Alternative housing delivery: Baugruppen

What is Baugruppen?

Permeable solitary blocks through to the River Spree create public access at Spreefeld. Andrea Kroth, Author provided

The Baugruppen model represents an innovative strategy for constructing new housing. Known in North America as co-housing, Baugruppen or joint-venture buildings in Germany, and l’habitat participatif or participatory housing in France, are resident-led housing design and development.

Baugruppen is an approach to developing housing where private owners collaboratively build affordable multifamily projects. It’s not quite the same as co-housing – some include common spaces and facilities (e.g. gardens, community rooms, roof terraces) but these are not necessarily incorporated. However, like co-housing, baugruppen incorporate a participatory planning process.

Multiple families get together and agree the design that suits everyone – these are usually multi-storey, multi-unit buildings (think apartments) rather than detached or semidetached housing. An alternative form is Baugemeinschaft, a form of cohousing led by an independent consultants-developer, often with an architectural background, have emerged as viable options as more Germans look to become homeowners.

How do baugruppen deliver affordability?

Apartment layouts at Ritter Strasse 50, initiated by ifau and Jesko Fezer with Heide and Von Beckerath, are highly individualised. Andrea Kroth, Author provided

Baugruppen are an affordable approach to housing because they are generally funded without developers (self-financed). Local professionals tell me that groups of individuals working collaboratively and without the developer can save 15 – 20% of housing costs (basically removing the development margin from the construction costs). Leaving owners to complete fitout themselves provides additional cost saving opportunities.

In Wilhelmsburg (Hamburg), we came across two quite different examples of baugruppen.

  1. The first was a mixed development, in partnership with a developer, where the front portion of the development was sold off to private owners and the rear portion owned by partners in the baugruppen.
  2. The second baugruppen development was quite different. Named Smart Price Houses, they were designed as a do-it-yourself development. The basic skeleton structure, staircase access and basic building connections were constructed for the co -owners. The design idea is Le Corbusier’s Dominio House. Individual owners then designed and completed the interior fit-out of their own units.
  3. In Berlin I went to a third baugruppen in Ritterstrasse where 19 households came together to design / build this attractive development. They reputedly saved 20% of construction cost by adopting industrial construction methods (for example, electrical conduit runs surface on walls) and selfmanaging the contract to avoid developer margin.

How Cities are supporting Baugruppen

At Urban Living 01, Abcarius and Burns Architecture Design created an operable facade to get around a ban of balconies. Andrea Kroth, Author provided

City support for baugruppen I met with Stattbau, a multi-disciplinary design practice which has a contract with the City of Berlin to provide facilitation services for those groups interested in participating in baugruppen developments. Similar services are offered in Munich and Hamburg.

This is an innovative and successful way to support groups who want to design and develop their own communities. With a lawyer and business manager on their team, Stattbau lead a robust process which supports groups through the orientation phase, the planning phase, the purchase of land / construction process and the occupation / residence and ongoing maintenance.

Over 8 years, Stattbau has facilitated 160 groups to build baugruppen. It’s fair to say that city governments in Germany have shaped and promoted this practice with policies that support self-organised, collaborative building. Take Tuebingen, for example. By the mid-90s, Tuebingen was beyond affordable for many residents.

The City purchased brownfields vacated by NATO in the southern part of town, and Alternative housing delivery: Baugruppen Page 3 held competitions to sell individual lots to baugruppen with the best concept. Baugruppen were required to allocate the ground floor for non-residential use, and set development to the block periphery with large areas set aside for semi-private courtyards.

Tuebingen’s approach resulted in costs 10-20% lower over typical developer models, with higher levels of diversity and ownership amongst younger families. The City of Hamburg undertakes to encourage and facilitate the development of baugruppen with a special department which has overseen and coordinated the building of 1800 developments over the last decade. Hamburg sets aside nearly 20% of suitable land specifically for baugruppen, and if there is competition for a lot between interested groups, the City looks at various criteria, including viability, concept originality, owner diversity, etc.

This pushes baugruppen in the planning stage to be very innovative –such as predominantly immigrants, or single parent households only. In Freiburg, the city council made a conscience decision that developmental rights in Vauban would be preferentially given to baugruppen over developers. The city and working group felt that prioritizing affordability (through collaboratively-built projects), would make it attractive and feasible financially for families to live there rather than suburbs.

Rather than bidding wars, lots were awarded to parties meeting criteria such as most diverse scheme, most ecologically sound, etc. Freiburg’s city council even provided facilitators to help a baugruppe procure legal and financial representation for their project. In terms of population density–at 5,300 inhabitants over 38 ha –Vauban is denser than over 95% of Seattle, yet it maintains a distinct character and ample open space. Baugruppen would certainly require New Zealanders to adopt a different approach but with the burgeoning interesting in community-led development, the time might be right. With suitable support to ensure success, clearly there are savings to be made. And with participation in design, future owners can choose what they want and how they want to live in a medium density setting.

The original story published here

Innovating in Melbourne Apartments

The Commons, a precursor to the Nightingale apartment projects, is built and occupied. It showed the Melbourne financial model works

The Commons, a precursor to the Nightingale apartment projects, is built and occupied. It showed the Melbourne financial model works

Better, cheaper apartments in Melbourne might provide New Zealand with a model. WILL HARVIE reports in The Press

Architects design, they don’t develop. But in Melbourne a group of architects are getting into the development game and doing it their way, an ethical way.

“We are not trying to squeeze out every last dollar,” says James Legge, a founding director of Six Degrees Architects and a key player in the Nightingale model of sustainable apartment development.


The planned Nightingale One apartment project. Could you live here?

“Our cities and their inhabitants deserve beautiful, well-built and well-sized homes designed for real life,” reads the Nightingale website. “At present, the market is not delivering this and as long as the current formula remains profitable, there is no incentive to raise the bar on the status quo.”

The Nightingale social enterprise model starts with about 20 ethical investors. Some of these are architects – mid-career designers who can manage a $100,000 investment, says Legge – but others are sophisticated investors who lean toward doing good with their money….

rooftop garden

The rooftop garden on the precursor project called The Commons.

…It turns out that the model works well with buildings four or five stories high and 20 to 30 units. These buildings are in the “European mode”, Legge says, small enough that all living there will know each other and still having a connection to the street. “It’s not like they’re living in the sky,” he says….

… Purchasers also must participate in Nightingale’s financial model. They’re getting well-designed apartments at low cost but they signed contracts that forbid flipping for a quick buck. Owners must sell to people on the database and they get only the original purchase price, the value of any improvements plus a bump calculated from indexed apartment price rises from the surrounding neighbourhood. “There’s no windfall for the first seller,” Legge says by phone from Melbourne…

James Legge will be speaking at Green Building Council’s Sustainable Housing Summit in Auckland on June 15 and Christchurch on June 17. 

Rosemary reflects: Love their model – engaging people in the process of design, bypassing some of the underlying costs by combining functions, and limiting the way apartments can be on sold to avoide speculation 

Read the whole article here

Christchurch Sustainable Housing Summit 2016

Linear Park June 9 201417 June 2016 8-3pm
Christchurch Civic Building
Level 1, Function Room, 53 Hereford Street

Price (exclusive of GST)
  • $300.00 for members New Zealand Green Building Council
  • $350.00 for non-members

To Book Click here or for more information

Housing in New Zealand faces many challenges – not least reversing the health impacts of low quality homes while meeting exploding demand. How do we resolve these thorny issues to create resilient, liveable homes and communities?

The biennial Sustainable Housing Summit is your opportunity to hear about inspiring international and local projects, innovative solutions, and models that work. Join us to be informed and inspired, and to network with like-minded peers around the critical challenges and opportunities facing housing in New Zealand.

hear from our knowledgeable and thought-provoking speakers from New Zealand and around the world…

  • Councillor Andrea Reimer, City of Vancouver: Greenest City on Earth: Glimpses from Vancouver
  • Adam Beck, Director, Centre for Urban Innovation, Brisbane:  A New Code for Sustainable Neighbourhoods: Glimpses from North America.
  • Carolyn Ingles, Head of Urban Design, Regeneration and Heritage, Christchurch City Council  Opening Speaker: Challenges and chances for the residential building sector.
  • James Legge, Director, Six Degrees Architects, Melbourne: The Nightingale Model: Upsetting the status quo of the speculative multi-residential housing development

  • Richard Palmer, Associate Director – Sustainability, WSP, Sydney  Precinct Infrastructure: The key to effective urban transformation

  • Viv Heslop, Sustainability Manager – Panuku Development Auckland: Successful Urban Revitalisation: Lessons from Auckland’s Wynyard Quarter

  • Tim Porter, Project Director – Major Projects, Holmes Solutions: Waste reduction through evidence-based design and prefabrication

The Panel Discussion and Open Mike includes:

  • Robert Linterman – general manager residential, Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA)
  • Professor Robyn Phipps – professor in construction, program director construction and leader of the Built Environment cluster, Massey University
  • Geoff Butcher – Cooperative Sections and Community Housing Trust
  • Geoff Simmons – general manager, Morgan Foundation

Viva! still on the hunt for Land

AerialView_BannerViva! Continues to look for land within the 4 Avenues

We continue to hunt for land in the city to develop our first city based Urban Village
– do you know of any land that would be suitable for our sustainable urban village?

Land size of approx 3000 m2 – 5000 m2 would be good.

We presently have land we are doing due diligence on however if certain conditions do not come together we need other options.

Contact Jane

Co-operative Sections – Now there is an Idea

Co-operative SectionsGeoff Butcher spoke at the last Viva Networking Meeting about his efforts to cut back on the price of housing by focusing on development costs, and working co-operatively to develop a piece of land.  Visit his Website

Sections cost too much,  and many subdivisions are poorly designed and boring because of the limitations put on building design.

The issues for people in Christchurch:

  •  They will receive a payout on their Red Zone section which is insufficient to buy a new section. OR
  •  They will receive a payout on their house and section which gives them insufficient equity to buy another property. OR
  • They just can’t afford a section OR
  • They want to be more involved in the building of their new home and community OR
  • They find  the covenants are too restrictive OR
  • They just want to try to develop and build quality homes in a different way.

The Solution:

co-ops workCo-operate with a group of people to get a section at a 30% discount to typical current market prices.  More detail

One project is Underway – the Hikuwai 

HikuwaiAll the initial blocks were taken up by cooperative members, with the last one being sold in Dec 2013.  However, the central block (originally lot 16) is to be further subdivided. Houses have been designed in this innovative precinct and they are looking for buyers. Interested in buying? More information here

Geoff Butcher Economist 1 Cooperative Developments from Christchurch Voices on Vimeo.

David Killick – Christchurch needs an eco-neighbourhood like Vauban

Eco-neighbourhood a viable vision for the future

16-Fre-apts-03What a treat it was to have David Killick talking at our last networking meeting about his visit to the Vauban Community in Germany.

Here are his notes from the meeting:

Vauban, in Freiburg, in southwest Germany, is one of the world’s most celebrated residential eco-neighbourhoods. With its solar power, “plus-energy” buildings, and accessible streets, Vauban offers a bold sustainable vision for the future of urban or suburban living. It could even work for Christchurch and Canterbury ­– but only if the authorities and enough people are determined to make it happen.

Vauban actually took shape despite, rather than because of planners

Rather than being a centrally planned model with solutions prescribed and imposed from on high, it has grown far more organically and is the result of entrepreneurial individuals working together: communities doing it for themselves.

14-Fre-Vb-houses-10eCovering a site measuring 41 hectares, Vauban is built on land occupied until 1991 (the year of German reunification) by the French military­. Residents founded the Forum Vauban in 1994, and in 2005 the Vauban District Union (Stadtteilverein Vauban e.V.) was established. “Both associations have been and continue to be influential in shaping the sustainable district,” according to Freiburg’s information service.

24-Fre-Vb-building“Vauban’s planning process, which scrapped design regulations in the land-use plan and provided a wide range of different plot sizes, played a particularly important role in achieving the active neighbourly relations and district we see today. The planning process created a diverse mix of individual building projects, groups of building owners, rented and owner-occupied flats, cooperative models as well as inclusive accommodation projects that promote social integration.”

25-Fre-Vb-01Reaching Vauban couldn’t be easier. A tram ride from the city centre takes us 15 minutes. My first impression is quiet leafy streets and cyclists: young and old, small children being carried on the front of bikes or in bike buggies, and all without helmets. Cycling does not have to be an extreme endurance contest versus cars, as it is in Christchurch; cyclists and pedestrians take priority.

08-Fre-Vb-tram and bike-eMost cars are tucked away in plant-covered carports on the leafy streets; on residential laneways a 30kph speed or walking pace limit applies. Some streets are car-free. Community solar and glass garages are fitted with solar panels.

Streets are named after prominent citizens forced to emigrate in the Nazi era, including architect and founder of the Bauhaus movement Walter Gropius; physicist Lise Meitner; and writer Kurt Tucholsky.

Vauban is more than just housing, however 10 former barrack buildings were converted into affordable housing by the Student Union and the SUSI project (“self-organized, independent neighbourhood initiative”).

06-Fre-Vb-tram and Green Hotel-eThe district also has a community centre, nurseries, a primary school, cafés and restaurants, shops, and innovative businesses. If you like, you can stay at the Green City Hotel, a plant-covered multi-storey timber-clad building. The hotel has a policy of employing people with disabilities.

All buildings aim to be as energy-efficient as possible. A passive (ultra-low energy) house was Germany’s first “passive” apartment block, built in 1999. There are now over 30 passive houses in the neighbourhood. To help meet additional energy requirements, a combined heat and power (CHP) plant uses natural gas and wood to supply district heating and electricity.

One of the most striking buildings is the “Sonnenschiff” (“sun ship”). It is the first “plus energy” building in the world, combining houses, workplaces, and shops. The “Solarsiedlung” (“solar settlement”) consists of 59 plus-energy houses. The Heliotrope is the world’s first plus-energy house. Plus energy? As an example, the Heliotrope produces three times more energy than it consumes. Built in 1994, it rotates to capture sunshine or shade as required.

Visionary architect Rolf Disch, who designed the plus-energy solar buildings, is passionate about their potential, describing the concept as “a quantum leap in architecture”.

Their secrets are super insulation, including triple glazing, heat recovery systems, and photovoltaic (PV) panels.

Disch says 40 per cent of our energy use is spent on the construction and utilization of buildings; hence, there is “gigantic potential” for savings and to make houses highly efficient. “We need plus-energy settlements, plus-energy city areas, and plus-energy regions. Architects, the construction industry, investors and tenants, regulators, and authorities have a great responsibility. And with plus-energy we all have the possibility to break through into the Solar Age.”

David Killick

David Killick

Could any of this happen in New Zealand? A few examples of cohousing and eco-conscious residential subdivisions have been built. In Christchurch, the “Breathe” eco-village completion attracted huge worldwide interest and a winner was announced; however, nothing has happened so far on the compact central city site. The Viva Group is keen to also build an eco-village.

What scope there would have been to build a solar Vauban-like eco-neighbourhood on Christchurch’s East Frame! It would have showcased environmental technology and new approaches in design and construction to the world. Perhaps we still could have such a district – somewhere. It might not appeal to everyone, but it would certainly put us on the map. And be good for the planet, too.

©, June 2015


Here is David’s article in the Christchurch Press about Vauban

Cera plan strips inner-city residents of rights

Dave Kelly, a biological scientist, has lived in the central city for 29 years. He is the secretary of the Victoria Neighbourhood Association, though these views are his own. Printed on Perspectives page in the Christchurch Press on 17 February 2015.

a-liveable-city-coverDAVE KELLY argues that Cera’s Liveable City plan will be disastrous for central Christchurch because its main effects will be reducing the amount of residential land and discouraging residents from living there.

In defending Cera’s new “Liveable City” rules for the central city residential zone (February 12), Warwick Isaacs told less than half the story. Some improvements were made after public comment, but he did not mention two unheralded changes in the final plan which are unfair and counterproductive. Liveable City will, perversely, reduce the amount of residential land, alienate existing residents, and discourage prospective residents from buying houses in the central city.

The two new changes are to throw open central city residential land to a wide range of nonresidential uses, and to introduce a minimum residential density of one dwelling per 200 square metres of land.

The first change is hugely damaging: the abrupt reversal of protection of central city residential land from non-residential intrusions.

ccdu-cover-20120820Since 1996, central city residential areas have had rules barring non-residential uses, to stop premises like medical rooms and motels setting up there just because residential land was cheaper. These rules aimed to maintain the number of central city residents, and protect residents from the negative effects of commercial activities next door.

To reinforce those aims, the first three draft plans (City Council versions from December
2011 and February 2013, and Liveable City draft July 2014) all proposed even stronger protection from non-residential uses.

Christchurch Livable city

This is the vision… How real will it be?

The final Liveable City plan has reversed this without warning, throwing open the entire central city residential zone to a wide range of non-residential uses. This directly conflicts with two stated aims of Liveable City: to foster and protect existing residential neighbourhoods, and to increase the number of central city residents.

The inevitable result will be numerous non-residential intrusions into residential neighbourhoods. Even under the old restrictive rules, the Victoria Neighbourhood Association faced dozens of such attempted intrusions in our small area over the last 20 years. Almost all were prevented, thereby maintaining the living conditions of residents.

Liveable City has now deleted the only effective rule which protected residents from intrusions. It is astonishing, with limited residential land in the central city, that Cera actively promotes the loss of residential land through this change.

The second change – the minimum residential density – is unfair to existing property owners.

Nothing like this appeared in any of the three earlier draft plans. This rule aims for higher density by simply making it compulsory. Landowners are no longer allowed to determine how much garden they want. I would not be allowed to replace my existing house with a single new house because my 500 square metre section is “too big”.

That violation of landowners’ rights is hard to reconcile with encouraging new nonresidential uses on residential land. If increasing the number of central city residents is important, why not maintain restrictions on non-residential uses, rather than introducing this minimum density rule?

Why has Cera done all this? Apparently to put the desires of developers ahead of the rights of residents. Liveable City already had numerous other changes which disadvantage residents.

Firstly, it increases all the allowed limits for new developments – like taller maximum heights, smaller setbacks from boundaries, and no requirements for car parking. So the negative effects which new developments can impose on existing residents have increased.

Secondly, if a developer asks to exceed the increased limits, Liveable City specifically bans neighbours from even being informed about most applications. This removal of rights under the Resource Management Act is unprecedented.

Thirdly, even when neighbours are allowed to know about applications to exceed the limits (for height and closeness to neighbours), the rules have been skewed in favour of the  developer.

Saving the developer money is now specifically listed as one of the criteria that must be considered. So under Liveable City, existing – and prospective – central city residents have fewer rights than landowners anywhere else in New Zealand. In particular, we have no say in adjacent proposed developments which could greatly reduce our quality of life.

The irony is that favouring developers at such cost to residents is unfair and counterproductive. Who would buy an expensive central city residence when they have no certainty about developments in the area which might decrease their quality of life and devalue their property? And how do developers benefit from being allowed to build almost whatever they wish, if potential buyers are discouraged from buying what they build?

The other disincentive to increasing the number of central city residents is the impact of
alcohol around residential areas like Victoria St.

Before 2011, late-night bars were in commercial areas like the Strip. Now they are next to
central city residents, keeping us awake at 3 am. Since the earthquakes, alcohol-fuelled revellers have made my street quite unpleasant on weekends, and officials are unable or unwilling to limit the disturbance.

Liveable City makes this worse by telling existing residents that we have almost no rights.
This seems a brilliant way to deter long-term residents – who are an important part of the
population mix that Cera says the city needs – from moving into or staying in the central city.

Under these rules, only a fool or a masochist would buy property in the central city to live in. Better to live outside the Four Avenues where residents retain the rights summarily stripped from those in the central city. Similarly, I expect that many currently living in the central city will sell up before their neighbourhood devalues.

So Cera’s “Liveable City” will produce a central city with less land in residential use, fewer
long term residents, fewer residents overall, and existing vibrant neighbourhoods like Victoria decaying with commercial infill.

A Maori proverb says the most important thing is “he tangata, he tangata, he tangata” – the people. Instead Cera’s plan favours “developers, developers, developers”.

As residents, we have invested our life savings in the city. We know what issues make life
difficult, and what rules are needed to control them. Liveable City simply will not work. I am furious for myself and distraught for my neighbourhood and the central city.

More on this: Liveable City plan treats existing residents as expendable –

Creating Dynamic Communities that Make a Difference

john saxJohn Sax is a developer.  He also has bold social ideas. He is putting both of these into practice in a $900 Million development in Mangere, Auckland.

John  will be speaking at a VIVA! Network meeting in Christchurch, 12:00 – 2:00pm, Wednesday 26 November.
“Creating Dynamic Communities that Make a Difference”
at Wharekai, Te Puna Wanaka, CPIT
Coventry Street.  ALL Welcome

John Sax, the founder of For the Sake of Our Children Trust which campaigns against child abuse, has been given special housing area status to fast-track consents for a planned 1600 houses on a 15ha former market-gardening site in Walmsley Rd.

He plans to include a “wellness centre”, a family centre, an employment centre, a preschool and possibly a private school.

“We will target on providing wrap-around support and care of people, so we will generally have about 75 per cent robust, well-adjusted family units, and a percentage of those that will be able to support others that are struggling,” he said.

Those houses will be for sale at prices ranging from $320,000 – below the current Mangere East median of $395,000 – up to $800,000 along the Manukau Harbour on the northern edge of the site.

The other 25 per cent of homes will be initially for rent or rent-to-buy.

Taken from an article in the NZ Herald. Read in Full Here