„Affordable Living Space“ 2 - Competition

competition for ideas and realization for modular / industrially produced prefabricated living space


Starting position: The lack of so called “affordable living space” in urban centers / cities and the so-called “refugee crisis” will sooner or later cause increasing tensions because of increasing supply shortages – jobs, welfare budgets of communities etc.
The “clash of civilizations” – the fear of foreigners complicates many things a lot. Things, which are essential for the integration of new-arrivals.

A fundamental challenge for urban and regional planning per se.


The FAZ edits on September 6th , 2015: “The time of architects – for refugees hundreds of thousands of houses need to be built. Domestic building also decides about the country’s future. Where are the great designs?”

In the ZEIT one day ago a title said:” “Yes for prefabricated living spaces!" In the refugee crisis affordable living spaces are becoming even fewer. What to do? Lowering living standards! That asks the Berlin based architect and editor Philipp Meuser in a talk. Shall we even return to prefabricated living spaces?” 

In a first reaction on the government report about housing benefits and rents 2014 the leader of the “Central union of the German building industry (ZDB)”, Felix Pakleppa on Nov. 1st, 2015 says: “The only thing gainst increasing rents is building more… but not for 2500 Euro / m2”.

The ZDB estimates with the help of a study edited by the Hannover based Pestel-Institute for the next five years: “Germany needs 400.000 new apartments every year.”

Also the Federal Minister of Housing and Urban Development, Dr. Barbara Hendricks already invited to a summit talk of the building and housing industry, where the challenge of “integration instead of Ghetto formation” was emphasized.

And – the Düsseldorf based Social Democratic member of parliament Andreas Rimkus reports on his homepage on November 5th, 2015: “New support programs for apprentices’ and students’ apartments starting.”

Thus something’s quite moving in the country.

Further the Düsseldorf based real estate agent Dr. Wulff Aengevelt says in a ZEIT-article with the title: “Refugee Accomodations – the Gold Mine”, the more attractive the kind of accommodation and the place also for other groups of society are, the more independently the question, how many refugees really will stay can be answered. That speaks out for preferably normal houses. And that way against an own asset category.”


Conclusion: A smart forward-looking retrospective on the “social market economy” would mean, that Building + Planning = Integration + Participation shall take place without maceration of minimum wage etc. – that the legislative authority recognizes, that problems / challenges have to be tackld together – for the good of all participants – in the sense of functioning “competitive lawmaking hierarchies” between union (Bund), Federal State and Communities.


Proposal for solution: In an open, European wide invite for tenders – a competition for ideas and realization the best concepts for modular / industrially produced prefabricated living space shall be awarded and developed as sample inventory up to productivity. 



Targets – regarding structural engineering – building and planning laws – economy:

  • production coats of 1500 € / sqm instead of 2500  € / sqm
    (mobile homes and generally – house building in areas of high population density these days). These modular houses should by far exceed the temporary building of mobile homes.
  • Thus modules shall be developed for enabling sustainable and innovative, flexibly usable housing projects.
  • Modules to encounter the increased need of “affordable living space“ under the additional pressure of the “refugee crisis” and which are also applicable in multiple story residential building,
  • Modules, which are flexible in height and material and first of all – are licensable by all building laws of German Federal Lands.
  • Therefore also supporting structural and connection modules and consideration of multiple other parameters for mediation between artistic / functional and building law / structural subjects are needed in addition to existing systems.
  • Quite essential there in the view of time and costs are the high degree of industrial prefabrication, which shall help to decisively reduce the unit costs and to shorten times for building and license and approval.
  • Participants shall be working partnerships consisting from architects, urban planners and specialist engineers – here particularly authorized experts for fire protection, who shall examine and concede the correspondent parameters regarding building laws.
  • Other expertise from specialist engineers or advisory opinions from technical experts shall then if applicable be generated subsequent to the first – in a second round to be shortlisted – thus ENEV – energy balance and building physics, structural engineering, production costs etc. Despite of all structural engineering – building and planning law parameters and strains it’s first of all an architectural and urban planning competition.
  • Building-set like systems, developed by 5-7, maybe also 10-12 or more teams of winners of the competition in several design categories to be defined shall soon then be applicable and suitable for industrial production in the framework of sample inventories.
  • It’s important, that promptly a great variety of ideas and concepts can be examined and some winners then shall be moved forward as “system solutions” for matching the requirements for granting building licenses at the Material examination institutes (MPA’s) and other federally relevant state authorities in the framework of the federal building laws.
  • A deepened collaboration with the building industry is also an essential target regarding planning and production.


Targets – socio-economically – ecologically – politically economically – migration politically:

  • That way also less tension – bigger stress relaxation between refugees / new-arrivals and locals shall emerge – particularly in East Germany.
  • An extension of the markets with many job offers for both groups – locals as much as new-arrivals should enable faster integration / inclusion processes.
  • “Diversity instead of simplemindedness” shall also be representable with regard to mid- and long term increasing “demographic change”. Education and integration take place in a project – in a program. That way there are also more factors contributing to the formation of an identity for the multiple participants.
  • Also the subject of the change of energy supply that way can be speeded up much more efficiently.
  • Nonetheless it is also essential to face prejudices of society against “prefabricated concrete buildings” by corresponding high quality artistic criteria and the diversity of achievable solutions in an open competition.
    “Prefabrication of buildings” that way shouldn’t appear as a way back but in the course of engineering and design development it shall be representable as pragmatic smart contemporary solution of high artistic value.
  • Beauty and nice shape shall not be luxury – dwelling, living and working and the space for that should be affordable for every human.


The competition shall be part of multiple processes of activation – on the field of modification of existing areas and buildings – as keywords here shall be mentioned the themes “reconstruction backlog” and “structural change” – as much as in the “socio economically and ecologically sustainable” new site development of areas – new building. Multiple systems of incentives that way shall be proved and brought to application for tackling these challenges.

Ultimately it’s about nothing less than “social peace” in a country, which because of its history and its demographic profile urgently should prove new forms of integration and inclusion of people of any social and ethnic origin.

Also the subject “equality of educational opportunities” and access to education facilities shall be mentioned here in this extended sense.

Solutions shall invigorate  „Resilience“ – the capacities for resisting impacts and for learning of cities and regions – and the people living there and in between. Problems interpreted as challenges shall be tackled together.


The extension of educational opportunities and the creation of basic elements of services for the public for anyone – housing and living space and work places generally account for each other. A society, which perceives these scopes for design and develops the will for morphogenesis has learnt some essential lessons from its history and call itself happy.


For getting back here to my work at Kabul 2009 / 10:

There we actually were shortly before reactivating the old Soviet housing factory, where once about 7000 people had worked. For an urgently needed sewage system, functioning in a decentralized manner – a “sustainable urban water management” for Kabul and soon then also other places it soon would have required many more jobs and apprenticeship opportunities.

The country would look differently today.


As a conclusion now at this juncture (early December 2015) shall be said: Of course I am not authorized for announcing or calling for bids for such a competition. It’s more about integrating many so-called “multiplicators” – reaching from the architectural associations of the Federal States via their Secretaries of Housing and Urban Development, charities and professional associations etc. to private curators and real estate agents and correspondingly sensibilize them in regard of the necessity of finding common pragmatic strategies.


Nonetheless this shall happen actually quite promptly – in regard of deficiencies and many other factors hinted to here:

Also the production of building-set like systems – “affordable living spaces”, developed by 5-7, maybe also 10-12 or more teams of winners of the competition shall ideally already early 2017 be on track. Then these housing units shall be ready and applicable for industrial production in the framework of sample catalogues. The adaption processes in Federal building laws shall then likewise be set off simultaneously – within then hopefully “competitive legislative hierarchies” between the Union and its Federal States. Relations, which then shall functionally be organized in a more programmatic way.



Images here from Kabul / Afghanistan, Bombay (Mumbai) / India,
Hangzoubay-West / China and Düsseldorf / Germany