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From abandoned data centre to sustainable student housing

A net-positive transformation of an abandoned data centre into housing for 206 students.



MOR Studio




2020-2024 (ongoing)


Utrecht, the Netherlands



Studios, co-living apartments, work and commercial spaces.



Building partners and advisors:

Van Mierlo Dinkq, Nieman, Pieters Bouwtechniek, Traject, Bijkerk Bouwadvies, TLU Landschaparchitecten

1125 tons of CO2 saved

by choosing to reuse and transform a data center in Utrecht. Originally built in the former ‘vegetable gardens’ of Utrecht, the concrete building had been vacant for the past 13 years. By preserving as much as possible of the existing building and combining it with sustainable design solutions, the environmental impact of the transformation is kept low.


The transformation project is part of a larger development called ‘de Kwekerij’ (the vegetable nursery), a future residential campus, that will host 1.150 students and starters.

The data center initially built in 2008, was never used, but will now be transformed into 206 affordable student apartments, along with shared amenities, activating both the existing building and the public space around it.

This adaptive reuse strives for a positive social impact while being as sustainable as possible. Materials are being reused and carefully selected, while water and energy strategies are implemented so that the building contributes positively to its surroundings. 


The social ambitions of the project go beyond the building, with the activation of the public space,  welcoming the inhabitants of Utrecht in a dynamic and safe environment. The building’s ground floor is designed in direct continuity, open to the public, and as flexible as possible, offering large co-working and study spaces.


The existing data center has a strong architectural character, which is highlighted in the new design, by exposing its massive concrete structure.

The building has unique dimensions, unusual for housing: to make use of the 5m floor height we created mezzanines that allowed us to create more rooms. As for the building’s great depth, we designed compact dwellings that are balanced out with generous shared spaces and amenities.


Three dwelling types of co-living and self-contained apartments cater to the diverse needs and lifestyles of the students while creating a varied spatial experience and making optimal use of the building.


On the roof, a lightweight timber-framed structure is added to host 21 self-contained apartments, overlooking a shared terrace, where students can enjoy the sunny days.


The former data center comes with a new facade that reflects the vision of the project: a landmark of sustainability.


The upper part of the facade is covered with 1.756 solar panels, optimally placed according to an irradiation analysis. On the lower part of the facade, the existing perforated steel panels are re-used as cladding, where plants will grow, from the ground, up.


This new facade "skin" will not only improve the microclimate around the building but also act as natural shading for the apartments.


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