Kalkbreite Zurich



Fig 1: Müller Sigrist. Kalkbreite, Zürich. 2014


“Kalkbreite” is the name of a unique building at the junction of Badenerstrasse and Kalkbreitenstrasse in Zurich Switzerland. The building is owned by a Wohnbaugenossenschaft, a housing co-operative, and is a prime example of sustainable city development.

Zurich and the “Kalkbreite”

In its strategic plan “Strategien Zürich 2035”, the city of Zurich (2015) identifies sustainable growth as one of eight dimensions to promote sustainable development over the next two decades (P. 18ff). The city named three goals on which I want to focus this post.

  1. The consolidation of the built environment is carried out in a social and environmentally sustainable manner.
  2. Zurich has a broad offering of living space for a broad society.
  3. Additional request for mobility is satisfied with public transportation and slow transportation (bicycling and walking) (ibid. P. 19).

The “Kalkbreite” is in line with this goals. The first step that led to the construction of this building was taken by the social-democratic party of Zurich in 1975. The party launched a public initiative to promote co-operative housing on the site of the streetcar depot at the Badenerstrasse. What followed was thirty-two years of discussions, planning, considerations and workshops that helped to develop a project that is well embedded in local context and that meets the standards of a social, economical and ecological habitat (see Genossenschaft Kalkbreite, 2015).

“Kalkbreite” and Technology

The “Kalkbreite” offers a place to live for 25o residents and is home to various businesses, ranging from a local grocery to a cinema. The sustainability goals, set by the co-operative, are met by state of the art building technologies and modern concepts of room usage. The private space is rather small with 31.2 square meters per resident (Genossenschaft Kalkbreite, 2015, P. 202). The residents share office spaces, workshops, the laundry, ateliers, and kitchens. Most public rooms are undedicated and thus promote a flexible use of the building. To simplify the organization, the co-operative launched a website, which functions as a tool for the residents to book rooms whenever they need to (https://anleitung.kalkbreite.net ). This is just one example of how the co-operative uses technology to ease the residents lives as well as to promote a sustainable way of life.


Fig. 2: Johannes Küng. Screenshot Anleitung Kalkbreite. 2014

“Kalkbreite” and Sustainability

The “Kalkbreite” is a spadework in many ways. The building and the co-operative address all aspects of sustainability directly (environment, economics, social equity, energy, and health). The building is certified with the Minergie P Eco label, which guarantees an environmentally friendly building at a maximum of 15% more costs than a standard building (see Minergie, 2016). The ownership of the building by the residents and the principle of sharing leads to more social interactions and lays the foundation for a strong social fabric within the residents’ community. The various sizes of apartments and the different forms of living make the building a possible home for many people from various backgrounds. The “Kalkbreite” is in close proximity to public transportation and promotes the use of bicycles. The local grocery within the building provides the community with healthy, fresh food. All this promotes a healthy lifestyle.

The “Kalkbreite” co-operative set high standards for contemporary housing units in urban areas. It can be seen as a archetype building that shines a light on economic, ecologic and social sustainability.


Genossenschaft Kalkbreite (2015). Kalkbreite. Ein neues Stück Stadt. Zurich: Author

Minergie (2016). Was ist Minergie? Accessed on 11.04.16 under https://www.minergie.ch/was-ist-minergie.html

Stadt Zürich (2015). Strategien Zürich 2035. Zurich: Author



2 thoughts on “Kalkbreite Zurich

  1. Thank you for this, Johannes! I wonder what could happen if your example and Tracie’s merged? Repurposed public buildings owned by cooperatives? Especially in light of the shuttered schools in Chicago. I’m especially fond of not programming every square inch and having undedicated rooms available to the public/members.

    What do you think doing something like this would take in the U.S.? From what you’ve seen thus far?


  2. A building that has its own sense of an ecosystem! That is really fascinating and shows how applying the use of space into sustainability really makes a difference.


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