Accomodating energy neutrality: Living on top of a parking lot!

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.

Composition of the insulation

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.

ZED Pods for students

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!







6 thoughts on “Accomodating energy neutrality: Living on top of a parking lot!”

  1. Reading your interesting story, I was wondering if the houses are connected to the main water supply system. Because this would limit the possibilities of the place where you can pop up your house drastically. Or you should invest into connecting into the water supply system, but then the house isn’t so temporary anymore I would say.


    1. Good that you thought about that, it would indeed create some limitations! Looking at the ZED Pod flyer they usually need to be connected to some sort of fresh water supply. However, they also state that “totally off grid solutions can easily be achieved at modest extra cost” (pag. 7). For non-potable water they use rainwater storage tanks and water treatment tanks. This still adds up to the costs of course.


  2. By now you must be becoming a specialist in parking space! Really like the idea of the pods, but is this truly the answer to the problem of a shortage of space? Isn’t it easier and perhaps better to just build our buildings taller to house more people. This saves a lot more space and we could use the saved space to create immense forests and solar/windfarms.


    1. I certainly do agree with you that the pods will not be the only answer to the shortage of space in the city. Building higher buildings in future would definitely be more efficient in terms of accomodating more people in less space. However, I think that the good thing of the pods – apart from them being energy neutral – is that they provide us with the opportunity to (temporarily) use the already existing spare spaces on top of buildings and parking lots. With that I mainly see them as having a complementary value in spacial issues.


  3. The moment I read your blogpost, the thought of the Markthal in Rotterdam immediately came to my mind. This actually is a building which has a parking lot in the cellar, shops on the ground floor and houses on the first floor. Might be a perfect example of a building which could be transitioned to a circular building!

    In Leiden, we do not have this kind of buildings yet, but it definitely could be an opportunity.
    Although the lack of space in the city could be a problem. Maybe an existing parking lot could be changed into this type of building?


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