The Oterser family turns their old farm into apartments for rent

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to: Reike Raczkowski

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Double Roof Solar: Lühnings has made no compromises when it comes to the concept of energy. Front garage, old barn in back. © Steffen Luhning

The cars are now parked as the chickens used to chatter. A light system on the roof of the old barn sparkles in the evening sun. And where the piglets squeak, a sophisticated power supply system flashes. “Barg Lühning” has changed quite a bit in the past two years. What would Harry Luning, the former farm owner who died in 2020 at the age of 87, have to say about this? His son, Gunther, must be smiling. “I hope he will pat us on the back and say, ‘Dhat I loved you, God made you.'”

Ottersen – In an ambitious project, Günther Loening, 61, and sons Stephen, 32, and Thorsten, 30, have revived Grandfather Harry’s 150-year-old farm into a modern apartment building. Here, four apartments of between 60 and 95 square meters are built according to the KfW 85 standard, i.e. with below average energy costs. The Lühnings pursued two goals here: on the one hand, the conversion should be suitable for the village, and on the other hand, the modern energy concept was implemented with salt water heat pumps and photovoltaic systems. That is why the project received funding.

Up to seven people were living here at the same time

The house originally stood on the sand at Otersen, farmer Christoph Loening, Harry’s great-grandfather, dismantled it there in 1871 and rebuilt it on Eschweg. “It’s not uncommon for half-timbered houses to move, as many of the houses in the neighborhood were originally in a completely different place,” says Gunther Lunning. After this move, several Lühnings lived on the farm one by one and earned a living from small-scale farming. Günther and later Stephen and Thorsten also grew up on a small farm in Eschweg. But Harry Luning only ran the farm with a part-time job. “He’s been a worker his whole life and most recently has worked at Effem, Mars Now, for nearly 30 years,” Gunter says. When Harry died, the farm, where sometimes as many as seven people of different generations lived together, suddenly became empty. “And we had to decide what we wanted to do with it.” Rent, yes, everyone can imagine it. But who wants to rent 300 square meters of living space at once?

The community lacks housing for singles and young couples

In particular, the young Lühnings knew well what Kirchlinteln municipality was lacking: affordable apartments for young singles and couples. Steffen: “A few years ago I felt the same way: I had to move away, though I didn’t want to because I couldn’t find an apartment here in Otersen.” The problem was also present among friends. “So we thought we could make a small contribution to relaxing the housing market.”

All decisions were made together

Construction drawings were made, calculations were made, and a thought was made back and forth until it became clear: ideally, four apartments could be built on the old farm. The road was nerve-racking – the Lühnings did not fall into their arms with the new gem. “Although I have a certain amount of experience with large projects, I will admit: I would not have done it on my own, without my sons. The three of us set up the LLC for economic reasons. And then all the decisions are made together. Since Torsten lives in Duesseldorf, we have set up a WhatsApp group and constantly hold family video conferences,” according to Günter’s report, who openly praised the work of several local businesses that have contributed to the revitalization of the “Barg Lühning” farm.

No compromises when it comes to the concept of energy

There were no compromises when it came to the concept of energy. Two years ago, no one could have guessed how correct this decision would be in light of the current energy crisis. Oil heating came out, which was sure to last another ten years. “New 16cm thick insulation was installed, new facing brickwork created, old floors demolished, and triple-glazed wooden windows installed.” The building now harvests solar energy from two roofs, the flat-panel collector collects geothermal heat, and all apartments are heated by underfloor heating.

Despite all this, we managed to maintain the character of the courtyard. Where the chicken coop used to be, a charming garage that pays homage to the past has been created with its small grille windows. The old barn now houses energy technology and serves as a firewood store. Guenther Loening would also like to host a small exhibition here documenting the lives of small farmers in Otters.

Dealing with your family history

The old sandstone feeding troughs were not discarded from the stables, but are now used as decorative flower boxes. Speaking of flowers: Space was made in the garden for colorful bee pastures, so that local insects would also benefit from the diversion project. Historic sign, unexpectedly appeared during the renovation, will be given a place of honor in the barn. It’s a heart project that, from the start, has been about more than just potential rental income. It is also a check of the individual’s family history.

I have paid the funding requests

Günter Lühning explains that without funding from the village development program “from Bierde bis Wittlohe” or from KfW, the builders would not have been able to achieve the project with this quality and with this energy standard. The time-consuming application process and stringent requirements associated with funding were demanding. “But the effort was worth it.”

Steffen, who has now moved into one of the four apartments himself, says the women in the family – his mother, Torsten’s wife and Steffen’s girlfriend – always contributed to the project with great ideas. Everyone was spending a lot of time on the construction site. “And then we would often sit together and have a beer after work.” Thorsten: “It was a once-in-a-lifetime project. And if we didn’t have the feeling that we could put this together, we wouldn’t have done it.”

Apartment without furniture inside.
Bright and modern, but with the quirky charm of an old half-timbered house, the apartments are truly beautiful. © S. Luhning
Three men in front of a house.
Builders Gunther, Thorsten and Stephen Luning (left) in front of the renovated home, which six generations of their family have lived in. © Luning

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