Leiden: the ‘city of knowledge’ and one of the most densely built cities of the Netherlands. This fact goes hand in hand with many challenges, including a need for parking areas and housing, especially for students who account for at least 10% of the Leiden population! And now Leiden is facing another challenge as well: getting carbon neutral with a 40% energy reduction by 2020, as stated in the Duurzaamheidsagenda. However, it still proves to be a huge task to make this transition to other forms of energy and to establish a society in which saving energy is the norm… Public support is required in order to reach those goals. Therefore it is crucial to create public awareness of the necessity, options, and even advantages of the transition!
Three themes are highlighted here: a lack of space, a necessity for the transition to other forms and ways of using energy, and the need for a public awareness and support for this transition. Would it not be perfect if all those issues could be combined in one single project?
Maybe the ZED Pods from the Zero Energy Development (ZED) Factory could offer such a multi-functional solution. ZED Pods are literally small sized, pre-fabricated pop up houses with a general gross internal floor area of 22.4 m2. This makes them cheap and easy to erect, as well as to relocate if necessary. In their design they are placed on top of parking lots or other unused spaces, thereby combining different functions. ZED Pods are supposed to be completely energy neutral due to a combination of very good insulation, efficient energy use, and a roof fully covered with solar panels. About 70% of the time the solar panels provide the houses in all the electricity they need, plus that of the charging points for electric vehicles which are located on the parking lot underneath. The lion share of the electricity for necessary heating is used to provide hot water, which gets heated and distributed by a small electric heat pump.
In addition to their huge advantage of being energy neutral, the ZED Pods are cheap and easy to erect as well as to relocate if necessary. This makes them highly suitable for spaces which do not yet have a fixed destination plan. The Pods which are meant for couples have an estimated rent of €750 which makes them suitable for student housing too. Therefore the implementation of those Pods could potentially decrease the shortage of student housing which Leiden is facing at. Additionally, the ZED Pods could be an incentive for people to make the transition towards electric vehicles. At the same time they could raise awareness among the (young) residents and their surroundings. This awareness might spread even further when combined with a more wide-spread promotion of the project.
Altogether this means that the implementation of ZED Pods could provide the city of Leiden with a unique opportunity: creating cheap housing in line with the goals of a carbon neutral Leiden, while responding to the challenges of a limited space capacity of the city, a need for (student) housing, and a need for public support and awareness of the energy transition. Embracing this opportunity would thus enrich the city, its inhabitants, and the environment as a whole!