Constructed in Brussels, the Brutopia housing cooperative illustrates that sustainable design can also be affordable and award-winning. In fact, this multi-story residence recently received The Blue House Prize, which recognizes durable architecture in Belgium developed with private funds. And, the project is satisfying desires of local citizens who dreamed it up, including its design architects, who also happen to live at Brutopia and maintain offices on its ground floor.
“Brutopia is a nice example of sustainable living with shared spaces, water recuperation, a good social and intergenerational mix of people, and multifunctionality,” says Brutopia resident and design architect Serge Fraas of stekke + fraas architecte(s)(n), which formed a temporary partnership with AAAArchitectures to execute stekke + fraas' design. “The jury of The Blue House Prize liked the fact that the project was a result of a citizen initiative. Eighty people started an association and took on the role of a developer. In cooperation with the architects, they succeeded in creating an affordable and sustainable dwelling project in Brussels.”
Brutopia is two structures with a green common area between them. Inside are 29 apartments, 27 of which are Passive Houses and the other two are very low energy. The layouts are open and take advantage of natural lighting and optimal thermal insulation to keep energy costs to a minimum. In addition, residents share access to a laundry room and vegetable garden, both of which are supplied with water recovered from Brutopia's roof, as well as the roof from a building next door. Residents also save on transportation costs because Brutopia has parking areas for bicycles and two cars that they all share.
“It's great to create a building that is sustainable and affordable at the same time,” said Fraas, whose firm used Vectorworks Fundamentals software to design the space. “Vectorworks is a very intuitive program that allowed us to work fast and effectively.”
Fraas enjoys living in a building he helped to create. “The children play together in the garden, and you can meet up with neighbors easily yet still have your privacy," he says. "Plus, it’s wonderful to know that my apartment doesn't consume tons of energy, and I live among a community of people who all enjoy a sustainable lifestyle. It's just great."