17.07.2012 Jakob Schoof

Housing Estate Image Transformation

Renovation or demolition? Not mutually exclusive options, but components of one and the same solution in the case of the high-rise apartment complex 'Burg' in the North German city of Wolfsburg. The redevelopment project planned by KSP Jürgen Engel Architekten is in phase two now. Architect: KSP Jürgen Engel Architekten GmbH
Location: 38444 Wolfsburg-Detmerode Housing estates built in the 60s are often faced with a common problem scenario: the structures are too uniform, the apartment sizes are too large while individual rooms are too small, and vacancy rates are rising. Back in 2008, the high-rise apartment complex 'Burg' was no exception to this. The housing association that owns the property, 'Wohnungsgesellschaft Neuland, uses a completely different vocabulary to describe the entirely refurbished 'Neue Burg': the design is individual, energy efficient and low barrier, coupled with a location that is both close to the city and to nature. Progress has been very encouraging: the project has already been awarded several prizes, the latest being the Architecture Award of the Association of German Architects (BDA) Lower Saxony 2012.

Wolfsburg-Detmerode is a typical example of urban planning during the period of economic growth after World War II, the time of the 'Wirtschaftswunder'. At the end of the 60s, the trend towards high-density urbanisation resulted in the construction of a tower block complex with 534 apartments here. Despite the location at the edge of a forest yet only a few minutes away from the city centre, vacancies increased steadily over the years, finally peaking at 25 per cent. The director of Neuland at the time, Kerstin Mallwitz, concluded that the apartments were too big and that the largely standardised layout designs were no longer contemporary.

In the light of this, Neuland opted for a complete redevelopment in 2008. The first building phase commenced in that year and continued until mid-2011. Seven of the 24 buildings with heights of up to ten storeys were reduced to four full storeys and a receding storey, as well as undergoing complete modernisation. This reduced the number of apartments to about 400.
Number of apartments as an indicator of quality of living
After completion of the first reconstruction phase in 2011, Neuland reviewed the by then four-year-old designs by KSP Engel Architekten to safeguard a sustainable and future-compliant realisation of the concept in the second phase as well. The question of interest was: Does the planned reconstruction still meet the future requirements of the market?

The findings led to the owner opting for an even more targeted strategy in the second building phase. Manfred Lork, the present director of Neuland, explained that the review showed that the most important factor to avoid vacancies and to keep the value of the newly designed area at a high level, was the number of apartments. This is why, in deviation to the original plans, seven complexes – a total of 257 dwelling units – will be torn down completely by the end of 2012. The ten residual buildings will remain in their full volumes. They will be renovated and modernised while occupied by the residents. Completion of the 'Neue Burg' is scheduled for 2013.
Energy efficiency and individual façades
Neuland was awarded the dena Efficient House Quality Mark by the German Energy Agency for the already completed buildings in 2011. The now four-storey buildings fulfil the KfW Efficiency House 100 standard, while the penthouses situated in the receding storeys comply with the higher KfW Efficiency House 85 standard. These standards are energy refurbishment levels specified by the KfW Bankengruppe on the basis of the Energy Conservation Ordinance (EnEV). Solar energy collectors cover around 40 per cent of the hot water demand. A low energy demand is ensured by a façade insulation using 16-cm-thick EPS panels and new windows (Uw value: 1.3 W/m²K; in the penthouses 1.1 W/m²K).

The appearance of the now smaller structures is made more interesting by using a variation of façade materials: buildings are clad in multi-layer composite panels with a natural wood look or plastered. LED lights on the grounds and stairs provide good illumination in the dark.
The remaining buildings left for completion during the second construction phase will be fitted with a combination of Alucobond curtain walls and a thermal insulation composite system. Refurbishment measures also include new PVC windows, roof renewal, cellar ceiling insulation, entrance redecoration, restoration of stairways and renovation of water and electrical installations.

New apartment layouts, communicative outside facilities
The apartment layouts were redesigned in the first construction phase to meet the demand for individual living space. Apartments with single to four rooms were created, as well as penthouses including private roof terraces. Some of the apartments fulfil the specifications for low-barrier living space, such as barrier-free shower areas, wide doors as well as stepless access to balconies or terraces.
Prize-worthy: 'Multi-Generational Living' and 'Apartment-Sharing for People with Dementia'
The comprehensively modernised residential complex has been awarded the Seal of Quality for Safe Housing by the Ministry of Social Affairs of Lower Saxony. The award included the multi-generational living project 'WOHNsinn', while the housing estate 'Neue Burg' also won a prize for the apartment-sharing for people with dementia. This was awarded by the initiative 'Deutschland – Land des Langen Lebens' (Germany – Land of Long Life) in the category 'Networked Living'. This special kind of apartment share for up to ten senior citizens offers a total area of 400 m² with personal living space and outpatient care.

Project details

Object: Housing Estate 'Neue Burg' in Wolfsburg-Detmerode
Client: NEULAND Wohnungsgesellschaft mbH
Architect: KSP Jürgen Engel Architekten GmbH
Construction time: 5 years (2008 – 2013)
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