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Created on 05-12-2023 | Updated on 05-12-2023

Patch22, a project developed by architect Tom Frantzen and building manager Claus Oussoren, stands as an innovative response to environmental and economic challenges in urban development. Winner of the 2009 Amsterdam Buiksloterham Sustainability tender, Patch22 not only garnered recognition for its sustainability scores but also stood out for its innovative circular design and adaptability to unforeseen future uses.

Embracing Open Building principles, the project prioritizes flexibility in dwelling sizes and layouts, offering a thoughtful response to the challenges outlined in the tender. The 30-meter-tall wooden structure currently houses 33 diverse dwellings, showcasing adaptability by potentially subdividing into independent office floors or a maximum of 48 apartments. The absence of load-bearing division walls, vertical shafts inside apartments, and the adoption of horizontal services distribution contribute to versatile layouts and efficient space utilization.

Sustainability at Patch22 is a holistic endeavour, reflecting a nuanced approach to environmental, social, and economic dimensions. Resident participation in the design process not only fosters diversity but also strengthens a sense of belonging. Patch22 serves as a long-term investment, adapting to changing needs and potentially acquiring different uses over time. This adaptability aligns with the project's broader commitment to sustainability, emphasizing long-term benefits over immediate gains.

Frantzen et al architecten

Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Project (year)

Construction (year)

Housing type
Multifamily housing

Urban context
Redevelopment of an industrial area

Construction system
Hybrid construction - timber structure and façade with prefabricated concrete core



A response to environmental and economic challenges

The initiators of Patch22, architect Tom Frantzen and building manager Claus Oussoren, aimed at achieving together what they couldn’t manage in previous commissions independently: an oversized wooden structure characterised by flexibility, distinctive architecture, and a strong commitment to sustainability. They established the development company Lemniskade Projects to pursue their goals (Frantzen et al architecten, 2017). Winning the Amsterdam Buiksloterham Sustainability tender in 2009, Patch22 was not only recognised for its exceptional sustainability scores but also for its innovative circular design approach and its capability to adapt to unforeseen future uses. The project's primary objectives were rooted in environmental sustainability, employing renewable and reusable materials, particularly wood for the main structure and facade. Embracing Open Building principles, Patch22 sought maximum flexibility in dwelling sizes and layouts, offering an ingenious response to the environmental and economic challenges outlined in the tender (Kendall, 2021). The 30-meter-tall wooden structure currently hosts 33 dwellings with diverse sizes ranging from 40 m² to 204 m². The building promotes long-term adaptability, as it is prepared to be easily subdivided into six independent office floors or a maximum of 48 apartments (Frantzen, 2023). This showcases how a single support structure can serve multiple generations, accommodating the dynamic needs of its users while addressing some of the current environmental challenges such as material waste, the construction industry’s carbon footprint or the implementation of design for disassembly practices. 


A flexible and adaptable building

A flexibility of a building can be enhanced when traditional architectural elements are reassessed. Various strategies were employed to maximize the adaptability of use, layout design, and apartment sizes:

  1. No load-bearing division walls

The timber laminated post and beam structure, in combination with lightweight division walls, became crucial to ensure size variations between apartments and a greater freedom of choice in defining the layouts. Additionally, by superimposing the residential and office regulations, introducing a generous floor height of 4 m, and structurally supporting floor loads of 4 KN, the building accommodates the potential for entirely or partially utilising residential spaces for office purposes (Frantzen et al architecten, 2017).

  1. No vertical shafts inside the apartment

In conventional housing, meter cabinets, kitchens, and bathrooms have typically been constructed near vertical shafts to minimise the length of the drains. When developing Patch22, it was unknown which units would merge to form a single apartment, making it challenging to position the vertical shafts. Two shafts were integrated into the structural core, with pre-installed drains, water and electricity conduits running up to each front door, from where they could be extended to the desired location in an apartment (Council on Open Building, 2023).

  1. Hollow floors to run services horizontally

Patch22 adopts a horizontal services distribution, a common practice in office buildings. The necessary inclination of a toilet drain from the central shaft to the outermost corner of the building results in a floor build-up increase to 50cm. This available space for conduits enables the placement of kitchens and bathrooms anywhere within the dwelling. This departure from the traditional clustering of humid spaces in residential buildings facilitates the creation of multiple floor layouts that respond to the users’ needs.

  1. No meters inside the apartment

By relocating the heavily regulated meters and main switches to the ground floor and placing the non-regulated secondary fuse boxes at each level, Patch22 provides open spaces which can be subdivided in multiple ways (Frantzen, 2023). The independence of the meters from the dwellings streamlines future adaptations with minimal disruptions to the individual living spaces.

  1. Smaller subdivision of legal entities

From a technical perspective, designing a flexible and adaptable building is feasible. But it is also necessary to provide the legal mechanisms that make it possible. In the case of Patch22, each floor contains 8 legal units that can be combined horizontally or vertically (Frantzen, 2023). Although, in its current state, most floors have 3-6 dwellings per flight, these legal units could be divided or merged, sold, or rented independently, used as office or as residential spaces.

  1. Designing for the unknown

Embracing the philosophy advocated by Habraken (, 2023), Patch22 prioritises designing for the unknown. Strategies include over-dimensioning the structure, simultaneous compliance with diverse regulations for different uses, incorporating extra entrance doors, and providing space for additional mailboxes. These approaches keep the design open for future changes, ensuring long-term adaptability.  


A sustainable proposal

Patch22 embodies sustainability across multiple dimensions.  Environmentally, the building achieves sustainability through a series of strategies: improving energy efficiency, using renewable materials, and fostering layout flexibility. The 2009 design garnered a GPR score of 8.9 and an EPC of 0.2, showcasing its commitment to sustainable practices. The roof, covered with photovoltaic panels, makes the building energy-neutral, while the rainwater collection feeds into a grey water system. The adoption of CO2-neutral pellet stoves, utilising compressed waste wood as fuel, further underlines Patch22’s commitment to eco-friendly energy sources (Frantzen et al architecten, 2017). Despite the challenges posed by fire and acoustic regulations, the building boldly features wood as its main material, with additional thickness added to columns and beams to comply with safety standards. This decision, although increasing costs, remains more economical than the alternative solution of building with 2D CLT panels (Frantzen, 2023). Additionally, the emphasis on long-term layout flexibility aligns with environmental sustainability by reducing waste during future adaptations and facilitating component disassembly. From a social standpoint, involving residents in the design process fostered diversity and strengthened the sense of belonging. Finally, the economic sustainability of Patch22 is evident in its adaptable support, serving as a long-term investment that evolves with changing needs, potentially acquiring different uses over time, benefitting both the planet and the economic interests of its users.

Construction characteristics

The support components, encompassing the structure, façade, and core of Patch22, are highly prefabricated, facilitating a swift and precise assembly process on-site while minimising waste and reducing disruptions. The structure incorporates over-dimensioned laminated wooden beams and columns, along with vertical core constructed with prefabricated concrete panels (Open Building NOW!, 2020). The NW and SE façades employ CLT panels with a thickness of 220mm, while the NE and SW orientations, serving as the main facades, create loggias on both sides. The loggia's interior façade features modulated sliding doors with CLT prefabricated frames, allowing for the free placement of interior partitions by strategically positioning mullions every 3 meters (Frantzen, 2023). Externally, the loggia is characterised by redwood truss beams with bolted connections to steel joints which facilitate their future disassembly. These buffer zones can be fully enclosed with glazed modular panels in winter or left open with a fixed handrail during the summer.

The floor plays a pivotal role in leveraging the flexibility of the apartments within the structure. Employing a Slimline structural flooring system made of IPE 400 steel profiles and a 70mm reinforced concrete slab below, this design allows services to run efficiently within the hollow floor, reaching even the most remote corners of each apartment. After installing drains and other facilities, the floor is topped with an acoustic membrane, a Lewis profile sheet, and 8cm of anhydrite screed with underfloor heating. While initially considering demountable top floor tiles, this solution was deemed complex and expensive compared to the anhydrite screed, which proved more cost-effective and flexible (Frantzen, 2023). By planning in advance for the placement of maintenance registration points to the floor cavity, it was possible to enable access for the necessary alterations while maintaining practicality and affordability.


User customisation process

The customisation process at Patch22 began with a search for prospective residents through social media, leveraging it as a platform to connect with individuals interested in actively designing their living spaces in collaboration. Once on board, residents were presented with the opportunity to shape their homes within an entirely empty interior. A catalogue of multiple variations was offered by the architects, allowing some residents to select a pre-designed option that suited their preferences. Alternatively, others opted for a more collaborative approach, working closely with Frantzen architects to create a custom layout. Some residents took an independent venue, either designing their dwellings themselves or hiring another architect to develop their interiors (Frantzen, 2023). Throughout the process, Frantzen provided comprehensive guidance on the technical requirements, ensuring compliance with fire and soundproofing regulations. Residents could choose to have the base installations in the floor installed by the main contractor or to receive the bare shell and install them themselves. This inclusive approach allowed residents to actively contribute to the unique character of Patch22 while ensuring the resiliency of the building support for future generations.

Alignment with project research areas

Patch22 addresses key aspects that are aligned with the three RE-DWELL research areas. Due to the experimental character of the Buiksloterham area in Amsterdam and their strong ambition to create and transform an industrial site into a sustainable neighbourhood, numerous innovative projects were developed. These projects proposed new processes, tools, and methods to address contemporary dwelling challenges in an integrated manner.  

The design philosophy embraced in Patch22 strongly aligns with the Design, Planning and Building area, placing significant emphasis in the importance of designing for flexibility and adaptability.  The subdivision of the space provided by the support structure into multiple residential units is facilitated by the absence of load-bearing division walls and vertical shafts inside the apartment, coupled with the use of horizontal services distribution. These design decisions enhance the building's flexibility in terms of use, layout, and apartment sizes.

Moreover, the utilization of industrialised construction demonstrates how this flexibility can be achieved within a sustainable framework, contributing to efficient on-site assembly, waste reduction and the incorporation of dry joints to allow for the future disassembly of some components. Lastly, the use of timber in both its structure and façade serves to absorb and store CO2. Together with PV panels and rainwater collection, these elements contribute to the creation of an energy-neutral building.

In terms of Community Participation, the project facilitates the involvement of residents in defining their dwellings. Moreover, the level of customisation could be tailored to their preferences, as residents had the option to choose from pre-designed layouts or engage closely with architects to create custom distributions. This approach fosters inclusive design and cultivates a greater sense of belonging among residents.  

Finally, with regard to Policy and Financing, Patch22 underscores the importance of legal instruments in facilitating flexibility in the long-term. The innovative procurement process exemplifies the potential to divide the legal entities into smaller ones, not necessarily constrained to an apartment area, easing the changes in dwelling sizes and promoting versatility in the use of spaces. This project is unique in that the developer and architect, often having misaligned objectives, have demonstrated that is possible to agree on common targets in a resourceful way. Patch22 stands as an adaptable support, serving as a long-term investment that evolves with changing needs of the potential users, dwellers and offices the environment and the economic interests of its users. This versatility benefits both the environment and the economic interests of the developers.

Design, planning and building

Community participation

Policy and financing

* This diagram is for illustrative purposes only based on the author’s interpretation of the above case study

Alignment with SDGs

Patch22 demonstrates a strong commitment to addressing economic, social, and environmental sustainability challenges in today’s society. This is reflected in its alignment with several of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs):

SDG 7 - Affordable and Clean Energy: The photovoltaic panels covering the roof, contributing to an energy-neutral building, align with the goal of promoting the use of renewable and clean energy resources. Additionally, Buiksloterham is an example of how smart technologies can enhance resilience and energy efficiency on a local level. The neighbourhood has consistently pursued a sustainable transition, adopting clean energy strategies that encompass smart energy and heating capabilities, smart heat pumps, underground heat storage, and smart electric vehicle charging hubs.2

SDG 9 – Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure: Patch22’s construction process strongly aligned with SDG 9 through the use of industrialised construction methods. This includes laminated timber beams and columns, a prefabricated concrete core, timber façade panels and bolted redwood trusses, showcasing the implementation of innovative fabrication tools and efficient assembly processes. Furthermore, this case study underscores the importance of over-dimensioning the timber components to comply with fire regulations and ensure the structure can withstand the loads of future uses.  

SDG 11 – Sustainable Cities and Communities: The design strategies of Patch22 are congruent with sustainable urban development, promoting the resiliency of the built environment through the long-term adaptability of the support, simultaneously reducing waste, and fostering resident participation. By adhering to Open Building principles, Patch22 establishes a foundation for a building that is flexible in both use and layout. 

SDG 12 – Responsible Consumption and Production: Patch22 is also related to SDG12, aiming to reduce environmental impact and promote responsible consumption and production. It does so by using renewable materials in the structure and façade, incorporating energy-efficient features throughout the building and adhering to design for disassembly principles.

SDG 17 – Partnerships for the Goals: Finally, Patch22 has demonstrated the potential of fostering partnerships to achieve sustainable development, exemplified by the sharing of expertise among various stakeholders, namely, the municipality, the design team, the developer and the residents. The project placed a strong emphasis on resident participation in defining layouts and negotiating housing sizes, showcasing a horizontal collaboration between architects and residents. Furthermore, the cooperation between the developer and the municipality to promote the subdivision of legal entities was groundbreaking at that time, proving crucial for ensuring the flexibility and long-term adaptability of the building. The project illustrates how multi-stakeholder collaboration incentivises progress towards a sustainable development.


Council on Open Building. (2023). Beyond Single Use: Open Building, Architecture, and Urban Design. [Online Conference]

Frantzen et al architecten. (2017). Patch22 - High-rise in wood. Retrieved September 15, 2023, from

Frantzen, T. (2023, June 15). Personal communication [Personal interview]

Kendall, S. H. (2021). Residential Architecture as Infrastructure. In Residential Architecture as Infrastructure.

Open Building NOW! (2020). Lecture by Tom Frantzen. Retrieved June 12, 2023, from (2023). MANIFESTO OPENBUILDING.CO (2021). Retrieved September 6, 2023, from

Related vocabulary


Design for Dissassembly

Industrialised Construction

Open Building

Sustainability Built Environment

Area: Community participation

In a broader sense, co-creation means the joint effort of bringing something new to fruition through acts of collective creativity (Sanders & Stappers, 2008) which can be manifested in both tangible (making something together) or intangible (learning something together) outcomes (Puerari et al., 2018). Recently, the concepts of co-creation or co- production have been applied to describe the processes of participation in urban planning and design. Both terms place particular emphasis on the partnerships formed between citizens and the public sector, in which a high level of citizen involvement is pivotal. Participation has been defined through its different levels of citizen involvement, ranging from non-participation to greater degrees of citizen control (Arnstein, 1969) indicating the different levels of influence a participant can have on a participatory process. From the perspective of urban planning, citizen participation is beginning to be described as co-creation when citizens’ roles become more prominent, presenting aspects of self-organisation, increased commitment and a sense of ownership of the process (Puerari et al., 2018). Recent research is exploring new methods of urban planning in which citizens, the municipality and private organisations co-create new planning rules (Bisschops & Beunen, 2019). However, co-creation along with co-production and participation, often used interchangeably, have become popular catchphrases and are considered as processes which are of virtue in themselves. Furthermore, while there is substantial research on these processes, the research conducted on the outcomes of enhanced participation remains rather limited (Voorberg et al., 2015). This highlights the ambiguity in terms of interpretation; is co-creation a methodology, a set of tools to enhance and drive a process, or a goal in itself? (Puerari et al., 2018). There have often been cases where participation, co-creation and co-production have been used decoratively, as a form of justification and validation of decisions already made (Armeni, 2016). In the provision of public spaces, co-creation/co-production may specifically involve housing (Brandsen & Helderman, 2012; Chatterton, 2016) and placemaking: “placemaking in public space implies engaging in the practice of urban planning and design beyond an expert culture. Such collaboration can be described as co-creation.” (Eggertsen Teder, 2019, p.290). As in participation, co-creation requires the sharing of decision-making powers, the creation of  joint knowledge and the assignation of abilities between communities, while urban professionals and local authorities should draw attention to the active involvement of community members. Furthermore, co-creation does not take place in a vacuum, but always occurs within socio- spatial contexts. This points to the objective of co-creation as a tool to influence locally relevant policy through innovation that is “place-based”. To conclude, co-creation can be perceived as a process that is both transdisciplinary in its application, and as a tool for achieving transdisciplinarity on a broader scale through a systematic integration in existing standard practices in urban planning, housing design and architecture. Despite the persisting ambiguity in its definition, co-creation processes can provide more inclusive platforms for revisiting and informing formal and informal knowledge on sustainable and affordable housing.

Created on 16-02-2022

Author: E.Roussou (ESR9), A.Panagidis (ESR8)


Area: Design, planning and building

Design for Disassembly (DfD), also referred to as Design for Deconstruction or Construction in Reverse, is the design and planning of the future disassembly of a building, in addition to its assembly (Cruz Rios & Grau, 2019). Disassembly enables the non-destructive recovery of building materials to re-introduce resources back into the supply chain, either for the same function or as a new product. Designing buildings for their future disassembly can reduce both the consumption of new raw materials and the negative environmental impacts associated with the production of new building products, such as embodied carbon. DfD is considered the “ultimate cradle-to-cradle cycle strategy” (Smith, 2010, p.222) that has the potential to maximise the economic value of materials whilst minimising harmful environmental impacts. It is therefore a crucial technical design consideration that supports the transition to a Circular Economy. Additional benefits include increased flexibility and adaptability, optimised maintenance, and retention of heritage (Rios et al., 2015). DfD is based on design principles such as: standardised and interchangeable components and connections, use of non-composite products, dry construction methods, use of prefabrication, mechanical connections as opposed to glues and wet sealants, designing with safety and accessibility in mind, and documentation of materials and methods for disassembly (Crowther, 2005; Guy & Ciarimboli, 2008; Tingley & Davison, 2011). DfD shares commonality with Industrialised Construction, which often centres around off-site prefabrication. Industrialising the production of housing can therefore be more environmentally sustainable and financially attractive if building parts are produced at scale and pre-designed to be taken apart without destroying connecting parts. Disassembly plays an important role in the recovery of building materials based on the 3Rs principle (reduce, reuse, recycle) during the maintenance, renovation, relocation and reassembly, and the end-of-life phases of a building. Whilst a building is in use, different elements are expected to be replaced at the end of their service life, which varies depending on its function. For example, the internal layout of a building changes at a different rate to the building services, and the disassembly of these parts would therefore take place at different points in time. Brand’s (1994) Shearing Layers concept incorporates this time aspect by breaking down a building into six layers, separating the “site”, “structure”, “skin” (building envelope), “services”, “space plan”, and “stuff” (furniture) to account for their varying lifespans. DfD enables the removal, replacement, and reuse of materials throughout the service life of a building, extending it use phase for as long as possible. However, there is less guarantee that a building will be disassembled at the end of its service life, rather than destructively demolished and sent to landfill.

Created on 18-10-2023

Author: A.Davis (ESR1)


Area: Design, planning and building

Industrialised Construction, also referred to as Modern Methods of Construction in the UK (Ministry of Housing, 2019) and Conceptueel Bouwen (Conceptual Building) in the Netherlands (NCB, n.d.), is a broad and dynamic term encompassing innovative techniques and processes that are transforming the construction industry (Lessing, 2006; Smith & Quale, 2017). It is a product-based approach that reinforces continuous improvement, rather than a project-based one, and emphasises the use of standardised components and systems to improve build quality and achieve sustainability goals (Kieran & Timberlake, 2004).  Industrialised Construction can be based on using a kit-of parts and is often likened to a LEGO set, as well as the automotive industry's assembly line and lean production. Industrialisation in the construction sector presents a paradigm shift, driven by advancements in technology (Bock & Linner, 2015). It involves both off-site and on-site processes, with a significant portion occurring in factory-controlled conditions (Andersson & Lessing, 2017). Off-site construction entails the prefabrication of building components manufactured using a combination of two-dimensional (2D), three-dimensional (3D), and hybrid methods, where traditional construction techniques meet cutting-edge technologies such as robotic automation. Industrialised construction is not limited to off-site production, it also encompasses on-site production, including the emerging use of 3D printing or the deployment of temporary or mobile factories. Industrialised Construction increasingly leverages digital and industry 4.0 technologies, such as Building Information Modelling (BIM), Internet of Things, big data, and predictive analysis (Qi et al., 2021). These processes and digital tools enable accurate planning, simulation, and optimisation of construction processes, resulting in enhanced productivity, quality, and resource management. It is important to stress that Industrialised Construction is not only about the physical construction methods, but also the intangible processes involved in the design and delivery of buildings. Industrialised construction offers several benefits across economic, social, and environmental dimensions. From an economic perspective, it reduces construction time and costs in comparison to traditional methods, while providing safer working conditions and eliminates delays due to adverse weather. By employing standardisation and efficient manufacturing processes, it enables affordable and social housing projects to be delivered in a shorter timeframe through economies of scale (Frandsen, 2017). On the social front, Industrialised Construction can enable mass customisation and customer-centric approaches, to provide more flexible solutions while maintaining economic feasibility (Piller, 2004). From an environmental standpoint, industrialised construction minimises waste generation during production by optimising material usage and facilitates the incorporation of Design for Disassembly (Crowther, 2005) and the potential reusability of building elements, promoting both flexibility and a Circular Economy (EC, 2020). This capability aligns with the principles of cradle-to-cradle design, wherein materials and components are continuously repurposed to reduce resource depletion and waste accumulation. Challenges remain in terms of overcoming misconceptions and gaining social acceptance, the slow digital transformation of the construction industry, high factory set-up costs, the lack of interdisciplinary integration of stakeholders from the initial stages, and adapting to unconventional workflows. However, Industrialised Construction will undoubtedly shape the future of the built environment, providing solutions for the increasing demand for sustainable and affordable housing (Bertram et al., 2019).

Created on 09-11-2023

Author: C.Martín (ESR14), A.Davis (ESR1)


Area: Design, planning and building

Open Building is a term that was coined in the mid-1980s but is rooted in ideas from some twenty years earlier, when John Habraken first introduced the Support/Infill concept as a response to the rigidity and uniformity of the post-war mass-housing produced in the Netherlands (Habraken, 1961). Its fundamental principle involves separating the supporting structure of a building, considered a collective resource designed for durability, from the infill components, such as the walls and partitions that can be easily adapted to individual preferences and changing needs. This design approach places a strong emphasis on flexibility and adaptability, allowing buildings to evolve over time and be effortlessly modified or renovated to meet changing requirements. Furthermore, it encourages the participation of building occupants in the design and management of their homes, and it emphasizes the importance of creating buildings that are well-suited to their local context (Kendall, 2021). The Open Building concept introduces a holistic approach to enhancing the adaptability of the built environment, considering social, technical, and organizational aspects (Cuperus, 2001). From a social perspective, Open Building advocates for an open architecture that empowers users to customize their living spaces according to their needs and preferences, accommodating unforeseen changes in the future. On an organisational level, it proposes a redistribution of the design control, enabling top-down decisions to establish a framework within which bottom-up processes can thrive. Lastly, from a technical perspective, it pursues a systematisation of building that allows for the installation, upgrading, or removal of industrialized sub-systems with minimal implications for the overall stability of the building. This approach addresses some of the pressing challenges of the construction industry, offering the potential to enhance housing affordability and sustainability. By allowing greater flexibility in interior design and layouts, spaces can be easily reconfigured to meet changing needs, encouraging a shift towards long-term planning and fostering adaptable, future-ready living environments. Moreover, this strategy reduces the need for costly renovations and discourages demolitions, thus improving construction resilience and facilitating the seamless integration of new technologies. It successfully aligns the diverse objectives of multiple stakeholders, providing builders with a consistent support system, offering developers the freedom to experiment with layouts and ensure long-term functional performance, and granting users the possibility to make personalized choices. For decades, this inherent adaptability has been successfully applied in diverse building types, including shopping centres, office buildings, and hospitals. These buildings necessitate facilities that are 'change-ready', capable of accommodating changes over time, with a focus on long-term adaptability rather than short-term design adequacy (Kendall, 2017; Leupen, 2004). Open Building promotes environmental sustainability through its ‘levels concept’, acknowledging that building components have varying lifespans. The disentanglement and clarity of these hierarchical levels and their interfaces promotes the longevity of infrastructures while enabling incremental renewal and innovation, an increasingly common need in the construction sector. Higher levels provide a framework for the lower levels, setting the overall parameters and constraints in which the lower ones can operate (Habraken, 1998). Additionally, Open Building encourages the separation of building elements into the ‘Shearing layers of change’ articulated by Steward Brand in 1994 (Brand, 1994). These layers provide flexibility and adaptability to the buildings as they can be designed, built, and maintained independently from each other, facilitating design for disassembly practices. Additionally, through a modular coordination of standardised components, not only it is possible to increase the collaboration in the design and construction process of housing, but also to encourage a proliferation of technical subsystems that can be continuously upgraded and scaled-up within an open framework (Kendall & Dale, 2023b). In the housing realm, a key difference between traditional design and the Open Building approach is their underlying methods. Traditional design examines diverse household types and lifestyles from an anthropologic perspective, suggesting various typologies. In contrast, Open Building focuses on creating an open system with no predefined designs. Instead, it operates with a framework of rules, zones and categories to enable the customisation of each dwelling by the user (Habraken, 1976). The adoption of Open Building was a response to the rigidity and waste caused by continued adherence to functionalism where buildings were designed according to the “form-follows-function” principle and became obsolete or impractical for the coming generations and costly to maintain. On the other hand, open architecture can cater to local and cultural demands, embracing the complexity of the built environment by acknowledging that it cannot be fully controlled or shaped by a single agent (Kendall, 2013; Kendall & Dale, 2023a; Paulichen et al., 2019). This encourages community involvement in the design and construction process, creating a sense of ownership and fostering inclusivity. There are many examples across Europe of residential Open Building such as Gleis 21 in Austria, R50 Cohousing in Germany, or Stories in Netherlands. Other cases have been developed as open systems rather than individual projects, replicated and adapted to diverse locations but following the same strategy, as for example the Superlofts by Mark Koehler Architects, which since 2016 has built seven projects in the Netherlands out of this system. Determining whether a project is an Open Building and the degree of flexibility it offers can be measured through a classification chart developed by the Open Building Collective, which is based in the principles showcased in their Manifesto. The dissemination of these exemplary projects through publications (Schneider & Till, 2007), awards, conferences and the Open Building Collective, has stimulated the exchange of knowledge between researchers, practitioners and other stakeholders, spreading the interest in this concept and its practical implementation. Despite its potential benefits, the implementation of Open Building in multi-family housing faces challenges due to entrenched traditional practices, regulatory barriers favouring fixed layouts, and the short-term perspectives among developers, investors, and clients (De Paris & Lopes, 2018; Montaner et al., 2015). However, successful Open Building projects around the globe demonstrate that its capacity to address holistically the social, technical, and organizational aspects of a changing society. It encourages the space appropriation at the infill level while ensuring resilience and robustness in the support level, fostering enduring and inclusive buildings that allow diverse households to coexist and evolve over time (Kendall, 2022).

Created on 14-11-2023

Author: C.Martín (ESR14)


Area: Design, planning and building

Sustainability of the built environment The emergence of the contemporary environmental movement between the 1960s and 1970s and its proposals to remedy the consequences of pollution can be seen as one of the first steps in addressing environmental problems (Scoones, 2007). However, the term “sustainable” only gained wider currency when it was introduced into political discourse by the Club of Rome with its 1972 report “The Limits to Growth”, in which the proposal to change growth trends to be sustainable in the far future was put forward (Grober, 2007; Kopnina & Shoreman-Ouimet, 2015a; Meadows et al., 1972). Since then, the use of the term has grown rapidly, especially after the publication of the 1978 report “Our Common Future”, which became a cornerstone of debates on sustainability and sustainable development (Brundtland et al., 1987; Kopnina & Shoreman-Ouimet, 2015a). Although the two terms are often used indistinctively, the former refers to managing resources without depleting them for future generations, while the latter aims to improve long-term economic well-being and quality of life without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs (Kopnina & Shoreman-Ouimet, 2015b; UNESCO, 2015). The Brundtland Report paved the way for the 1992 Earth Summit, which concluded that an effective balance must be found between consumption and conservation of natural resources (Scoones, 2007). In 2000, the United Nations General Assembly published the 8 Millennium Development Goals (UN, 2000), which led to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) published in 2016 (UN, 2016). The 17 SDGs call on all countries to mobilise their efforts to end all forms of poverty, tackle inequalities and combat climate change (UN, 2020; UNDP, 2018). Despite the rapidly growing literature on sustainability, the term remains ambiguous and lacks a clear conceptual foundation (Grober, 2007; Purvis et al., 2019). Murphy (2012) suggests that when defining sustainability, the question should be: Sustainability, of what? However, one of the most prominent interpretations of sustainability is the three pillars concept, which describes the interaction between the social, economic and environmental components of society (Purvis et al., 2019). The environmental pillar aims to improve human well-being by protecting natural capital -e.g. land, air and water- (Morelli, 2011). The economic sustainability pillar focuses on maintaining stable economic growth without damaging natural resources (Dunphy et al., 2000). Social sustainability, on the other hand, aims to preserve social capital and create a practical social framework that provides a comprehensive view of people's needs, communities and culture (Diesendorf, 2000). This latter pillar paved the way for the creation of a fourth pillar that includes human and culture as a focal point in sustainability objectives (RMIT, 2017). Jabareen (2006) describes environmental sustainability as a dynamic, inclusive and multidisciplinary concept that overlaps with other concepts such as resilience, durability and renewability. Morelli (2011) adds that it can be applied at different levels and includes tangible and intangible issues. Portney (2015) takes Morelli's explanation further and advocates that environmental sustainability should also promote industrial efficiency without compromising society's ability to develop (Morelli, 2011; Portney, 2015). Measuring the built environment sustainability level is a complex process that deploys quantitative methods, including (1) indexes (e.g. energy efficiency rate), (2) indicators (e.g. carbon emissions and carbon footprint), (3) benchmarks (e.g. water consumption per capita) and (4) audits (e.g. building management system efficiency) (Arjen, 2015; Berardi, 2012; James, 2014; Kubba, 2012). In recent years, several rating or certification systems and practical guides have been created and developed to measure sustainability, most notably the Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) introduced in the UK in 1990 (BRE, 2016) and the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) established in the US in 2000 (USGBC, 2018). In addition, other overlapping methodologies and certification frameworks have emerged, such as the European Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) in 2002 (EPB, 2003) and the European Framework for Sustainable Buildings, also known as Level(s) in 2020 (EU, 2020), amongst others. The sustainability of the built environment aims to reduce human consumption of natural resources and the production of waste while improving the health and comfort of inhabitants and thus the performance of the built environment elements such as buildings and spaces, and the infrastructure that supports human activities (Berardi, 2012; McLennan, 2004). This aim requires an effective theoretical and practical framework that encompasses at least six domains, including land, water, energy, indoor and outdoor environments, and economic and cultural preservation (Ferwati et al., 2019). More recently, other domains have been added, such as health and comfort, resource use, environmental performance, and cost-benefit and risk (EU, 2020). Sustainability of the built environment also requires comprehensive coordination between the architectural, structural, mechanical, electrical and environmental systems of buildings in the design, construction and operation phases to improve performance and avoid unnecessary resource consumption (Yates & Castro-Lacouture, 2018).

Created on 24-06-2022

Author: M.Alsaeed (ESR5), K.Hadjri (Supervisor)


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