urban research overview

real-world experiment ● Floor-space sufficiency

starting point

Buildings are consuming less and less energy per square meter. However, this only has a small impact on climate change. Similar to cars, which became bigger and more powerful as their fuel consumption decreased, per capita living space is increasing as energy efficiency of buildings is improving. Whereas around 1950, Germans had to content themselves with 14 m² per person, per capita living space was as high as 46.7 m² in 2018.

One reason for this increase is that more people live in their own house or in large flats while at the same time the size of an average household is decreasing. Single-person households are currently the trend. However, the size of living spaces considerably affects energy consumption because larger spaces require more energy to be heated.

In short: Every additional square meter produces additional CO₂. Consequently, only little progress has been made with respect to climate protection and energy transition in urban building stock. To change this, we need to use urban space more efficiently.

A group of people at a co-working space

● © Retha Ferguson | Pexels

Together in the neighbourhood

Space is an important resource in sustainable urban development. However, implementing sufficiency, that is an ‘only use what you need’ principle, is not always easy. Many have become used to large living spaces. Even housing and sharing services are rarely designed to provide more comfort in smaller spaces. Nevertheless, today’s technological possibilities offer a unique opportunity to re-adjust standards of ownership and usage and may therefore help us achieve the goal of enhanced quality of life despite living in smaller individual spaces.

This is precisely the aim of the real-world experiment on floor-space sufficiency. Taking Mirke district as an example, our Urban Research Team investigates how unoccupied shops and other empty urban spaces may be used to permanently reduce individual living space. Looking at experimental sharing services developed by and for residents of Mirke district, we wish to find out which concepts may positively affect people in the district, as well as the climate.

We will also consider recent experiences related to the Covid-19 pandemic, such as working from home and other remote ways of working. In particular, we wish to investigate where exactly there is potential to redesign workplaces, as well as other areas of life, in ways that promote sustainability.

Apart from sharing available space, sufficiency may also be improved with intelligent floor plans. Together with the teams of the SDE21 and local residents, we aim to develop solutions for individual and resource-friendly design elements that provide the same or an even higher quality of life, despite minimizing living space.

together in the

● The impact of the real-world experiment will be assessed in our SDE21 citizens’ panel ●
A group of people at lunch

● © Fauxels | Pexels

A bedroom night lamp

● © Christopher Jolly | Unsplash

Join in!

In a pilot project, we will convert several empty spaces in Mirke district in Wuppertal into shared multi-functional spaces, including hostels, shared cooking and co-working spaces. They will serve the same function as rooms that are only used occasionally in private households, such as guest rooms, dining rooms and offices. The shared spaces will be adapted to the neighbourhood and can be rented flexibly and at an affordable price.

Our goal is not primarily to create new services. We also seek to demonstrate how we may redesign all aspects of urban life, including work, free time and community life, in ways that promote sustainability and quality of life. The real-world experiment will be complemented by workshops and peer-learning activities that will explore which services motivate people to change their living spaces:

  • Which services do I need in my neighbourhood in order to give up my guest room, my dining room, etc?
  • Which services do I need in order to consider a smaller flat?
  • Given the appropriate sharing services, what features would this flat need to have to be perfect?

Combining theory and practice, the real-world experiment on floor-space sufficiency will create valuable new services that are intended to provide permanent and transferable solutions.

Join in!