Competition Graphis – Sustainable house estate, Zofingen

Competition 2009,  4th place

Energy standard

Minergie-P-ECO Standard

Contract type / Realisation

Competition 2009 /

Building typology

Residential building


Graphis, Construction- and housing cooperative

Project description

In order to successfully plan a sustainable urban quarter development, it is essential to establish equilibrium between social, ecological and economic parameters that influence one another. Zofingen with its rural structure is to be redeveloped between Mühlegasse and Rotfarbstrasse. Ghettoisation i.e. urban agglomeration-like structures such as the ones south-west of Zofingen near the motorway needs to be avoided. To achieve this, a low-rise building structure with a direct connection to outdoor areas and the ground was designed. The development concept is overall consistent with this set objective. The new housing estate uses the urban level for all public and semi-public facilities. Inhabitants and their guests park their vehicles along the Rotfarbstrasse and the channel route, alongside the rows of purple alders (Alnus Spaethii).

The aboveground parking creates an increased bonding with the environment, since the access to the house is not detached by an underground transport level (i.e. underground car park), and one can meet neighbours in a normal living space. Ecological and economic advantages are obvious. This leads to minimal ground-displacement and the sealing of soil. The enormous costs of an underground car park are saved. Tranquil courtyards lay between blocks 1 and 3. Apart from providing access to the houses, they also have small parking places and playground for children. Mastic asphalt refined with bright granite gravel is used for coating; it ensures friendly ambience and has high load-bearing capability. Green private areas along the facades allow the freedom of individual designing to provide a pleasant and homely atmosphere. Larger garden areas for private use are provided for houses on the ground floor on the eastern side of block 4. South-facing areas of the housing estate were intentionally conceived for a common usage by the tenant community.

A playground is designed in block 3. A macadamised community area with adequate sunlight is set to the south of block 4. This area is equipped with long and robust wooden benches for common celebrations, grill places and a playground.

Two lime trees (Tilia cordata) provide soothing shade on hot summer days. In the urban quarter it is not just the grass, bushes and trees that stem in the natural soil – the inhabitants are also bound to their quarter. They identify themselves with Zofingen, use their locality for their personal development and know each other well. This ensures high social sustainability across generations with positive economic results for investors and the municipality.

The low-rise building structure also allows extremely cost-effective and ecological solid-wood structures. This also simplifies the construction of an energy efficient building envelope. Wood-concrete composite covers are used for sound insulation. The Minergie-P-ECO standard and cost efficiency can be integrated despite the relatively small construction volume. The greyed larch formwork renders a warm and inviting atmosphere to the whole building.

Windows are accentuated by big soffits and wooden folding shutters. As per the objective of social sustainability, various apartment types ranging from small studios, efficient flats to spacious maisonette apartments are designed despite the efficient and rigid building grid. The “Hüsli (small house) with garden”, the most favoured housing type of the Swiss, is the fundamental building block the housing complex. Individual entrances, an open-plan with the kitchen as the hub, a house extension with a terrace and a garden and numerous maisonette flats with roof terraces offer maximum living comfort.

The defined raster allows room and bedroom axes to be added or removed from bedrooms; any desired combination ranging from two-and-half to five-and-half room apartments is available. Sanitary blocks with integrated laundry machines are set in an inner core and hence facades are kept free for living-, dining- and bedrooms. The buildings are designed with minimal cellar area. Cellar rooms are made accessible via staircases, which are also used for accessing the outdoor area. An external staircase to the basement can be directly accessed using bicycles.