do that?’ You get ideas from each other. You also address people about sustainable behaviour. If I see someone with four plastic bags from the Lidl I say something about it. Or that you really should not lay a laminate floor, but cork or linoleum.

The new apartment buildings at the Karel de Grotelaan are equipped with the latest sustainable technology.

Debris from the old Airey-flats that stood here, is re-used in new bricks.

Debris from the old Airey-flats that stood here, is re-used in new bricks.

You really are a good ambassador! Any ambitions?

For me, we can’t make it sustainable enough: why don’t we collectively buy eco-friendly washing-up liquid or toilet paper? Or products from farmers in the area around Eindhoven? That would make it more affordable for the individual residents and everyone can lead an even ‘greener’ life.

More trees are another wish; I find the planting of the public spaces here a bit scanty. But all in good time. And there’s plenty of time, because I am going to grow old here.

Airey Eindhoven Groene Huurder Fotograaf Maikel Samuels 1.jpg