On the 6,500m² site of a former soap factory less than half a mile from the Grand’Place, the social housing project creates a real “village” of 42 sustainable accommodations of different types including studios, 1 to 6-bedroom apartments, lofts, duplexes and Maisonettes. Although a 100% public housing scheme, thanks to the diversity of its program the Savonnerie Heymans provides a variety of spaces echoing the diversity of the people living in the very heart of Brussels. Glass-enclosed bioclimatic loggias characterise the entire complex, providing an effective acoustical and thermal barrier but also providing a sense of privacy.
Considering Brussels’ rapid growth in population, the scheme features high density accommodations equipped with amenities such as a room for social meetings and events, a public Ludothèque (game library) and extensive public space: the “Mini-forest” garden, the 3D landscaped park and playground and the main promenade.
All the existing valuable – but not listed – historic buildings and elements such as the chimney, the main 19th century house on the street and the postal relay were retained and integrated into the complex (the 40m high chimney, for example, was used as part of the underground garage ventilation system).
The glass-enclosed bioclimatic loggias provide each housing unit with a state-of-the-art acoustical and thermal barrier requiring no expensive/complicated services to run and lowering considerably energy consumption. The Loft building has been treated one step further as thanks to super-tight insulation, the building is now considerate “Passive” and requires less than 15 Kw per square metre per year to heat.
Located on the site of a former soap factory, the decontaminated land now welcomes a high-density social housing complex that provides a series of private outdoor spaces allowing its occupants to interact easily with each other and creating a convivial, village-like atmosphere.
The variety of buildings – new, renovated and refurbished – reflects the variety of accommodations offered in the Savonnerie Heymans project.
The scheme was intentionally developed around the concepts of sustainable development and relies on low-serviced buildings. The glass-enclosed bioclimatic loggias provide each housing unit with a buffer acting as a state-of-the-art insulation tool lowering considerably energy consumption and protecting from the city centre noises. They also allow sharing the variety of arrangements of the semi outdoor space of each individual unit.
The Lofts is a passive building while the rest of the complex is low-energy rated. Beside the bioclimatic loggias, the scheme also features a collective heating system for the entire site (cogeneration), sanitary hot water heated by 60m² of solar panels, rainwater harvesting for toilets, maintenance and gardens and natural materials for insulation (hemp fibres, expanded cork etc.). Whenever possible, existing buildings and structures have been retained and reused.
Location: Brussels, Belgium
Architects: MDW Architecture
Photographs: Filip Dujardin