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The Nest

Award category
Regaining a sense of belonging
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NEW EUROPEAN BAUHAUS RISING STARS: concepts or ideas submitted by young talents (aged 30 or less)
Project title
The Nest
Full concept/idea title
Student housing with a sense of belonging and in harmony with its surroundings

Student housing is boring. The endless corridors and copy/pasted rooms offer little stimulus or engagement and provide only the bare minimum necessary for life. The Nest aims to create a sense of place and belonging through the mix of different housing typologies and personal backgrounds. Instead of dozens of single or double bedrooms that all look the same, each unit is unique and offers a different set of characteristics, opening the student dormitories to new and exciting possibilities.

What is the geographical scope of your concept/idea?
Does your concept/idea address mainly urban or rural issues?
Mainly urban
Does your concept/idea refer to a physical transformation of the built environment or other types of transformations?
It refers to a physical transformation of the built environment ('hard investment')
Has your concept/idea benefited from EU programmes and/or funds?
Has your concept/idea won an EU prize?
How did you hear about the New European Bauhaus Prizes ?
Social media
On whose behalf are you submitting the application?
As an individual in partnership with other persons
Please provide a summary of your concept/ idea

The main goal of the design is to create a place that feels like home. For that, we looked for inspiration in nature. The nest is the bird’s home, and it elicits a feeling of protection and comfort. Based on it, we propose a design that revolves around a common central space for the students, creating opportunities for interaction and sharing of different experiences. Three different clusters of housing units, each containing a mix of dorms, studios and houses, surround a central, shared common space. The layout allows for a sense of security and protection while also sparkling social interaction. 

The mix of housing typologies (shared dormitories, individual studios and houses) attracts students from all kinds of backgrounds, and the common spaces invites students to mix and mingle and explore the different aspects of each housing unit. The sense of place is strengthened by the community. The goal is to create a myriad of social settings, from the private to the public with all its intermediaries. This social layout replicates the one experienced at home, fostering a sense of belonging and home that is otherwise missing in traditional student housing. 

Surrounding the central housing clusters, two public squares with commercial spaces and community gardens invite the neighboring community to also take part in the social life of the project. The squares tie the student housing complex with the existing community, providing missing aspects of urban life in the neighborhood.

Please indicate the main themes of your concept/idea with 5 key words
Please give information about the key objectives of your concept/idea in terms of environmental sustainability (including circularity) and how these would be met.
Please highlight how the concept/idea can be exemplary in this context

Sustainability is one of the main pillars of the conception of the Nest, especially the environmental pillar. The project addresses the challenges of developing a resilient and responsive building environment, aware of its surroundings and in sync with the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations.  
Environmental sustainability was taken into consideration in every phase of the project.  Starting from the very beginning, one main decision was to build from the surrounding natural materials (just like a nest is built). Thus, wood was chosen to be the construction and structural material for its availability in Northern Italy and its reusability at the end of the building life span. 

Then, for the phase of massing and orientations, every decision was taken based on an energy analysis stimulation and/or daylight simulations versus that design aspect, to optimize the EUI and thermal comfort of the users as much as possible. Starting from the form and its orientation, the glazing to wall ratios, the thermal properties of the envelope, shading devices, all the way to HVAC system and clean energy production on site. All these optimizations have led to a reduction of 72% in the EUI compared to the base model before any changes.  

Environmental sustainability was not only restricted to the building, but also in the urban scale. Collecting rainwater from roofs and reusing it in the green areas, having permeable pavements to avoid floods, preserving old trees in their places, increasing biodiversity, and allocating public gardening on site for students and surrounding communities are all different examples to be an exemplary in that region.  

Please give information about the key objectives of your concept/idea in terms of aesthetics and quality of experience beyond functionality and how these would be met.
Please highlight how the concept/idea can be exemplary in this context

The design takes inspiration from the bird’s nest both in form and function. In order to maintain the aesthetic and complement the design language, timber appears as the central architectural element. Starting from the structure, which uses CLT panels and glulam beams, facilitating the construction through pre-fabrication and modularity, reducing waste and energy expenditure; all the way to the façade elements and finishes, using timber cladding, brises, and frames against white backgrounds to highlight them.

Wood as a construction element presents a lot of benefits. The lower thermal conductivity reduces energy loss, and the wood itself also acts as a carbon sink and can be recycled once the project reaches its end-life, contributing to the circularity and sustainability of the construction industry. Timber is also a natural material, eliciting a biophilic response from humans that can be beneficial to our well-being and self-esteem. It is much more pleasant to the touch than steel or aluminum, for example. 

The housing layout provides ample access to nature and daylight from all units. Each cluster contains a private garden, balconies and common terrace lounges. The private gardens create a middle-space that separates the private areas from the public, elegantly ensuring privacy without strong barriers that impede social contact. Instead, the three-dimensional nature of the project creates opportunities for interaction across multiple levels and contexts, from internal to external, ground floor to terrace, natural space to built space, and so on. 

The use of nature as a source of not only inspiration but also of renewable resources makes the design an example of how architecture can use biophilia to influence and improve social settings and life. The quality of space is important to how humans feel and behave and designing spaces that are more sustainable and collaborative will inherently lead to a community that is stronger and more vibrant than ever.

Please give information about the key objectives of your concept/idea in terms of inclusion (equal opportunities, public participation, citizen engagement, co-design, universal design, accessibility, affordability, etc.) and how these would be met.
Please highlight how the concept/idea can be exemplary in this context

One of the main concepts of the Nest project is to provide a sense of belonging, that permeates the various layers of social interaction proposed in the design. The inclusiveness and the accessibility are not only taking into consideration the inhabitants of the student housing, but also the neighborhood that will benefit from the communal spaces. Such values are applied throughout the site, with the equity principle as a driving force.  

To come up with equal opportunities on the project, the diversity of its occupants was considered during its conception. Deviating from the classic approach to student housing, the Nest reflects the plurality of the users on the design by proposing diverse typologies of accommodation. These differences are not only perceived in terms of preferences and needs, such as various levels of privacy, but also in terms of accessibility. Most housing typologies are adequate for people with disabilities and the location of communal areas was prioritized on the ground floor. When placed on the upper floors, those areas are still reachable due to the presence of elevators in every building. 

The project also promotes community engagement by providing spaces for the development of various activities. For instance, urban gardening areas are proposed on a site region that allows both internal and external communities to interact. In addition, community spaces on site edges are provided with urban furniture and sports facilities, which may function as ordinary settings but also may be a platform for events, such as weekly markets and fairs. 

All these inclusivity concepts are also regardful of the site surroundings and connection to the city. The location is provided with strong public transport connections and is surrounded by diverse urban functions, such as commercial and educational buildings. Considering this, the Nest is a democratic place that converges people from diverse backgrounds.  

Please explain how these three dimensions would be combined in your concept/idea.
Please highlight how this approach can be exemplary

The Nest is a project that encompasses inclusiveness and sustainability, without compromising aesthetic values. When conceiving the first ideas, it was decided to adopt a holistic approach, in order to address all those concepts in a balanced way. Therefore, the design process was followed by constant back and forth between the decisions adopted in every step. 

In terms of choice of materials, the main language of the project is wood. A material that is in accordance with the sense of belonging, that brings the idea of coziness and proximity. It is also less harmful to the environment when compared to other typical construction materials, especially considering its life cycle. On that premise, the aesthetic decisions were strongly supported by wellbeing and environmental responsiveness. For instance, the shading elements are not only visually pleasing, but also a result of daylight simulations to maximize comfort and reduce energy use.  

Having nature as an inspiration, the greenery presence comes as a prompt choice, that was further developed. The existing trees that were kept on site preserve heritage and function as shading devices during some seasons. In addition, the green areas were increased when compared to the initial conditions of the site, to achieve a satisfying level of permeable surfaces, considering the rainfall distribution throughout the year. Such areas also provide multipurpose spaces that promote community engagement, health and quality of life.  

Apart from being a student housing project, our goal is also to create a platform for the surrounding neighborhood. The urban gardening area, for instance, aims to bring people together and be a possible response to conscious food consumption. The communal areas are accessible, connected to green spaces and optimized for human comfort. Therefore, the Nest is a place where people live sustainably, feeling at home and part of a community.

Please highlight the innovative character of the concept/idea as compared to mainstream practices in the field of the concept/idea.

Differently from the standard student house buildings, the one proposed focus not only on the quantity of students that it can allocate, but also on the quality of their lives. During the last pandemic we understood more than ever how important it is to live in a welcoming and comfortable environment. We tried reach this goal by designing spaces adequate to the various necessities of the students, other than paying particular attention to the quality of daylight and thermal comfort. The materials choice played an important role as well, preferring natural, sustainable but still affordable materials.  

Compared to the mainstream practice, extensive studies have been conducted during the design phase. The analysis of the energy consumption and daylight allowed to optimize the building to reduce the facility management costs during its lifetime. The study of every construction detail (also in terms of thermal performance and condensation problems) will reduce the possible mistakes and cost increase during the construction phase. 

The use of wood, and CLT in particular, is still a niche in the construction industry. We believe that being brave enough to embrace new technologies is the only way to guarantee a sustainable future to our sector. 

Please detail the general plans that you have for the further development, promotion and/or implementation of your concept/idea.

“There’s no shortage of remarkable ideas, what’s missing is the will to execute them” Seth Godin 

That “will” we have, is translated into our further plans we have on to see our ideas and visions further spread and implemented around, hoping to change the way dormitories are designed and to make it feel more like a home rather than a temporary place.  

This project was part of the Reinventing Cities Competition in which financial studies weren’t part of it, so having a financial study is our first step to completing the feasibility of the project.  
Meanwhile, applying for competitions to get more recognition and reliability for the project, so we can have a stronger foundation when trying to reach out to authorities. Thus, in order to reach the municipality of Milano, we are planning to first pitch the project to more professors in the university, since we are students at Politecnico di Milano. This along with competition awards and recognition, would ease the path for us to reach more authorities in Milan, to further spread of our concept.  

Imagine that your idea/concept is awarded in the New European Bauhaus Prizes 2022. What kind of initiatives would you take throughout the following year (June 2022- June 2023)

We believe our project can be an inspiration to students and professionals in the field of student and social housing. If it would be awarded in the New European Bauhaus Prizes, it would be a great help to promote the project to a large audience. The best way to spread good practices in the architecture and building sector is to show an actual project applying them, proving that a new, sustainable way is possible. A concrete way to do this would be to through a publication explaining the whole design process, in addition to the results reached at the end, to be available for free to anyone interested. We would also be open to suggestions from other professionals and students, other than student houses inhabitants, creating a network of people and ideas to establish guidelines and good practices in the designs of dormitories. 

By ticking this box, you declare that you are not in in one or more of the exclusion situations foreseen under Article 136 of the Financial Regulation.
By ticking this box, you declare that all the information provided in this form is factually correct, that you assume sole liability in the event of a claim relating to the activities carried out in the framework of the contest, that the proposed concept/idea has not been proposed for the New European Bauhaus Prizes 2022 in any other category or strand and that it has not been subject to any type of investigation, which could lead to a financial correction because of irregularities or fraud.
By submitting your application, you guarantee that you are the author or have the rights to proceed with the application and to authorise the use of the project, concept, idea, and that you have obtained any necessary consents, licenses or assignments from third parties and included copyright notices when necessary.
By submitting your application, you understand that all the applications that meet the eligibility requirements will be shared for the purposes of the selection processes, and notably published on the secured platform and for the purposes of the promotion of these on the New European Bauhaus website and/or other European Commission communication channels. In this sense, the applications would be widely available. Applicants should ensure that they present their ideas, concepts, projects, in such a way that they could be shared without giving rise to intellectual property related concerns. If your submission is selected as one of the finalists, it will additionally be shared for the purpose of the public vote that will take place. The European Union is granted a licence to use and share your application with the general public and the official external experts for the purposes of the selection process, including the voting. The European Union has the right to use the images and visual materials and the description provided in the application for communication purposes related to the contest and beyond. Rights granted comprise the right to store, reproduce, display, publish and communicate or distribute copies in electronic or digital format, including, but not only, through the internet. Unless you have disclosed your name, the European Commission has no obligation to share your name when using or disseminating your contribution to the public. The European Union cannot be held responsible in case any submitted idea, project, concept is found to infringe third parties rights. The European Union shall be neither responsible for the use that third parties may do of the applications or related content.


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