Social Housing – Passive House Building - MangerNielsenArchitects

Social Housing – Passive House Building

Schaerbeek – Social housing – Completed and Certified //

Renovating the city.

Within the framework of the district renovation project “Contrat de quartier Lehon Kessels” (Schaerbeek, BE), the request of the public service client was the restoration of an existing one-family house situated at the corner of rue de la Postestraat and rue Lefrancqstraat, in the neighbourhood of the « Halles de Schaerbeek ». We however, considered that limiting the project to a renovation only would have been burdensome and hazardous. Therefore, and in order to guarantee good habitability for a large family and high energy efficiency, we proposed to totally demolish the existing house and to re-assemble a new passive wooden building on the existing basement.

Taking advantage of the potential of the plot.

The objective was to offer to the public service client and the social tenant a building which offers, in the long run, good habitability, excellent use-based reliability and the best return on public investment. On a reduced corner plot (4,5m X 8m), the house offers four large rooms and two bath/shower-rooms. Comfortable spaces, all of them receiving natural light. We designed a passive building, not only for reasons of ecological concern, but also to propose, within the framework of a social housing context, a building having extra-low running costs. Through the optimization of the public financial resources (using simplified building modus operandi, accessible, reliable and renewable materials such as a wooden framework, poplar cladding, interior finishing in OSB and linoleum), it was possible to create quality housing at a moderate cost, still within the financial envelop requested in the initial (renovation) project brief.

Questioning the aesthetic.

The constant search for natural light and sunshine led us to reconsider the common aesthetics of the social housing and to integrate elements usually reserved to a more exclusive building typology. This is particularly the case with the double-height living room. The building is very well insulated, while being largely open towards the outside. The degree of intimacy for the inhabitants is modulated by the difference of levels between outside and inside, the dimensions of the large windows and some textile elements. Superimposing: Collective spaces / partitioned spaces /external space.

Living spaces are articulated around 3 superimposed levels:

1. Street level and level +1: Collective spaces. The entrance, with large dimensions to receive boots, bicycles, etc. is designed as a thermal lock. The common rooms are treated in half-levels which allows for oblique sights through the whole space, giving a feeling of the volume and depth; a mezzanine and a double-height window allows for natural lighting entering the whole ground floor. This double-height window is crucial for the caloric intake into the building. The staircase, wide open, connects the different spaces.

2. Levels #2 and #4: Night spaces. Here are the 4 bedrooms (1 master bedroom with a shower room + 3 childrens rooms) and a shared bathroom. The simply shaped rooms are functional. The bathrooms are located on the front façade of the building, thus producing natural light into them. At these levels, the stairwell is closed and ensures intimacy of each part.

3. The roof platform: External space (option not retained by the client, replaced in execution by a green roof). The platform of the roof is accessible and presents a terrace the dimensions of which allow effective external activities. Orientation and wide panorama towards the Schaerbeek valley directly benefits the inhabitants.

To build passive = to improve the social. The building is “passive” according to the rules set by the PMP, meaning it consumes less than 15kwh/m²year for heating and its primary energy needs are about 105kwh/m² year. The final energy (mainly electrical) represents 39 kwh/m ² year, i.e. a daily cost for the whole house of 1,13€ per day (heating; sanitary; household appliance; for a family benefiting the social tariff in Brussels). The rent is thus accessible and the consumption/running costs very much reduced, which is a fundamental parameter in social housing. The materials used are not very consuming in grey energy and are renewable. They are very resistant and easy of maintenance. This project is done in association with architects Dominique Delmarcelle and Cristian Crisan (temporary partnership CMDN architecture).

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