1st Prize for a class of wood

Future academics are able to settle in an almost complete wooden dorm called “Woodie” in Hamburg. An extraordinary real estate project, whose structural and design qualities – especially with regard to sustainability – meanwhile have been awarded multiply. Woodie has even been nominated for the MIPIM Award 2019 in Cannes. The innovative project for the woodies dormitory was financed by Hamburg Commercial Bank, which has an excellent know-how in this specific type of housing.

These approximately 20 square meters of living space make students excited about their studies. The floor, ceiling, and walls are not made out of stone but rather from chic, light-colored solid wood – which means they give off the cozy charm of a wooden house like the ones that can often be found in Nordic countries.

The furniture, including the bed and desk, is made out of the same wood. Because ecological thoughts come first and foremost, the floor is made of natural rubber. Add a small pantry and a shower bath, and the student apartment is done.

Stacked like an oversized Lego construction

The rectangle is part of a project that is unique to date. A completely new type of student dormitory – and also the largest wooden building in Hamburg – has been built from 371 of these modules. Its name: “Woodie”, taken from its main construction material.

The individual modules were stacked on top of each other, like in an oversized Lego construction, and screwed together. They offer maximum flexibility because they can also be merged. Only the ground floor, the roof, and the elevator shafts are made of concrete, and that is for fire safety reasons.

Awarded project

Immobilienmanager Award 2018
The award since 2009 annually honors the best real estate projects, deals, services and heads of the real estate business in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. A jury cast with renownend representatives from the real estate sector chooses the winners in 14 categories. The project Woodies, the dormitory built in a modular wooden concept in Hamburg Wilhelmsburg this year received one of the coveted awards.

Wohnbau Preis Hamburg 2017
The quality of living decisively determines the identity of a city. Therefore, the Architektur Centrum honors projects with a special architectural or design quality with the Wohnbau Preis Hamburg. Patron is Dr. Dorothee Stapelfeld, Senator for Urban Development and Housing. The dorm Woodie was awarded first prize.

Woodies entire structure rises six floors into the sky of Hamburg’s neighborhood Wilhelmsburg. Only nine minutes away from Hamburg’s main station with the city train, this up-and-coming neighborhood is where the investors Torsten Rieckmann, managing partner of the company Senectus Capital GmbH, and Achim Nagel, managing partner of the company Primus GmbH, built their first joint project.

A nursing home and a medical center have already been built in the immediate vicinity. Always on board: Hamburg Commercial Bank. “We have come to value Hamburg Commercial Bank as a very reliable and engaged financier that addresses our needs,” says co-investor Rieckmann. Especially where development and financing student apartments is concerned, Hamburg Commercial Bank almost has a monopoly on the market with its expertise.

Size is a problem

The market for student apartments is tightest in these cities*

The market for student apartments is tightest in these cities*


* A scarcity index has been created for the student apartment market in 91 cities. It can reach a maximum of 100 points. For the analysis, 23 factors ranging from prices for shared flats to the real estate listings, the development of the number of students and those in their first semester and the age structure of the inhabitants to the attractiveness of the university and city for domestic and international students were studied.

Source: GBI AG

Hamburg Commercial Bank has had a good reputation as a financing partner for student housing and other micro-residential complexes for a long time. Peter Axmann is in charge of the real estate customer business of the bank and reports calls from interested project developers, operators, and investors from across the country. They value the experience the experts have gathered in past years while financing quite a number of similar objects. “We were one of the first institutes to finance this special type of housing. We know almost every project from the last 20 years and all the large developers as well.” The portfolio volume of temporary housing is rather small compared with the one for office, retail, and residential property - which accounts for about 80 percent at Hamburg Commercial Bank - but it is continually growing and is an important niche in a well-diversified portfolio, according to Axmann.

Bank customer Rieckmann traveled across Germany to sound out the market for student housing. He inspected about 20 houses that belong to this special type of housing. Along the way, he learned that many have become modern, having lost their dubious charm from the last century. But there was no building made almost entirely of wood.

An important aspect of building with wooden modules is the considerable reduction in construction time. “We were able to finish Woodie in ten months, which is about half the time needed for conventional construction methods. Additionally, the modules were ready for occupancy and sealed when they were delivered from the assembly line, which means there was marginal removal of defects and handover,” says co-investor Achim Nagel. This was the only way to guarantee that people could move into Woodie for the winter semester of 2017 in the first place.

But the pioneers Nagel and Rieckmann decided to use this material for other reasons as well. “Wood is durable, offers good sound insulation, and helps protect the climate,” Rieckmann explains. The twelve-centimeter-thick solid wood walls of the individual modules and an additional wood facade provide the best heat insulation values and prevent mold from forming period – and they also fulfill the KfW 55 standard.

3, 2, 1 ... done!

Development of number of students (in millions) in the winter semesters from 2007/2008 until 2018/2019

Development of number of students (in millions) in the winter semesters from 2007/2008 until 2018/2019

*estimated

Source: Federal Statistical Office of Germany

An important aspect of building with wooden modules is the considerable reduction in construction time. “We were able to finish Woodie in ten months, which is about half the time needed for conventional construction methods. Additionally, the modules were ready for occupancy and sealed when they were delivered from the assembly line, which means there was marginal removal of defects and handover,” says co-investor Achim Nagel. This was the only way to guarantee that people could move into Woodie for the winter semester of 2017 in the first place.

But the pioneers Nagel and Rieckmann decided to use this material for other reasons as well. “Wood is durable, offers good sound insulation, and helps protect the climate,” Rieckmann explains. The twelve-centimeter-thick solid wood walls of the individual modules and an additional wood facade provide the best heat insulation values and prevent mold from forming period – and they also fulfill the KfW 55 standard.

“The business is too involved for many other banks”

The financing for the 37-million-euro project, which is based on a ten-year loan, is also custom-made. Co-investor Rieckmann: “Hamburg Commercial Bank understands not only the project financing business, but also knows the particularities that need to be considered for student housing. The business is too complicated or involved for many other banks.”

Woodie is a model for a market that has been growing for years. This is also due to the increasing number of foreign students who, not least, appreciate that the public universities in this country do not charge tuition fees. In total, the number of students in Germany recently climbed to a record high at about 2.8 million.

Peter Axmann sees even more reasons for keen interest in micro-apartments: “Not only students and apprentices but also singles and professionals who commute home on the weekend are looking for small apartments in metropolises. The demand is therefore high, and the supply is by no means sufficient.”

All-around packages for students

Woodie provides all the services students expect today. Co-investor Rieckmann knows from experience that the most important thing is fast Internet. That is why a 100 Mbit connection was laid. Usage is included in the warm rent, of course. In the “Woodietorium”, which is the communal lounge, the students can communicate with one another. There are also a DHL package station, 400 bicycle parking spots, 20 car parking spots, and a “laundry lounge”. A nearby car sharing provider completes the offer. “Woodie offers an all-round package with an ecologically clean conscience,” says Peter Axmann.

Woodie also convinced the jury of the MIPIM Award. The wood construction project has been nominated for the list of ambitious real estate projects, under which the winners in the eleven categories will be selected on 14 March 2019 at the Palais des Festivals in Cannes, France.