Nestled in Amsterdam North, floating along the banks of the Johan van Hasseltkanaal, you’ll find Schoonschip, a sustainable floating neighbourhood. Established in 2020, Schoonschip is home to 144 people.
In a country where water dominates the landscape and where many in cities opt to live in houseboats, could neighbourhoods like Schoonschip offer a solution to Amsterdam’s housing shortage?
Schoonschip: The future of housing in the Netherlands?
After 10 years of planning, developing and designing a concept for an ecologically and socially sustainable residential area on water, Schoonship was born in early 2020. The neighbourhood is made up of 46 homes across 30 (semi-)detached arks.
The project is fully committed to sustainable living, as all of the arks are powered by 500 solar panels and 30 heat pumps. Built predominantly out of sustainable materials and instillations, electricity is generated via photovoltaic solar panels, while water is heated using solar boilers and heat pumps. All the homes are also connected to a joint smart grid, which allows the neighbourhood to use electricity in a smart and efficient way.
Each home is also decked out with its own green roof, and residents of Schoonschip share electric cars, electric cargo bikes (bakfietsen), and e-bikes amongst themselves. There are also floating gardens and a brand new common room, and plans to establish a floating market and sustainable film festival.
While this may already sound significantly more sustainable than your average residential neighbourhood in the Netherlands, the community has plans for the future to further encourage sustainable living, for example by purchasing food as a collective, ensuring minimal food waste and support for local farmers.
Family living in a floating village
Households of all shapes, sizes and ages have settled in at Schoonschip over the past year and a half, as residents were actively involved in the design of their future home and neighbourhood. From young and growing families, to young professions who live with friends or extended family, a wide range of people have made this floating neighbourhood their home.
But what does Schoonschip offer its residents? "A 'healthy' sustainable home, where we can live luxuriously without a major impact on the world," says architect Marjolein Smeele who has moved into number 22 with her family. "I hope Schoonschip inspires others to take sustainable steps in their lives."
Residents are also confident that the set-up in their little "floating village" could offer inspiration for future development projects. "As born and bred Amsterdammers, we are incredibly happy to participate in a project that we believe is the answer to the changing city - an answer to the busy housing market, the tourists and Nutella shops," explain Lieve Sue de Blok and Marius Gottlieb who live in number seven.
Saving the planet and ending the Dutch housing crisis
House prices are continuing to rise across the Netherlands, as demand severely outweighs supply - especially in the largest Dutch cities like Amsterdam. The Dutch have always been known for using water to their advantage, reclaiming land and establishing impressive water management systems.
In a city like Amsterdam, which has over 100 kilometres of canals, and a country like the Netherlands, where 17 percent of the surface area is covered by water, establishing more floating neighbourhoods across the country could help to provide affordable housing for future generations.
Not only do communities like Schoonschip potentially offer a solution to the ongoing housing crisis, but they’re also a leading example of how “normal” families can live in a more sustainable and energy-neutral way. By working together with neighbours and making the most of contemporary technology, Schoonschip combines practical city living, contemporary design, and sustainable practices to offer a viable housing alternative for families of the not-too-distant future.