Test house for new construction principles in the Arctic

Monday 07 Sep 20


Tove Lading
Associate Professor
DTU Civil Engineering
+45 45 25 17 38


Niels-Jørgen Aagaard
Head of Department
DTU Civil Engineering
+45 45 25 18 77

About the ABC project

The test house is part of a research project Arctic Building Construction, or ABC project, which investigates buidling design, impact of climate, user behaviour etc. in Greenland/the Arctic.

Learn more about the ABC project at www.abc-byg.gl

DTU is opening a test house in Nuuk to test new structures, and to find out whether a covered patio area is attractive for homes in the Arctic.

Over the next two years, a test house in Nuuk will provide answers to whether there is a future for building houses with an indoor-outdoor climate under the same roof, and whether residents would thrive in such a dwelling. In houses in the Arctic, the building envelope and insulation are usually combined, while the test house will use a two-part envelope. 

The new design comprises an outer layer of polycarbonate which provides protection from the wind and rain but which allows light to penetrate, and an inner layer with heat, moisture, and sound insulation in the living spaces. In two places in the house, the polycarbonate extends across an intermediate zone, which is an unheated and naturally temperate patio area which can be used as a conservatory or utility room.

Largest building research project in Greenland

The construction of the test house is part of a major research project ‘Arctic Building and Construction’, or ABC project, and together the two projects have a total budget of DKK 23 million, making them the largest building research project in Greenland to date. The funding comes from a number of private foundations, the largest contributions coming from the A.P. Moller Foundation, Knud Højgaards Fond and the Kerrn-Jespersen Fond as well as the Greenland Self-Government and municipalities in Greenland.  In addition, DTU has contributed DKK 6.5 million. 

“The test house should clarify whether or not it is an advantage having a double building envelope in the Arctic, and whether the intermediate zone is an attractive living space. We will be looking at whether residents use the space, and whether it provides a good place to work, carry out repairs, handle catches, or possibly just be a nice room in which to relax,” says project manager and Associate Professor Tove Lading from DTU Civil Engineering.

DTU Civil Engineering is following the house for two years, and during this period it will be occupied by a family. While the house is inhabited, researchers will measure moisture and temperature in the construction and indoor climate, both inside the house and in the intermediate zone, and compare the measurements with weather data. In addition, the researchers will interview the test family about their experience of living in the house, and what they think about the house’s indoor climate and functionality.

The project will inspire discussion about building practices in the Arctic, and how homes in the region can be developed to optimize functionality and indoor climate.

Testing six structures

Next to the test house is a test pavilion. The walls and roof of the test pavilion consist of elements with six different structures, and the room is heated and humidified as if it were a living space. The moisture content and temperature of each of the structures are measured in order to learn about the robustness of different wall designs under changing weather conditions.

Arctic research project 

The test house is a trial of new building concept, which was developed by Vandkunsten Architects and Ramboll in continuation of an exhibition project from the Venice Biennale in 2012. DTU is behind the construction of the test house in Nuuk, and is responsible for ongoing evaluation and the gathering of experience. 

The mid-term evaluation of the ideas phase for the house can be found here

After a two-year test period, the house will be handed over to Municipality of Sermersooq. The results of the project will then be included in the research project ABC–Arctic Building and Construction.

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