Urban densification

The various concepts of densification offer great potential for combating the housing shortage in cities. Closing gaps between buildings, repurposing outdated buildings or adding storys creates living space where it is most urgently needed.

As a counter-concept to building on the outskirts of the city, densification makes use of vacant plots in the area of existing development plans. These are remaining plots or gaps between buildings that are difficult to build on due to their size or unfavorable layout. New architectural and urban development concepts are needed to develop them. Building in the second row, adding storys, converting or docking areas are an important part of the housing supply in cities.

Addition of storyes

In order to keep additional sealing of open spaces to a minimum, the conversion and addition of storys to existing buildings is playing an increasingly important role. In addition to the aspects mentioned above, there are economic reasons for making better use of existing residential, office and commercial buildings or disused industrial buildings. There are already numerous examples of this, and the process is far from complete – on the contrary, the advancing possibilities of prefabrication hold enormous potential that is far from exhausted.

Wood is predestined for adding storeys

Due to its favorable ratio of dead weight to load-bearing capacity, timber is more suitable than almost any other building material for adding storyes and extensions to existing buildings. This is because the statics in particular determine whether a building is suitable for this. Many old buildings generally have the necessary structural reserves – but a detailed structural analysis is essential in any case.

Upgrading the top story ceiling is often a very simple way of ensuring the required load-bearing capacity. A high degree of prefabrication of the attached timber construction not only shortens the construction time, but it also reduces the restrictions on the use of a building during the work if it is to be carried out while the building is in operation or occupied.

Building in established neighborhoods

In addition, the existing urban infrastructure can be used. This includes the technical infrastructure, such as roads, electricity, water and telephone lines. But the social component is no less important: densification does not result in typical new development areas; construction takes place in already established neighborhoods. Shopping facilities, doctors’ offices, and institutional buildings such as schools or kindergartens already exist and, in contrast to the planning of new neighborhoods, do not have to be given special consideration. In addition, social and cultural offerings can be used due to their proximity.

Seizing opportunities for urban development

A look at the urban development of our time proves that densification is more than just a means to an end. A vibrant, lively city cannot function without densification. This is the only way to keep distances to work, existing infrastructure and cultural offerings short. However, the urban development quality of established urban spaces is often abandoned. Streets lose their amenity value and meeting areas or green spaces are reduced in size, reducing their contribution to good living conditions. At the same time, densification can have a rejuvenating effect on a neighborhood: new residents, higher purchasing power, return of local supplies. The efficient use of resources and space also promotes climate protection.

Cost advantage

The cost advantage should not be neglected: due to their unfavorable floor plans, plots in building gaps are often cheaper, as no one has previously wanted to buy them. However, as the number of single-person households is demonstrably increasing, small property sizes are also becoming increasingly attractive. The Federal Statistical Office forecasts an increase in single-person households to almost 19 million by 2035 – this corresponds to 44 percent of all German households. The inclusion of existing firewalls and building materials will save additional costs and, above all, time.

Taking the neighborhood into account during planning

If you have a creative planner, you can realize modern and individual architecture in the course of densification. The results are often slender structures, minimalist details, vertically cut rooms and contemporary materials and constructions. In the neighborhood, however, you often find yourself on difficult terrain, as residents’ cherished habits can bring resistance to a project – for example, if parking habits must be changed or the view from the kitchen window will be different. In the worst-case scenario, resistance can easily drive-up construction costs, prolong the construction period and hamper the commitment of developers and housing companies. It is therefore important to involve the neighborhood and take it into account when planning. It is also important to visually integrate the new building into the existing neighboring buildings.

Yesterday an office, today an attractive living space