A Sustainable Cabin You Can Build Yourself for $20,000

What started as an experiment will soon be available for DIYers everywhere

Photo: Neste

In 2018, oil-refining company Neste approached Finnish designer Robin Falck to see his angle for its Journey to Zero campaign, a project exploring ways to create a fossil-fuel-free future. It originally wanted to showcase his existing cabin, Nido, seeing it as a demonstration of how to live with the smallest carbon footprint possible.

Instead, Falck suggested that they start from scratch—to make sustainability the foundation of the build—and Nolla was born. At just 97 square feet, the cabin debuted in the summer of 2018 on Vallisaari, one of the most ecologically diverse islands off Helsinki, Finland. 

“A majority of Finns spend most weekends and summer holidays at their summer cottages,” Falck said in an e-mail. “Nolla is a way to communicate a sustainable option to spending time at a cabin.”

Photo: Neste

Nolla—which means “zero” in Finnish—had to fit into the landscape without disturbing the peace, so Falck designed it like something straight out of Ikea: you can take it apart and put it back together without any heavy machinery. The cabin’s legs are adjustable, meaning it can stand on varied terrain, and it’s built entirely out of locally sourced Finnish fir. 

Photo: Neste

Step inside to find only necessities: a small sink, a Wallas stove that can be used for both cooking and heating, and two twin-size camp beds. Electricity (but no Wi-Fi) is courtesy of solar panels on one side of the roof. The other side is topped with mirrors to reflect excess heat on hot summer days. 

“I was mostly inspired by off-grid huts found around the Scandinavian wilderness areas, and tent structures,” says Falck. “I almost think of it as a really fancy tent.”

Photo: Neste

At Nolla’s current location, bathrooms with dry toilets are a walk away, and fresh water is about half a mile down the road at the Vallisaari guest port. Falck, a self-described avid outdoorsman, says the cabin is a good base for kayaking, island hopping, or simply unplugging. Guests can also peep at the over 1,000-species-strong butterfly population on Vallisaari or visit the 17th-century forts that still stand there. 

Photo: Neste

Falck will be putting blueprints for Nolla on his website this spring for handy people looking to make Nolla a backyard staple. And for those dreaming of an international trip in their near future, the cabin will be available to rent this summer.