From abandoned data centre to sustainable housing

A net-positive transformation of an old data centre into housing for students and young professionals.

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Architect:

MOR Studio

Surface:

9.630m2

Year:

2020-2022 (ongoing)

Location:

Utrecht, the Netherlands

 

Program:

Building transformation, housing, co-living, work and commercial spaces.

Client:

Jebber

Building partners and advisors:

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

1125 tons of CO2 saved

“Through our projects, we want to shift from being consumers to being contributors.”

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.

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The transformation project is part of a larger development called ‘de Kwekerij’ (the vegetable nursery), a plot currently redeveloped by Jebber into a residential campus, which 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. 

To do so, as materials are being reused and carefully selected, water and energy strategies are implemented so that the building contributes positively to its surroundings. 

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The social ambitions of the project go beyond the building, with the activation of the public space,  welcoming the residents 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.

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The existing data center has a strong architectural character, which is highlighted in the new design, by exposing its massive concrete structure. The building’s dimensions, unusual for housing,  a tailor-made design involving ingenious solutions such as mezzanines making use of the 5m floor height. The wide building’s depth allowed the compact dwellings to be balanced out with generous shared spaces and amenities.

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Four 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.

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Finally, the new facade of the data center reflects the vision of the project; striving for an energy positive and nature inclusive design. The upper part of the facade is covered with solar panels, optimally placed according to the conducted irradiation analysis. On the lower part of the facade, the existing perforated steel panels are re-used as cladding where plants can grow on, from the ground, up. This green facade will not only improve the microclimate around the building but also act as natural shading for the apartments.

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