A group of residents of Brussels teamed up and worked together to build Brutopia, a large scale cohousing project. Their focus was set on durability, prosperity, ecology and social diversity.
The new building project, within a stone’s throw of the contemporary art centre Wiels, consists of 2 volumes, connected by a large shared garden. Brutopia includes 29 apartments, some business spaces and a local service centre. The result is a compelling mix of living and working. The themes ‘planet’, ‘people’, ‘prosperity’ and ‘participation’ are the common threads throughout this innovative complex.
The site was chosen because of its good connection to general public transport facilities. In addtion, a large scale bicycle parking has been created and the inhabitants have set up a car sharing system. Out of the 29 apartments, 27 are considered ‘passive’ housing while the other 2 are considered ‘very-low energy’ housing. Seven of the appartments are zero energy entities. Rainwater recuperation systems and solar panels cover the roofs. Brutopia won the « examplary building 2009 » award organised by Brussels Environment as well as the « Blue house 2013 » prize for sustainable and affordable housing.
Both young adults and senior citizens live together in Brutopia. Besides age, diversity is also present in terms of language, income and profession and the whole building has been made accessible for persons with reduced mobility. The cohousing project provides the residents as well as the neighbourhood with spaces of encounter. Among others, there is a shared garden, laundry room and multifunctional space. The presence of business spaces as well as a service centre for the local elderly further strengthen the connection with the surrounding neighbourhood.
The residents of Brutopia took the work of the « usual » property developer into their own hands. Without this collaboration, most of them would not have been able keep or start residing in the capital.
The apartments have variable floor areas and adapted economical values, thus making the project accessible to a divers group of people. The apartments were delivered as « empty shells » : inhabitants are free to arrange their apartment according to their needs and capabilities.
The whole building process has been carried through in a participatory way, a concept still in practice in the project nowadays. The residents, all having their own specific competences, took over the role of the project developer. To do this, they started a nonprofit organisation with a general assembly, a management board and governing board. To secure the democratic functioning of the project and its viability, different working groups were set up, each responsible for a specific part of the building project (community, finances, subsidies, construction site, and so on). This structure of autonomous working groups made it possible to divide the workload while guaranteeing the participations of all the residents.
Material Used :
1. Kalzip for facade cladding in aluminium
2. Resitrix for the roof waterproofing