If you Google the word premium, you get descriptions like “special attention to design, equipment and quality in details,” “premium is about status” or “premium is more like a feeling, a feeling that makes one prepared to pay a premium price for a product”.
In Greenhouse Sthlm’s concept, the premium feeling is no longer “only” based on price, status, design, functionality or quality. It also includes an awareness that the product is made in a sustainable and climate-smart way. It is our ambition to understand and adjust the construction process to a reality were building apartments and living in them must be done with a lower CO2 imprint.
We have had many discussions about what a buyer expects from a newly produced apartment. What is perceived as premium, and what is not? This has included floor heating in the bathroom, the opportunity to control the indoor climate, ceiling height, naked wooden walls and access to a pool and green lush courtyards. Below we are sharing some examples of the thinking behind.
The ceiling height in our apartments is 2,4 meters, somewhat less than the 2,5 m which is often the standard in new apartments. Since the detailed development plan sets a clear limit as to the total height of the building and since we wanted to build in wood, we were faced with a decision: In order to meet the requirement on total height, we either had to reduce the building by one floor or abandon the idea to build in wood. Our decision was to keep the ceiling height at 2,4 meters and build in wood. This is better both economically and climate-wise, and also means that the heavy CO2 foundation work is divided on a larger number of square meters. To experience the roof height by yourself, welcome to visit our full scale apartment model.
The next question was about climate control – not just heating the apartment but also cooling it. Since there was not enough room in the floors to install water-borne heating and cooling, we started looking in to a relatively new solution which entails heating and cooling the apartment using small, local air-ventilation units. This is relatively common in offices, but so far not that common in apartments. The climate is controlled through a control panel in the apartment or via an app, which means that one can adjust and turn down the amount of fresh air when one isn’t home. This means that the total amount of air being heated or cooled can be reduced, which in turn lowers the total energy consumption. It also meant that we avoided having to install radiators in front of the generous floor- to-ceiling windows, and that is also important for the premium feeling.
Why wooden walls?
Two reasons. Making plaster entails large CO2 emissions and all plaster that is built into a house thus adds to the climate imprint. Still, we are used to plaster in our apartments, both in the walls and ceilings. It is a good material to cover with paint or wallpaper and it keeps its form over time. Sometimes it is also necessary with plaster, either because of fire safety or acoustics. In brf Gourmet, we only use plaster in the ceiling and in the walls where it is necessary for fire safety. The other walls are in visible wood.
To start with, wood is a living material. This means that it absorbs or emits moisture, depending on the humidity. This can cause cracks in the wood which means that it seldom is a good idea to put wallpaper direct on a wooden wall. If you want to paint or wallpaper walls in a way that will look good, you need to use plaster drywalls. Here, premium as we are used to thinking about it, in beautifully and carefully painted or nice wallpaper walls, is weighed against the nice feeling of a natural and living material, which also helps maintain a good humidity in the room. To us, wood walls are really premium, and they make a difference from a climate perspective in double sense.
Floor heating in the bathroom?
After much discussion, we came to the conclusion that we believe that those who buy an apartment in brf Gourmet will value the total savings of CO2 (the CO2 for building it as well as the energy consumption for running it) higher than the feeling of stepping on to a warm floor. So, we decided not to go for floor heating, which is very energy-demanding. (And, yes, everyone who moves in will get a bathroom mat as a moving in present!)
Having access to and being able to look out on a green courtyard is an important part of the premium feeling. Being in green environments is also good for your health. At the same time, it is hard to justify an investment in a green courtyard which is also located on a roof top. In Greenhouse Sthlm, the cost per individual who will have access to the yards will be low. And a courtyard is not only recreation, it also gives shade, and the garden helps to delay the rain being gushed out into the city’s storm water system (which also reduces the risk of roads and cellars being flooded during heavy rains). The trees and plants growing in the yard absorb CO2 and contribute to bio-diversity as well as providing a home for our smallest inhabitants – insects, bees and birds. When the yards are being created, the roofs will get additional isolation which will improve the office area’s energy performance and reduce its climate imprint. The decision to have lush green courtyards in Greenhouse Sthlm was an easy one to make. Imagine drinking your morning coffee on the balcony with birds chirping in the background. That is definitely premium.
But the pool?
That a pool contributes to the premium feeling is something most people would agree with, but does it really belong in a building project with high environmental ambition? We have done our homework and really kneaded this question, but the analysis is complex and depends on how it is used, the water temperature, cleaning methods etcetera. We landed in that the heating of the pool during summer, when district heating is not needed to heat the apartments, is a lesser problem. At the same time, it is easy to control and cut back on heating the pool during the coldest days of winter when district heating and electrical systems are most strained. And, perhaps one can stretch the thought: Could it be that the access to that little extra – a nice pool with the chance to enjoy the sunset over town from first row and a fantastic restaurant a floor down – could that contribute to lowering the climate impact some other place, perhaps because an airline trip which can “cost” up to 1 million ton of CO2 doesn’t happen?
”Affordable premium” – a neighborhood in symbiosis
A unique basis for Greenhouse Sthlm is, due to its mixed content, that the square meters can be used in an efficient way both on a daily and yearly basis. The neighborhood presumes a mutual giving and taking, to the benefit of all who lives and works here. And when enough people share something that normally is considered ”premium,” such as access to pool and sauna with great city views, or living next door to a restaurant with a unique fine-dining offer, the cost becomes manageable. This is something that we have opted to call “affordable premium”.
During summer, when the office activity drops, and on nights and weekends, the green courtyards and other shared facilities will mainly be used by the residents. Weekdays, when they go off to their work or studies (unless they choose to work from the Greenhouse “Coffice”) the people working in the block will in turn use the space more.
We will also be offering a rental service that will benefit both the residents and the office workers. As far as we know, there is no real good reference case for this, but we assume that the office operations will have a basic need for hotel overnights for its guests and that some of these can be in Greenhouse Sthlm if some of the residents are willing to rent out their apartments. In the brf Gourmet’s statues, it is stated that the owner has the right to rent out his or her apartment up to 90 days per year and we make that easy by offering a rental service.
What is premium for you?
What feelings will our property and its offerings awake? That is something we leave for everyone who will experience Greenhouse Sthlm to discover. But it is our belief and expectation that the feeling of “affordable premium” will be part of it. It has been our ambition to create something that allows more people access to a living space with clear elements of premium, which also includes the nice feeling of knowing that the climate imprint of one’s home is a bit smaller.
That’s our thinking!
If you have a question or thought about this, don’t hesitate to mail us at:
Ulrika Kågström, AB Electrolux, overall responsible for the Greenhouse Sthlm property development.
Rasmus Olsen Falk, Hedström & Taube, Consultant, in charge of environmental certification and carbon dioxide calculations in the project.