SAWA, a sustainable housing complex in Rotterdam
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SAWA, a sustainable housing complex in Rotterdam

It will be the first fully tall wooden residential building in the city: an inclusive place to live, within a climate conscious community

Mei architects and planners

SAWA, a sustainable housing complex in Rotterdam
By Redazione The Plan -

SAWA is a circular affordable housing complex designed by Mei architects and planners in the Lloydkwartier district of Rotterdam, Netherlands. The project, now ready for construction, won first prize in the category "Experimental – Future Projects" at World Architecture Festival 2021.


SAWA, the first fully tall wooden residential building in Rotterdam

SAWA - Mei architects and planners © Mei architects and planners

SAWA was commissioned by Nice Developers & Era Contour to build on the rich historical context of Rotterdam with a project that would respond to international climate goals by reducing CO2 emissions. The structure boasts of being the first full-height timber building of its kind in the city at 50 meters high. Sprinkled with lush landscaped terraces with indigenous plants and flowers, SAWA serves as an example of sustainability at its best.

Since approximately 1900, the Lloydkwartier has been a maritime and the Lloyd Pier owes its name to the business Rotterdamsche Lloyd. SAWA was named after the Eastern rice fields referencing its historical site. The popular industrial harbor context within which SAWA sits provides cultural amenities for its residences ranging from outstanding restaurants to glorious green spaces all with breathtaking views of the water.


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Encouraging interaction between residents

SAWA - Mei architects and planners © Mei architects and planners

Mei’s design incorporates a gallery from which the houses are accessed to encourage interaction between the residents. This design concept also optimizes functionality by sharing circulation, equipment and a vegetable garden. The open plan of the building also allows for flexibility which is appealing to residents who are then able to customize their living spaces.

SAWA’s circular floor is constructed from cross-laminated timber (CLT) topped with dry ballast. The materials are detachable and can be reused or recycled in the future. The plan optimized the use of wood and minimized the amount of concrete and steel used while attending to fire, noise and vibration matters. Additionally, because wood stores CO2 the building cleverly reduces emissions.


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An energy-neutral and inclusive place to live

SAWA - Mei architects and planners © Mei architects and planners

The trees used for SAWA come from sustainable production forests. SAWA is energy-neutral in part due to its use of sustainable district heating, PV panels on the roofs in combination with “remote solar”, cross ventilation, and the adoption of shared communal spaces.

Fifty of the apartments which is approximately half of SAWA’s dwellings will be available for mid-rent. As a result, SAWA will be accessible to all income groups. All too often it is hard for middle-income people to find an affordable place to live in Rotterdam which is increasingly becoming attractive. Urbanization is also challenging our ecosystem, so in addition to its green terraces SAWA has nesting boxes around and on the structure for birds and insects to thrive.

"SAWA, also known as the ‘healthiest building in the Netherlands‘, is thus a example project for new generations, an important step in the sustainability goals and demonstrable proof that things can be done differently". Robert Winkel, Mei architects and planners & Nice Developers.


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Location: Rotterdam, Netherlands
Client: Nice Developers & Era Contour
Architect: Mei architects and planners

Rendering by Mei architects and planners, courtesy of Mei architects and planners

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