De Kwekerij opts for sustainable timber-frame construction: 840 new homes for young people in Utrecht

In 2021, Machiels Building Solutions (MBS) will deliver a complete prefab façade for the De Kwekerij housing development in Utrecht East (Netherlands). With sustainability an integral part of the whole project, timber-frame construction is a perfect fit, as wood captures CO2 rather than emitting it. This is just one of the reasons why the buildings have been awarded a two-star BREEAM quality rating. MBS will be fitting the façade in front of the floors, thereby forming a single continuous structure. As the building is immediately wind-, water- and air-tight, the interior finishing work can start much faster.

Student housing foundation SSH purchased the former KPN site in Burgemeester Fockema Andreaelaan in Utrecht in 2008, and Jebber and SSH are now overseeing the development of 840 rental homes for students and young professionals. 'De Kwekerij' means 'The Nursery', recalling the time when a number of market gardens occupied the site.

The development is a collaboration with construction firm Dura Vermeer. In keeping with the focus on sustainability, the parking facilities will be geared mainly towards bicycles rather than cars. The development will include hospitality venues and an exhibition space, and greenery and water will also feature prominently, with a former nuclear bunker being converted into a water storage facility and pond. There will be a number of on-site systems generating energy for the homes, and some of the buildings will be topped with a 'green roof'.

Complete timber-frame construction unique in the Netherlands
Dura Vermeer asked MBS to quote for a complete prefabricated façade using timber-frame construction, including cladding, and for the Dutch contractor it turned out to be a budget-friendly solution. "In the Netherlands, the façade is usually fitted between the walls and floors," explains René Oldhof, MBS Sales Engineer for the Netherlands. "But MBS presented an alternative technique whereby the façade is installed in one piece in front of the floors and columns. This immediately creates a single continuous structure. If you place the façades between the walls and floors, you have to make everything watertight afterwards, which takes extra time, whereas with the MBS method, the interior finishing work can begin right away. As the cladding is also prefabricated, the building becomes water-, wind- and air-tight in a single operation."

René knows how important it is to be involved in a project early on: "If we can consult with the architect, we can ensure that the final outcome looks exactly as he or she intended. In this case, for example, thanks to close collaboration with [Rotterdam-based cladding company] Aldowa, the distinctive lines of the buildings have been preserved. By bringing together different areas of expertise, we're able to install the façades without using any scaffolding. This is good news for the budget, and also significantly reduces the CO2 and nitrogen footprint."


Timber-frame construction sustainable due to CO2 storage in wood
"Building with wood is sustainable because CO2 is stored in the construction material. After all, for trees to grow, they need CO2, which they extract from the air and fix in the wood structure. This means you end up with a sustainable solution, especially if you immediately replace the felled trees by planting new ones," says René. "Did you know that the conventional construction process, using large quantities of traditional cement, concrete and steel, releases around 55 tonnes of CO2  per home? So it really is a no-brainer: timber-frame construction offers a pathway to a better future."

> Discover more examples of timber-frame façade construction