former soap factory cleaned up into a sustainable housing project

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Savonnerie Heymans is a social housing project in Brussels, Belgium that was once a former soap factory. After a clean and a clever renovation by MDW Architecture, the project now offers 42 accommodations with a strong focus on sustainability and energy efficiency. New insulation, glass loggias for each apartment, solar power, rainwater collection and much more all combine to make this adaptive reuse project an inspiring place to live.

Located less than half a mile from the Grand’Place in Brussels, Savonnerie Heymans is a social housing project converted from a former soap factory. The green renovation was led by MDW Architecture who worked to retain all of the historical buildings while improving the energy efficiency and sustainability and adding new buildings as necessary. There are 42 accommodations including studios, one- to six-bedroom apartments, lofts, duplexes and maisonettes. Density is counterbalanced with the incorporation of a number of community amenities, such as areas for social meetings and events, a public Ludothèque (game library), the “Mini-forest” garden, the 3D landscaped park, playground and the main promenade.

The original chimney of the factory was retained and used as part of the underground garage ventilation system. Each apartment enjoys a glass-enclosed bioclimatic loggias that acts as an acoustical and thermal barrier requiring no expensive/complicated services to run and lowers energy consumption. Insulation was added to the loft building, which improves its performance to passive standards and requires less than 15 kW per square meter per year to heat. The complex also features a collective heating system for the entire site (cogeneration), sanitary hot water heated by 60m² of solar panels on the roof, rainwater harvesting for toilets, and use of natural materials for insulation like hemp fibers and expanded cork. Savonnerie Heymans was completed in 2011 and is currently up for the Prix Bruxelles Horta 2012, which you can vote for here.

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