While in Berlin I met with Berthold Pesch, an architect and project manager for UTB – a company that delivers Baugruppen housing across Berlin and Germany. A reminder, Baugrupen means ‘group housing’ and is the term used to describe owner built multiple dwelling developments.
As mentioned in my post on Freiburg, this tends to create much more attractive developments, but is also more likely to include sustainability initiatives and tends to cost about 10% less than developer built housing (no developer profits to factor in).
I was keen to learn more about how this works in practice when the ‘developer’ is removed and a collective of owner occupiers work together to design and construct the housing they want to live in.
UTB have become a specialists in the field and I was shown around one of their largest and most recent projects in the trendy Berlin suburb of Templehoff.
Firstly Berthold explained that every project is different. Sometimes groups approach them with a site they have found to project manage the development. Other times they find the land and work on finding clients who want to live there.
He explained the process that UTB undertakes:
- A one year contract is signed with the land owner to allow the project to be developed prior to the purchase of land – this is essential to allow time to find the future homeowners and for finance and agreements to be determined.
- Two banks currently loan to Baugruppen owners and have developed a process on how to best handle them.
- Two thirds of the owners must pay at least 20% deposit, with the price being determined on $pm2 basis of the final product.
- The Baugruppen group is established.
- Regular meetings are held with owners to design the development (usually every 6 weeks).
- There is usually a small core group of owners that are very hands on and meet weekly or fortnightly to go over finer detail – this usually project managers to proceed quickly and share the workload, therefore keep down costs.
- Planning permits are obtained.
- A construction company is engaged to build within an agreed budget.
- The bank signs loan contracts with the members of the Baugruppe on the basis of the overall calculations and the individual shares.
- The project manager (UTB) receives a fee, usually between 2 – 6% of total costs, to oversee financial management and cash flow, manage the project, contractors etc.
- In total, about 25% of the project cost goes on professional services like architects, planners, engineers, project managers etc. but the cost still usually comes in cheaper than a standard developer project.
The development I saw at Stadtquartier Friesenstraße in Templehoff, includes 180 apartments in total, comprised of a number of “houses” – each one developed separately either as Baugruppen or private developers.
Owners of flats in all of the houses agreed to consolidate the open space into an internal park that is shared used by all.
After extensive consultation with residents, it was beautifully landscaped to include play equipment an outdoor fire, various seating and picnic areas, climbing equipment and lots of mature trees. The agreement between owners means that this park cannot revert to private ownership or any major changes without agreement by all.
Berthold pointed out that most people are concerned with their own apartment coming in at a price they can afford or consider good value and little else. Sadly smashing my utopian fantasy… However with the collective purchasing power of multiple owners, you can get efficiencies that mean quality is more affordable for all.
Berlin does not have a minimum car bay policy for housing, it is up to the developer / owner to put in what they want. Plans were made for 180 car bays – which would be bought by apartment owners separately to the purchase of their home. Amazingly, only 70 bays were sold, and as such provided. (Note; two bike parking spaces are required per apartment – and you could see these were well used.)
There is a busy road and live music venue adjacent to the development site, so offices and light industry (bespoke furniture manufacturing) was positioned strategically on the edge of the development with a design that acts very effectively as a sound buffer.
When news of the large development spread around the local neighbourhood, there were some immediate neighbours who were initially concerned. They soon learned that most of the owners in the Baugruppen were from the existing surrounding community, their concerns were assuaged and a means of communication between the existing and new neighbours was established.
Attached is a presentation from UTB that shows how the project was developed.UTB – building a Baugruppen in Templehoff, Berlin
All this was very useful as we proceed with the Alternative Housing dialogue in Fremantle and the proposal for a Baugruppen demonstration project on Quarry Street.
I can see how this could work in Fremantle, I hope this info helps get the ball rolling. I have high hopes for the housing development model that sees community members and owners build the housing they want to live in rather than what developers want to build (for a profit).
*Big thanks to Prof. Geoffrey London for putting me in touch with UTB