Case study for Friland (Denmark)

DATE:    27.05.2014
PROJECT NAME: Friland Eco Village
LOCATION: Denmark, Friland
SIZE: 10 hectares, 105 people (75 adults, 30 children),
DESIGNER: Steen Moeller and others
CLIENT/DEVELOPER: Friland community
MANAGED BY: Community of Friland
CONTACT AND FURTHER INFORMATION: (Catherine, Tove, Tycho, Karoline)

Context – Physical/social historical

Sustainable eco-building

Site Analysis/Description – Place/use

A village with 37 lots, 44 households (some lots are used by more than one family); mainly residential area with a common place – one building with a yard, which can be rented for meetings, education and other events. The rent is used by the community. There is a small community garden.

Project Background and History

Eco-village, started 12 years ago (2002) by a group of idealists – Steen Moeller and others, who wanted to create a place based on 3 essential basics:

  • No waste
  • No debt (the idea is that if you don’t owe to society and banks, you don’t need such a high income and you can have more time for other things – social activities)
  • Renewable materials

The idea started with colaboration with the national TV of Denmark.
The village has developed in 3 phases:
Phase 1 – 2002 – a group of people started building; the place was picked because it had a school, a small store, a good public transportation system.
Phase 2 – 2006 – more land was bought and split between the new settlers
Phase 3 – 2010 – expanding more with new land and people to live in the eco-village

Design, Development and Decision-Making Process

Each household (a person, a family or a group people) have their own lot which is a share of the land, with common expenses – roads and others. Each lot is 900 to 1400 sq.m. Between each lot there are common areas. In the development of the village, wooded land, common garden, kids’ playground, lake and others were created. The development happened over time and at the current moment the village has reached an optimal size, not much further growth is expected.
There is one general meeting/assembly once per year. Annual budget is decided – how much each family has to pay for the land they are living on and other major matters are discussed. 5-6 people from Friland are elected on this meeting, which are in a board.
There are 6 meetings per year (one every other month), starting with a dinner and then a discussion of what needs to be resolved. Decisions are taken with consensus (consensus democracy). New ideas are introduced to the group in a separate meeting at first, where people can think about it more, discuss it with neighbours, and in the main meeting the finally decide if this ideas will be implemented.

Role of Designer(s)

Each house is constructed by the people living in it. There is no overall rule how the building should look like or how it’s going to be built. Same applies to the land around it. There is wide variety of decisions and ways of building and the only common aspect is the use of renewable and recycled materials. There are strawbale, wooden and stone houses.

Programme Elements – what was planned/ the site functions (use, users, activity)

The main idea of the project is to present sustainable way of building. At the moment the place is mainly a residential area. Some of the people have strong interest in Permaculture and are applying the principles in their houses/gardens.

Maintenance and Management – long and short-term view

Each household takes care of its share of land, may ask neighbours for help if needed. Established and functioning regular meetings for discussions on different topics.

User/Use Analysis

A place for making a change in one’s personal lifestyle and experimental building site.

Peer Reviews

The founder Steen Moeller had Permacultural ideas which were new for the society in Friland and there was lack of information on this topic in the beginning. Only during the last 4-5 years Permaculture principles and practices were more implemented by a lot of activities going on – Teachers Training Courses, EPT (European Permaculture Teachers meetings) and the Nordic Permaculture Festival.

Project Significance and Impact/Lessons Learned

Friland is an example of different kind of techniques for building, heating and energy efficiency. This eco-village has helped popularizing Sustainable building in Denmark and internationally also, especially the straw-bale building. The legalization of this kind of building has been accelerated and the building permits has been made a lot easier. Now this building technique is more accepted and recognizable.

It has shown a new model of living – the debt-free community. Lessons has been learned and are still going on, mainly about building techniques and how people can live as a society – one of the most important lesson. Using straw or another renewable building material can be very inexpensive and help living a debt-free life with time for other things.

What could have been done differently?

There could be a collection place/a common house, which everybody could use or a shared house for smaller groups of families, where to meet/work together.
Building yourself is a challenge, especially for bigger houses, so either building as a group or going for smaller house is advisable.


The space of the village is limited. There is mainly enough space for the houses and not enough space for growing your own food and to be self-sufficient.
Not allowed to have hoofed animals, since the location is in the city zone. There isn’t a local source of firewood. Building yourself is time-consuming and a limitation for other things.

Transferable Features and Lessons

  • Building with renewable/recycled materials
  • No debt way of living
  • How to minimize/stop generating waste

Future Issues/Plans:

Future issue may be the lack of space for farming and gaining local firewood.

Does your project offer opportunities for volunteering or internships?

Yes, individual families provide such an opportunity, not as a community. It’s happening throughout the whole summer period.

Does the project welcome visitors or study tours?

Yes, visitors and tours are welcome. Visitors can walk around freely. There is a tour group, organizing tours.

Can you offer accommodation to visitors or study tours (at the project or locally)?

Accommodation can be provided for limited amount of people, hosted by the residents. There is a future plan for making guest houses near the eco-village.

Web Sites/Links:
Search for new information of prefabricated strawbale walls in Steen Moeller in autumn 2014

Feedback from EPT participants:


– Nice Wastewater greenhouse

– Very intelligent rocket stove, heating and fertilizing system

– Use of sea shell for foundations of buildings

– Very interesting windows – their heat is directed into the house

– Wonderful & various bio-constructions

– Lots of green & natural spaces, and corridor-playground for children – wildflowers meadow

– Steen Moeller! Later in the autumn 2014 look and find his coming video at youtube, so something new´n´fresh inventions of his straw bale-house prefabricated-elements with clay plasters etc!

– Beautiful bio-construction, lots of different solutions, inspiration

– Eco-village set up without debt to banks! Good!

– Being sponsored by TV; how can work

– Different ways of building rocket mass heaters

– The power of will (Tycho & Karoline’s project)

– How to design a small-scale permaculture household. And that is possible to do it in a short time, and that is very affordable!!!

– Interesting how “easy” the planning permission is in Friland

– The Raven is a GREAT facility.

– How many people can live on small plots of land in harmony. Diversity of architecture is breathtaking

– That a former farmland can be successfully transformed into a diverse habitat for people, animals and nature (including forest gardens, free-range ducks, etc.). Plus, in a quite short time.

– Tove and the other hosts: trusting for letting us come into their houses & homes


– More land for gardens

– Planting windbreakers around Friland

– Open a shop so the thousands of visitors can support you financially and buy your products

– More small places for undisturbed talks/meetings

– Fireplace for evening socializing

– Hand washing station for dinners in Raven

– Design more space for bringing community together (park, pond, village square etc.)

– More seats outdoors (like tree stumps)