HSB Living Lab

Gothenburg, Sweden
Foto © Felix Gerlach
Foto © Felix Gerlach
Foto © Felix Gerlach
Foto © Felix Gerlach
Foto © Felix Gerlach
Foto © Felix Gerlach

Collaborative project
Years of Commission
Type of Project
Research & Development
Chalmers, HSB, Johanneberg Science Park, Akademiska Hus, Bengt Dahlgren, Electrolux, Elfa, Göteborg Energi, Peab, Tieto, Vedum

Future Inhabitants Under The Microscope


In this unique living laboratory students and researchers live side by side, as we research their living habits, as well as the materials and technology of crucial importance for how we will build the future. Based on the facts we obtain, we are formulating the change we see as necessary to provide better conditions for future generations.


In the autumn of 2013 we made the decision, as the first external partner, to join the project HSB Living Lab. This decision resulted in phase one, which meant that we contributed to a brick-and-mortar location along with our other partners, HSB, Chalmers and Johanneberg Science Park. Today, we are twelve partners. HSB Living Lab is a unique research project in which new technological, social and architectural innovations will be tested in real life. For ten years, the house will serve as a living laboratory and home to about 40 students and researchers.


It is an arena for developing new ways to build and shape the future of housing, as well as a platform for work between collaboration partners. It will feature a residential section with student housing and an exhibition area, including offices, meeting rooms and showrooms for research. The project is one of a kind, as it is the first house where people will live while the research goes on.


Our role as architects

We of course designed the building, but it is much more than just a physical shelter. We designed the conditions for a changing research platform, adaptable from both a financial and functional standpoint, based on the scientific work to be conducted in the building. The structure is based on modules, which are part of the research and which will be evaluated for future housing solutions and assessed as, for example, infill projects on a street or as solitary structures in an open area. Parts of these units could also be placed on a roof to create a three-dimensional property.


As architects, we have a great deal of responsibility towards social-centric building and thinking in a broader perspective with a long-term view. What we plan and build today must be adapted for the future, with the largest foundation in reality. But what can we really know about the future? Nothing, many would argue, but our commitment to the HSB Living Lab is a unique opportunity for us to participate in the dialogue on research and housing, both in the present and in the future. Along the way, we have the opportunity to ask questions such as: Why are things the way they are today? How did they get this way? Is there anything we can change, and if so, how? Do things correspond with what we see as the needs of our times?


What (and what not) to do

It is easy to get caught up in what not to do, and hindsight is of course 20-20. For example, many of us agree that it is not a good idea to build homes based on laws and rules derived from the 1940s and 1950s – something the trade still does today.


This hardly results in buildings for the future that are tailor-made for generations with very different needs and outlooks on life than their parents had. Research similar to what we are entering into with HSB Living Lab has been done before. References include kitchen studies in the People’s Home (Folkhemmet) in the Swedish 1930s and the Case Study Houses that were built in the United States in the post-War period as an experiment to remedy the then acute housing shortage. Many experiments like these can be written off as a flop today, as they were not at all on the mark about what people wanted. So what is there to suggest that this living lab will achieve success?


People in focus

The house is of course a technical stronghold, including hundreds of sensors that monitor and analyse the residents’ lifestyle and habits. How often and when the window and the refrigerator open is measured, for example, to determine when it makes sense to start cooling. Electricity and water are two major areas that will be analysed, but of course, no one wants the residents to feel “monitored”. For this reason, all of the data is coded. The residents should view the building first and foremost as a home, while all partners should have the opportunity to ‘dress the house’ with their specific knowledge and research. The basis for this is democratic design.


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