Energy-efficiency contest in Frankfurt


Nausassiche Heimstadt claims to have build the very first plus energy-apartment building in Germany in Frankfurt Riedberg, a large new housing area on the northern outskirts of the city.

Both the tilted roof and the closed parts of the south façade are completely covered in Photovoltaic cells which provide the single energy source of the full electric building. The building, which has a peculiar shape, due to the site, contains 17 apartments in different sizes.

The nicest part of the building is the light and spatial central staircase. German fire regulations did not require a second or closed staircase, therefor the architects could make an open staircase with light from above.

A lot of technical spaces are integrated under the roof and in the basement: rooms for batteries,  air treat system, heating system, etcetera. An underground ice storage is used to warm air and water for household use. The apartments are  equipped with floor heating and heat recovery ventilation.
An underground parking is provided for ten electric cars. Calculations show that the building generates an energy surplus that could facilitate ten electrical cars to drive 13.000 km per year.

Building an  ‘energie-plus-geschoss-haus’  is a complicated assignment. This project is not an apartment building with additional installation technique, but a consistent design in which well integrated technique.  If the building fulfils its promises, then it shows that in order to build energy efficient, architectural concessions are not necessary in order to reach the energetic ambition.

Interesting is to mention that the competitive housing corporation of Frankfurt is building an even bigger ‘activ-stadt- haus’ in de centre of Frankfurt. If housing corporations compete with each other like this, these type of experiments can generate new integrated concepts and hopefully evolve into architecturally attractive mature energy efficient buildings.

Köln – Buchheimerweg


Also in Germany the renewal of postwar residential areas is a major challenge. The solution that has been realized in the Siedlung Köln Buchheimerweg is seen as a successful example throughout Germany.

The incorporation of 434 new homes in the existing fabric has been done very subtly.  The area has been densified, but you hardly notice it. The new buildings are also subtly different. The slightly bent blocks are positioned slightly closer together. The bent blocks provide a stronger defined space without breaking the open layout.

The green space has been redesigned with a high quality and a clever solution to the expensive German parking ratio of 1 car per house. In public space a number of parkingspaces is defined as a reserve zone. This zone can be used as a playground for the time being, as long as car ownership among the low income group that lives in the building does not increase. Not-Dutch is also the scale; 434 apartments in 18 identical-looking 4-storey buildings. Typically Dutch strategies as the introduction of more differentiation in price, ownership and typology are also not addressed. The same people still live there, and the social rent is not increased. The area seems to function quite well.

Architect: ASTOC Architects and Planners
Client: GAG Immobilien AG
Landscapedesign: jbbug johannes böttger büro urbane gestalt, Landschaftsarchitekten

Köln – Baufreunden


Baufreunden, a project of office03, is one of the first building-group projects in Köln. The architects, who also live in the project, have aimed for quality in the typology, stacked wide maisonettes with either a garden or a roof terrace. In addition, they have drawn a few smart, simple rules for the facade. With the introduction of two windowtypes there was freedom of choice for residents and a consistent overall facadedesign. The inhabitants have made their own floorplans with or without the help of the architect.

For these architects it was the first time to work for a building-group. Around a hundred evening meetings have been necessary to achieve this convincing result. Now, they ask themselves whether they want to do this type of intense process again, especially if it doesn’t generate more quality and such an intense process is not profitable for the architect. The question is how democratic a process should be to achieve the advantages of building groups: more participation, quality and social cohesion and lower costs.
We will also visit Tübingen, this city has a lot of experience with this phenomenon. We wonder what insights we gain there.

Trip 2: The German Midfield


ANA goes Europe continues with a trip through the German midfield. From May 26th – 29th 2015 we will be heading for about 25 projects, talking to clients, inhabitants, architects, teachers, builders and officials. Several housing themes are interesting in Germany.

Intergenerational Housing
Germany is the most aged country in Europe; 20,6 % of the population is over 65. The country is transforming into a new welfare state. Intergenerational solidarity is the leading theme of the German policy. This is also translated in new housing concepts. We will visit several of these ‘Mehrgenerations’ projects.

Housing in shrinking & growing Towns
Germany has been dealing with shrinking towns for more than ten years and has developed interesting strategies for transformation of existing buildings and areas. At the same time Germany has  ‘Schwarmstädter’, cities that grow and densify. We will visit both sides of Germany. We will visit Halle (Neustadt) and Leinefelde that where both part of the Stadtumbau program. And we will visit Freiburg and Frankfurt, two fast growing cities.

Sustainable Housing
Germany is leading in Europe when it comes to sustainable energy policy. Already 25% of German energy is gained from sustainable resources. In the building and housing industry this has led to interesting new concepts and experiments, such as energyplus-appartments that we will visit in Frankfurt.

Bottom Up Housing
The active citizen, a hot topic in the Netherlands has determined big parts of German cities already for some time. Tübingen is one of the more extreme and known examples of the self build town. We will have a look how this city is developing further after several successful experiments.

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The future of single family housing


This winter it was too cold to go out camping with the ANA goes Europe camper. So, when we had the opportunity to visit Bavaria in the South of Germany in order to meet local stakeholders in housing and architecture at the 13th Coburger Wohnbautag, we took the plane instead and gave a lecture on our ideas and experience on the theme of this day: The future of single family housing.

The single family home
In Germany as well as in the Netherlands, in the second part of the 20th century the family home has been considered to be the ideal way of living.
In the Netherlands we have single family homes in all sorts, varying from the very small workers homes in 19th century urban areas, to the wide and light ones from the early seventies, the cheap and narrow ones from the eighties and the technically better, but spatially similar ones from the nineties.
The last period of massive rowhouse production, the VINEX,  is just behind us. The economic crisis of 2008 has forced us to stop and rethink this ambition to produce as many as possible cheap houses in the outskirts of the city, for the better.
Also Germany has a lot of Einfamilienhäuser, especially from the period 1950-1970’s. Unlike  the dominant presence of the rowhouse in the Netherlands (60% of all households live in a rowhouse), in Germany the detached house is the most common typology for single family dwellings.

Lecture at the 13th Coburger Wohnbautag


Smaller households
In both countries a lot has changed. Society today looks totally different compared to the fifties, sixties and seventies. The traditional family, of a couple with two kids, has become a rare minority in a very diverse population.
In the Netherlands the two-parents family forms only 28% of all households. In Germany this is even less: 26%. Clearly, part of this development is caused by the aging population. But apart from that there are many other developments that create smaller households. We have less kids and we have them later. Present day young generations are even worse in guaranteeing offspring. Forming long term relationships is more and more problematic for the very demanding, hedonistic and young generations. That is what Jan Latten, professor social demographics at the University of Amsterdam has stated at the Expeditie Begonia, an inspiration day on ‘living variations for the elderly’ organized by Actiz Aedes. This results in less children on the long term. Divorce also adds to the increase of small households. In 1970 20% of marriages ended in divorce within 20 years, in 1995 this percentage has risen to 25%. [i]
You can imagine the consequence: huge under occupied family homes inhabited by lonely singles in neighborhoods that are fully equipped for the young family but totally not suitable for the aging singles (and couples).

reprogramming the new familyhome

reprogramming the new familyhome

Microliving and /or collective living
We need smaller homes, less to maintain less to pay for, more practical, more affordable.Of course we can fill the cities with mini apartments, container homes, plugin towers etcetera, but this leaves us with two important questions. How do we organize social interaction and prevent loneliness? What are we going to do with the enormous amount of single family homes we have built in the recent decades?

German experiences
In Bavaria the Bayerisches Staatsministerium des Innen, für Bau und Verkehr has initiated a modellproject ‘Revitalisierung von Einfamilienhausgebieten’. In three towns in Bavaria strategies are being researched and tested. Manuela Skorka of planungsbüro Skorka works on these three pilot projects and presented her findings at the 13th Coburger Wohnbautag.The developed strategies are aimed at the aging population, taking away barriers, creating meeting points, adjusting the housing stock and develop new housingprojects more suitable for elderly.The results are not visible yet, since the project is still in the development stage.

Waterwijk Almere

Waterwijk Almere

Case Almere Waterwijk
With the research team ‘Grijstinten in de tussenmaat’ we have been working on this theme in Almere Waterwijk, one of the oldest neighborhoods of Almere.  Waterwijk is very homogenous: 70% of the houses is owner occupied, 83% is a rowhouse. Waterwijk is expected to age strongly in the coming years. A lot of the first inhabitants of Waterwijk are still living there. Their children have grown and moved out on their own, leaving the parents alone in their single family home. The municipality of Almere has turned Waterwijk into a pilotarea for seniorproof living. They have asked the team of Grijstinten to think of strategies to deal with the existing housing stock in a strongly aging neighborhood.

Waterwijk Almere- demographics

Waterwijk Almere- demographics

In several workshops with inhabitants over 55 we have been discussing possible strategies. Immediate problems can be solved with simple adjustments such as stair elevators, but this still leaves future generations with a big problem. The amount of families in all of Almere will decrease, there is very little supply for smaller households. So there is a need for a long term and top down transformation strategy. We have introduced the ‘Waterwijk Neigborhood Cooperative’. This Cooperative can provide loans to facilitate individual adjustments. The cooperative can gradually buy, transform and sell or let existing rowhouses. Banks, municipality, private investors and the house owners can become shareholders in this cooperative that will also facilitate where necessary the social infrastructure in Waterwijk.  In the coming period the project will be developed further.

Pilot cases have started on different sites as stated above.  Some municipalities feel already the urgency to think about the future of existing single family housing areas. Hopefully these pilots will deliver useful and workable strategies that can be used in the many older single family housing areas we have in the Netherlands that face aging and downsizing households in the near future. Apart from that, these pilots should also feed awareness in new building programs. It is awkward to see the municipality of Almere think about adjusting family housing in one neighborhood and facilitating the building of large amounts of these types in other areas.

[i] Veranderingen in samenlevingsvormen en consequenties voor de woonbehoefte, presentatie door Jan Latten op Expeditie Begonia, 24 maart 2015.


Housing, planning and architecture, lectures in Linköping & Norrköping


In march 2015 we had the opportunity to visit Sweden again, on invitation of Sveriges arkitekter in Linköping and de municipality in Norrköping. This invitation was related to the LivsRum/WoonRuimte exchange project we have been involved in. LivsRum/WoonRuimte is an initiative to stimulate the quality of housing architecture in Sweden by organizing exchange events between Dutch and Swedish architects. We used this opportunity to talk to local stakeholders on local housing and planning issues.

Linköping is a midsize (150.000) town on the east of Sweden. Norrköping  (120.000). The two cities work together to create a strong region. Both cities are growing and are being  challenged to build new housing for all their new inhabitant and  Both cities are growing and building a lot of new houses. Norrkoping is f.i. working on Inre Hamnen, an area of 2000 houses. Linköping is working on BOmesse 2017/ Vallastaden a new innovative housing  area of around 500 houses on the southern outskirts of the city.

After both lectures sharing information about the Dutch planning, architecture and housing tradition we have been discussing with the  participants  the local issues in housing and architecture. The architectural quality and diversity in housing is a question that needs attention in both cities. The role of the cityplanning office, in how to guard ambition throughout the whole process. Can they work with defining rules? What other means can the cityplanning office use to stimulate quality? Is it enough to sell smaller plots to attract also the smaller developers? At the Lecture in Linköping it was emphasized that there may be even a more urgent matter to deal with in planning and housing. That is segregation. It is stated that Linköping is the second most segregated city in Sweden with Skäggetorp with its around 10.000 inhabitants as the most problematic area. Should social mixture not be the key issues to address in urban planning of new and infill neighborhoods is one of the raised questions.

Christina Nilsson Collste, chairwoman of the Östergötland department of Sveriges Arkitekter believes that Linköping already has an interesting example of socially mixed planning, in the eighties neighborhood of Lambohov. Although there is a lot to criticize as well on this development, the social, financial and typological mix has really contributed to a more integrated neighborhood in her opinion. We have noticed a strong worry that Sweden is not handling segregated neighborhoods in the right way, from the spatial planning point of view. In Norrköping we have seen small attempts to diversify in the area Ringdansen, a Bijlmermeer-like scheme on the southern outskirts of Norrköping.  Some floors of apartment blocks have been torn down to create lowrise housing with private gardens in an area that is dominated by small apartments.  That this also demands a specific approach to the public-private border is maybe the next step to develop.

We will try to continue with a dialogue with the two cities and see if we can use the LivsRum/Woonruimte approach of exchanging knowledge and experience to stimulate the debate on architecture and housing.

Göteborg in the mix


Göteborg is a beautiful, vibrant city, yet it is also a socially and functionally segregated city. In order to accommodate the expected growth of the population, the city of Göteborg has made a vision. In the vision ‘Göteborg Rivercity’, the city has formulated the ambition to transform Göteborg in a city for everyone. ‘Rivercity Göteborg therefore needs to provide a mix of housing, enterprises, jobs, uses and public places that provide room for different expressions.’

The way in which Göteborg wants to achieve this is interesting. By involving the people of the city, but also professionals and institutes like the Chalmers University the city wants to make sustainable plans for the future development of Göteborg. Up until now they are doing that very well. The vision document is filled with pictures of workshops and quotes from the citizens. The big question is if they will succeed in keeping everybody involved and creating truly mixed areas in the building projects as well.


Typical Swedish housing in Kvillebacken

We have talked to Anna Braide Eriksson, a researcher on housing who teaches at Chalmers university. Chalmers is very involved in the development of the city. Students participate in the development of the city, for example in workshops on Frihamnen, one of the most prestigious development areas on the west bank of the river Älv. Chalmers also participates in ‘real’ projects as a knowledge partner. One of the examples is the project ‘Positive footprint housing’.
Anna is both positive and sceptical. She is very positive about the ambitions of the city, especially in regard to other cities in Sweden. However, she is quite sceptical when it’s about the potential result of this involvement. As an example she mentions Kvillebacken, where the ambitions of the city in order to create a mixed, but delicate and nuanced development of the area were not achieved. The small scale mix of social groups and small businesses that characterised the old area totally disappeared and, according to Anna, have now been replaced by the generic Swedish buildingtypology of 7 to 8 stories apartments.


Typical Swedish courtyard in Kvillebacken

We also spoke to Josefine Wikholm and Susanne Clase of White architects, one of the largest architecture firms in Sweden. They emphasize that Göteborg needs better functional, social and economical mixed areas and therefor more typological diversity. Both architects live with families in typical Swedish apartments. They immediately add that luckily they also have a weekend house to get out of the dense city and small living space.

It is interesting that White has been acting as an initiator and developer of new typologies. In one of the Millionprogram areas, called Frölunda in the outskirts of Göteborg, they have developed the project ‘Äppelträdgården’. Together with the builder FO Peterson they have realized 19 terraced patiohouses for rent and sale.  This development was not completely without risks, but White found it very important to develop these new typologies and show that this innovation could actually improve the quality of the neighbourhood. For this project they won the Swedish Housing Award 2011.


New typologies at Äppelträdgården

Göteborg will select the first parties for development of Frihamnen this autumn. Frihamnen will be ‘the testbed for socially sustainable development’. Here the city wants to provide possibilities for new ways of living. It will be very interesting to follow the outcome of this process and see if these possibilities are taken up by developers and architects to generate new urban typologies and new living concepts.

Terraced patiohousing at Äppelträdgården

Terraced patiohousing at Äppelträdgården

Norway, the downside of growth


Oslo is the fastest growing major city of Europe. The city grows 2% each year and has grown 17% in the last 15 years.
The urbanisation process is relatively new in Norway, were living with nature is in the genes of the people.  But work has brought people to the city, and the city has to provide houses for those who want to move in. The unemployment rate in Norway is very low. Although some people fear a collapsing  bubble after the oil, most people don’t worry too much about the economy, Norway has oil and huge reserves from that. Oslo is ranked number one in terms of quality of life, among European large cities in the European Cities of the future 2012 report by fDi magazine. It is also the second most expensive city in the world, in terms of living expenses (after Tokio).

But there is definitely a downside to this positive story. Building production cannot keep up with the population growth. Therefor the prizes of land and houses are continuously rising. Developers, contractors and also architects make good business in this context. But to build houses that people can afford the tendency is to build smaller and denser. Of course the municipality is trying to regulate this, but the fact is that a family apartment is almost unaffordable for a regular family. One can imagine that lower income families are all pushed to the outer neighbourhoods of the city, whereas the new harbour front developments that form the main part of the city’s building land become inhabited by higher incomes and smaller households.

We have visited Sørenga, one of the newest development areas along the harbour front, close to the Opera and still under construction. Here you can buy a bigger apartment of 110m2 or even 140m2, but the costs are extremely high: 9.900.000 NK for 113m2 (ca. 1,1 miljoen euro).


Housing in Sørenga

Since the newly build areas are all very much concentrated along the Fjord this automatically leads to stronger segregation in the city. The new areas are hardly mixed in social terms and lack real life. This is also one of the points of critique in the debate among professionals and the public in Oslo. One of the representatives of this opinion is Johnny Aspen, associated professor at the Oslo architecture school, who  talks about ‘zombie urbanism’.

The regulations for building housing in Norway are also quit strict. Bathrooms, master bedrooms and storage space in the apartment are all defined in minimum size. One of the consequences of this is, according to all the architects we have spoken is that, especially in the big mass of smaller apartments, one ends up with relatively big bathrooms, bedrooms and storagerooms and a very tiny living space with a big kitchen and just enough room for a sofa.

Another consequence is that the new areas are very dense. It is obvious that a lot of these very expensive apartments hardly get any sun, especially considering the low position of the sun in Olso. The Barcode project seems to beat all records. Although the area contains mainly office buildings, there are some housing slabs in this masterplan. MAD architects have designed an apartment slab in this area. They have tried to optimize living qualities by making very thin apartments with long facades, but these facades are rather closed and very shaded due to the urban plan. Apparently this is all well accepted in the tight housing market of Oslo. Bu it is also no wonder that all Norwegians dream of a small weekend house in the countryside, and in the middle and upper class the majority has one.


Green House

Green House

There are some other more positive stories to tell about Oslo. In terms of densifying the city the work of developer Infill is interesting. Infill limits itself to develop the leftover spaces, the holes in the city’s fabric. On these tiny spots they develop attractive architecture and high living qualities. All their projects have serious roof terraces with real grass, real trees in real soil. We visited the project Green House, that was designed by Element architects. This building definitely adds quality to the neighbourhood. A zone around the building on street level integrates private outdoor spaces, but also public benches and therefor generates interaction with its surroundings. The projects of Infill do not offer more m2 for less money unfortunatly, because they have to work within the same land prize system, but they do add quality and diversity to existing older neighbourhoods.

green house roof

Green House roof terrace

green house interaction

Green House

Building in concrete in the land of endless forests


On our way from Stockholm to Oslo we passed a gigantic paper factory somewhere in Sweden. Big piles of trees were waiting to be made into paper. That is what happens to most trees in the Swedish wood industry.  Sweden has however a long tradition of building in wood. Wood frame building has been the main building technique for centuries. Nowadays Sweden builds mostly in concrete. This development started already before the so called Millionprogram that the Swedish state has initiated in the 60’s to fulfill the enormous postwar housing demand.
But the Millionprogram certainly has given concrete building an enormous boost. Today the Swedish building industry is dominated by ‘the big four’, building companies who all build mainly in concrete and who take care of the majority of the total building production in Sweden.
To us it is very surprising that a country with so many trees and such high environmental aims doesn’t build more in wood.

There are however some small countermovements. The municipality of Växjö for instance promotes building in wood. They call themselves the wooden city ( Midroc Property Development has built Limnologen, an eight stories housing block, which was at  that time, in 2009, Sweden’s highest building in wood.
Växjö municipality challenged Midroc by offering them the possibility to double the building volume if Midroc would build in wood. Midroc hired Architect Bolaget, a local architect who was already experienced with building in wood. They cooperated with a manufacturer, specialized in wood construction. They succeeded in building an eight story building that fulfills all the regular technical requirements. Apart from a few extra measurements in concrete and steel that were necessary to make the building more heavy and to tackle windforces, the whole construction is made of cross laminated timber, also the elevator shafts.

Calculations of Folkhem, a municipal housing company from Stockholm, point out that building in massive wood is now around 15-20% more expensive than building in concrete, but a reduction of building time has not been taken into account. Midroc has however realized the project for a regular budget because they also operated as main contractor. The reason for this was not to cut costs but because no contractor was willing to take the risk for such an experimental project. The framework of the building was built by Martinsons Byggsystem, the manufacturer of the wooden construction elements. For the other part Midroc hired a small local contractor.
Production of wood construction is not at all optimized in Sweden. The capacity of factories is not used to its fullest potential. Building more in massive wood would definitely lead to lower costs and lower risks. On top of that, building in concrete is not at all as industrial as it used to be in the postwar era, according to Erik Stenberg, who researches the postwar housing period at the KTH. The environmental specialist from one of the big four construction companies has supposedly stated that they produce 2,5 tons of waste for each apartment.  Industrialized building methods have been replaced by low payed workers who build on the site.
We have been told that Folkhem Is going to build only in wood. That sounds like a brave and ambitious statement in the Swedish context. They have recently finished their first wooden highrise building in Stockholm after the design of Wingård Arkitektkontor in the area of Sundbyberg.
Also Anders Persson of Midroc states they are working on more buildings in wood. So there are some good signs, but still the question is if also the powerful concrete builders will seriously develop  other, more sustainable ways of building.



Limnologen – galeries


Limnologen at the lake


Limnologen Växjö

building in concrete Kvillebacken

Building in concrete Kvillebacken Gothenburg