The IABR will test the ‘Energy Districts’ concept at the district level to investigate how the energy transition can be included in urban development projects. At the level of the neighborhood and the inhabitants, we will investigate how to use it to achieve social and inclusive urban projects rather than a purely technical, legal, and financial exercise. The current system, which is based on individual consumption, will have to evolve into a system in which producer collectives play an important role if we want to keep our energy supply affordable and make it efficient enough. The district is the level at which we can organize this ‘collective action’.

Tests in Three Rotterdam Districts
The assumption behind the ‘Energy Districts’ concept is that it can be used as leverage to promote both the energy transition and broader social goals and challenges in the districts themselves. The IABR–Atelier zooms in on three locations in the city to test this assumption together with local stakeholders. Taking advantage of the opportunities that are present in a number of Rotterdam districts and of the broad scope of ‘district types’ that the Atelier wants to involve in the process, various test districts have been identified. The aim is to develop a model, based on specific Rotterdam cases, that can on the one hand be implemented in Rotterdam, but on the other is more widely applicable in different contexts inside and outside the city.

The first location in which the IABR–Atelier has started is the Bospolder-Tussendijken district (BoTu). This complex district faces major social challenges, including high unemployment rates. Many residents are relatively poor, and there is increasing energy poverty as well. At the same time, the district has a strong social dynamic and it’s overflowing with local initiative.
BoTu has a lot of public housing, with dwellings that are owned by housing associations. A large number of these dwellings are up for renovation in the coming years and the housing associations face the task of addressing this process as integrally and sustainably as possible.


picture: Frank Hanswijk

The IABR–Atelier Rotterdam is investigating and testing how all of these challenges can be dealt with together: how the energy transition can act as a lever to promote a more inclusive form of urban development. The IABR is also exploring BoTu’s connection with the adjoining Merwede-Vierhavens District (M4H), which together with the RDM Rotterdam forms the so-called ‘Makers District’, which focuses on the innovative (small) manufacturing economy that creates opportunities for new forms of employment and bridges the gap between high-tech and low-tech, thinking and making, living and working. Test Site M4H+ is a way to further this cause and work on concrete development principles and pilot projectsfor circular area development.

In BoTu, the IABR–Atelier has entered into collaboration with an alliance of housing association Havensteder, the Delfshaven Coöperatie and the Social Development Department of the City of Rotterdam. This alliance investigates the business case of the ‘Next Generation Residential District’. Uniting financial expertise and the strength of design can create added value.

After the 2018 biennale, the IABR–Atelier Rotterdam will test the ‘Energy Districts’ concept further, in Bospolder-Tussendijken and in the Rotterdam Central District.

In Bospolder-Tussendijken the IABR–Atelier Rotterdam collaborates with an alliance of Housing Corporation Havensteder, Delfshaven Coöperatie and the department for Social Development of the Municipality of Rotterdam.