NEW EUROPEAN BAUHAUS AWARDS : existing completed examples
Carbon-neutral holiday resort in Hungary
Full project title
Carbon-neutral holiday resort in Hungary
Irota EcoLodge is a unique sustainable holiday resort in Northern Hungary. It is the first, and so far the only carbon-neutral accommodation in Hungary and in the wider region. The two Dutch owners show that sustainability through circularity and net-zero carbon can go hand in hand with luxury tourism. Even though the resort is located in one of the poorest regions of the EU, this is a commercially viable project that did not need require any subsidies to make it happen.
Where was your project implemented in the EU?
Kossuth Lajos út 16
When was your project implemented?
Has your project benefited from EU programmes or funds?
Which programme(s) or fund(s)? Provide the name of the programme(s)/fund(s), the strand/action line as relevant and the year.
II. DESCRIPTION OF THE PROJECT
Please provide a summary of your project
Irota EcoLodge is a sustainable holiday resort built by us, two Dutch entrepreneurs, in 2016. It is located in a small village of just 60 inhabitants in Northern Hungary. The resort consists of three spacious, well-equipped luxury holiday villas and a shared 6 x16 metre natural swimming pool. Although the villas differ slightly in some of their details, they are basically similar in layout and accessibility. Each house (170 m2) has its own interior design: the Lower House has a rustic, countryside style; the Middle House has a retro 1960s feel; while the Upper House has a sleek and modern look.
Having a background in climate protection, we wanted to set an example showing that, in fact, tourism, sustainability and luxury go very well together! During the planning process, we selected the most environment-friendly solutions available, not just in one or two regards but in every single aspect: construction, electricity, heating, water, sewage, furniture and even mobility is green at our resort, without compromises. Our goal is to inspire others to follow our example, so we try to demonstrate on all possible platforms that this project is commercially viable and well-received by visiting guests. So much so, that in one of the poorest regions of the EU, where no one believed it would work, we manage to provide stable employment for several locals, also from the Roma minority.
Please give information about the key objectives of your project in terms of sustainability and how these have been met
We made it a mission of our project to show that sustainability aspects are nothing to fear in tourism. Rather than seeing it as a burden, we want businesses to understand that it is a fantastic opportunity, provided it is done with knowledge and care. Also, as the world is becoming increasingly climate conscious, so do our guests and they really appreciate a like-minded, green, eco-friendly accommodation.
With Irota EcoLodge, sustainability is based on two key pillars: circular design and carbon neutrality.
During the design phase, we rigorously selected the most environment-friendly solution possible with each decision. Building materials had to be sourced from recycled or recyclable materials for future use. The environmental impact of the resort’s operations also had to be kept to a minimum so as to result in net-zero carbon emissions. Consequently, an environmentally friendly solution had to be found for electricity, heating, hot water and drinking water, too. Since the village has no sewage system, the wastewater also needed to be treated on-site.
As a decent holiday resort cannot do without a swimming pool, we boldly decided to build a very special one in Irota: the first and, so far, only commercially operated natural swimming pool in Hungary! It uses no chemicals whatsoever, instead, bacteria purify the water.
Recently, charging stations were added to our resort, too, to stimulate the general switch to electric e-mobility.
The claim to carbon neutrality is sustained through an annual calculation of the net carbon emissions of Irota EcoLodge. Read the details in the latest Carbon Footprint report here.
Please give information about the key objectives of your project in terms of aesthetics and quality of experience beyond functionality and how these have been met
We take pride in the fact that we really give our guests that comfortable and stylish experience we promise. Much effort has been made to guarantee true luxury: all three villas are very capacious and, with a floor space of 170m2 each, they are even larger than the average house or apartment our guests normally live in. In particular, the very high living room and kitchen ceiling (over 6 metres) gives a very spacious impression. Each house has its own interior design: the Lower House displays a rustic, countryside style; the Middle House has a retro 1960s feel; and the Upper House boasts a trendy, sleek and modern design.
The houses are detached, which guarantees full privacy. However, in case a large group decides to rent more than one house, doors in the wooden fences separating the properties make it easy to move from one villa to the other.
The houses are decorated using locally available sources, and, of course, re-used materials were utilised wherever it was possible. We purchased second-hand and antique furniture from private individuals and had them renovated by a local carpenter.
The actual aesthetics is best shown through pictures. Please see attached photos and more visuals on the website.
Quality of experience is best expressed by our own guests. As an example, here is a review we got on TripAdvisor: ‘We were on a family vacation at Irota EcoLodge, which exceeded our expectations in every way. The house is huge, modern and comfortable, the garden is wonderfully lush and the pool is the icing on the cake. When we booked the accommodation we thought that calling it sustainable was just the usual marketing ploy, but that’s not the case here! It is a climate-neutral accommodation and the two extremely sympathetic Dutch owners do a lot for sustainable tourism. We thought we would also go to visit the sights in the area one after the other, but the accommodation, the peace and quietness made us stay to Irota. We will definitely go back :)
Please give information about the key objectives of your project in terms of inclusion and how these have been met
Irota EcoLodge is located in Northern Hungary, which is not only one of the most disadvantaged regions in Hungary, but in the entire EU, as well. GDP in Power Purchasing Parity (2019) is only 49% of the EU average; making it the poorest region in Hungary, and the 230th of the 244 regions (NUTS2) in the EU. The Roma minority in the area suffer from particularly high poverty, unemployment and segregation.
One of the employees at Irota EcoLodge is from a Roma background. He only has a primary school education. Although he is occasionally offered seasonal work, given the remoteness of the village, there is no possibility for stable employment. We have started a small personal development project with him: this includes teaching him some basic English, helping him acquire a driving licence, and improving his financial management skills. Needless to say, however, having a fixed income is the biggest benefit.
It also means a lot to us and our guests that all three villas are wheelchair accessible: entrance doors are wider and without doorsteps, while the bathroom is equipped with a seat in the shower and handrails.
Please give information on the results/impacts achieved by your project in relation to the category you apply for
Sustainable and circular building materials: The bearing structures are made of wood, which is a reusable material. 15 cm thick insulation made from used newspaper was blown into the wooden frame. To further amplify the insulation of the houses and to achieve a vapour permeable construction, 10 cm thick wooden fibre slabs were installed on the outside of the buildings. This brought the total insulation thickness up to 25 cm. The triple-glazed windows also ensure a very high insulation factor.
Solar collectors and solar panels: Each villa is equipped with solar collectors to heat water. The Middle House has solar panels to generate electricity for all three houses.
Charging Stations: For the convenience of our guests, charging stations were installed next to the villas for electric cars – powered by electricity from the solar panels.
Heating: The villas are heated with biomass - wood sourced from sustainably-managed forests in the vicinity of Irota.
Biological wastewater treatment: Since there is no sewerage system in the village, wastewater is treated on-site using a special wastewater treatment facility. This facility uses bacteria, which break down the waste using no energy or chemicals.
Collecting rainwater: Rainwater is a very clean (and free) source of fresh water. At Irota EcoLodge, the water from the roofs is collected in large tanks and pumped into the villas to flush the toilets and to supply the washing machine. 50 percent of the fresh well-water is conserved by this measure alone.
Natural swimming pool: The swimming pool has a natural way of cleaning the water: in a separate part of the pool, water is purified without the use of chemicals. And, of course, the electricity for the pumps is supplied by the solar panels. Rainwater is used to replenish evaporated water in the swimming pool.
Laundry: Rainwater is utilised to do the laundry, and washing nut extract is used inste
Please explain the way citizens benefiting from or affected by the project and civil society have been involved in the project and what has been the impact of this involvement on the project
One of the key objectives of Irota EcoLodge is to provide employment to local residents. Beyond the above-mentioned employee, we have hired two cleaning ladies and a cook. Guests can order a warm lunch or dinner from a lady from the village; providing the cook and her son an additional source of income. In a small community of 60 inhabitants, Irota Ecolodge provides 6 people with stable work, representing 10% (!) of the village population.
The other obvious group benefiting from this venture are the guests staying at Irota EcoLodge. Thanks to their positive feedback, also expressed in reviews on the Internet, this resort truly meets their objectives. With an average rating at Booking.com of 9.8 (out of 10) and 5 (out of 5) on TripAdvisor, this accommodation truly stands out. Here is an example review on TripAdvisor: ‘I stayed here for a long weekend with my family and loved the ambiance. It was special to see so many ecological principles put into action, with homes designed to be as sustainable as possible. The hosts were super kind and engaging, and made this place beyond just another spot to stay, but instead brought stories and experiences into the mix’.
Please highlight the innovative character of the project
Some of the sustainable solutions have already been used elsewhere and are not innovative as such. However, what sets Irota EcoLodge apart from other initiatives is that it integrates many innovations into a single object: circular building materials, natural swimming pool, rainwater usage, natural sewage cleaning, etc. Furthermore, this project did not receive any subsidies and was solely financed by us. We wanted to avoid constructing a ‘white elephant’ in the middle-of-nowhere, but instead aimed to make sure the project is also commercially viable. It is our strong belief that only commercially viable projects that excel in a competitive market can serve as a leading and inspiring example to others in the industry.
Given the specific difficulties of the location (remoteness, lack of basic facilities like sewerage, poverty) it comes as a surprise to many that this project became so successful. Needless to say, we believed in it all along.
Please explain how the project led to results or learnings which could be transferred to other interested parties
First of all, the media helps publicise and showcase Irota EcoLodge as a best practice. In the past five years, it has appeared in over 20 articles in different languages (English, Hungarian, German and Dutch) that target different audiences such as the general public or specialists like architects and engineers. For a complete overview of all articles, radio interviews and films, click here. However, the best way to spread the results of the project is through the excellent feedback from our guests.
Obviously, one of the primary reasons to visit Irota EcoLodge is to have a relaxing holiday. People enjoy their free time sitting by the pool in summer, or by the fireplace in winter. However, it is also important to showcase environmental solutions and inspire people to implement them in their own lives. Ample information about all the environmental solutions applied in the villas, and Irota EcoLodge’s Annual Carbon Footprint Report are available in each villa. Since many people are considering renovating or building their own house, they are very interested in these solutions. Very often, when people check-out, we, as the owners, get many follow-up questions regarding how particular solutions work in practise so that they apply them themselves. Upon request, we also provide an on-site presentation (the best way to do it) of our circular and carbon-neutral solutions.
Irota EcoLodge is an active member of the Hungarian branch of the Green Building Council, a leading NGO in promoting a sustainable and green built environment.
Is an evaluation report or any relevant independent evaluation source available?
By ticking this box, you declare that all the information provided in this form is factually correct, that the proposed project has not been proposed for the Awards more than once under the same category and that it has not been subject to any type of investigation, which could lead to a financial correction because of irregularities or fraud.
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