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The healthiest building in the Netherlands

Commissioned by Nice Developers & Era Contour, Mei architects and planners is designing “SAWA”.
SAWA is a unique and circular wooden residential building of 50 meters high, adding value to the neighbourhood and the city in the broadest sense. These “shared values” relate to CO2 reduction, enhancing biodiversity and creating a circular building with affordable housing for an inclusive community.

Project info

In development, start construction August 2022

Nice Developers, ERA Contour

109 apartments: 50 mid-rent, 20 private sector rental, 39 owner-occupies apartments
Restaurant and social facilities

12.000 m2 GFA

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Revolutionary concept

SAWA’s exceptional feature is that the building is constructed entirely of CLT (cross laminated timber), whereby the use of concrete is kept to a minimum. This makes SAWA the first fully tall wooden residential building in Rotterdam. The building is distinctive in its appearance due to the generous green terraces, which refer to the history of the location and at the same time reinforce the biodiversity in the neighbourhood.

The conviction and drive of both client and architect to not only design but also realise a revolutionary concept like SAWA is nourished by the ambition to contribute to reducing CO2 emissions and the achievement of (inter)national climate goals on the one hand, and to create affordable housing at the same time.

“SAWA, also known as the ‘healthiest building in the Netherlands‘, is thus a model project for new generations, an important step in the sustainability goals and demonstrable proof that things can be done differently.”

Robert Winkel
architect | founder
Lloydkwartier schip vertrekt van de kade


The Lloydkwartier has a rich maritime past that goes back to around 1900. The Lloyd pier owes its name to the shipping company Rotterdamsche Lloyd, which built a terminal on the pier from where its passenger ships departed to the east of the world. The SAWA building owes its name to the stepped shape with generous green terraces, as a reference to Eastern rice fields and to the history of the site.

The Lloydpier is one of the most water-rich neighbourhoods in the centre of Rotterdam. The district is characterised by a mix of architecture: from transformed monumental warehouses and old harbour monuments to unique new buildings. Thanks to the multitude of cultural and culinary hotspots, the proximity of the inner city and the parc, the tough character of the area and the view of the water, the Lloydkwartier has grown over the past 15 years from an industrial harbour area to a popular residential area.

Shared values

SAWA is being developed in the heart of the Lloydkwartier district. Because of this location, by creating places in the design for encounters and by connecting to existing local initiatives, SAWA will be of added value for the entire district. The plinth of the building will contain various facilities, and the deck will act as a green connector between the building and surrounding green spaces (such as the neighbourhood garden), adding value for both residents and neighbours.

The houses are accessed by means of a gallery. Despite the fact that the gallery is still considered unpopular by estate agents, for example, Mei is a great supporter of it and consciously opted for this form of access in order to stimulate contact between the residents. The success of this design choice has already proven itself in many other projects by Mei, such as Fenix I. The residential concept in SAWA is distinctive because of the various shared functions – such as shared mobility, collective repairroom and a vegetable garden – which actively create a community.

SAWA aerial view Lloydkwartier

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Core values of SAWA

SAWA’s design is based on four key core values: CO2 reduction, enhancing biodiversity, and creating a circular building with affordable housing for an inclusive community:

CO2 reduction

In the context of the Paris and Glasgow Climate Accords, the European Green Deal, the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the Rotterdam City Council’s targets for reducing CO2 emissions, the client and architect share the ambition to construct the building, including the main supporting structure, almost entirely in CLT. There are several advantages to building in CLT. First of all, wood stores CO2, thus reducing emissions. In addition, it is an excellent building material because, compared to concrete, it is lighter, faster, safer, more durable and also reusable. And above all, it increases living comfort.

The wood is left in sight as much as possible in the houses and on the galleries and balconies. Only where the perception of the wood is minimal (storage, toilet, bathroom) will the wood be finished with plaster.

SAWA’s innovation lies in bringing together all the elements that help to build a 50-metre-high residential building whose main load-bearing structure consists of more than 90% wood. Together with a team of international experts, existing solutions are combined and innovations are devised to optimise the use of wood; minimise the amount of concrete and steel in the design; and solve consequent fire, noise and vibration problems.


SAWA is built using a modular construction system of wood, using dry, separable solutions (no casting). SAWA sets new standards in circular construction with a floor constructed from CLT topped with dry ballast instead of concrete. This makes the components in the floor fully circular and the materials can be detached and reused in the future (urban mining).

SAWA’s design is based on the Open Building principle: the main supporting structure consists of floors, beams and columns. This creates a high degree of flexibility and freedom of layout for both first-time buyers and future generations and contributes to the building’s future-proofing.

The structure is made of Cross-laminated Timber (CLT). The trees used for SAWA come from sustainable production forests in West Germany. For every tree that felled, four trees of a different species are planted back. The other materials used in SAWA are bio-based, whenever possible, and have a material passport.


The migration to the city continues. Dutch cities continue to grow and the quality of life is coming increasingly under pressure. The consequences of this urbanisation on the human ecosystem – such as flooding, heat stress and increased CO2 emissions – are becoming increasingly visible. At the same time, the habitat of birds, bees, butterflies and other insects is being severely curtailed by the increasingly crowded construction of cities and the petrification of the living environment. SAWA’s design marks a turning point in this development and contributes to a healthy living environment.

In cooperation with city ecologists and biologists, SAWA was designed to be nature-inclusive. For example, there are fixed flower and planters on the terraces and balconies. The planting is site-specific (depending on the orientation to the sun and the height in the building) and chosen in such a way that the plants provide food for the animal species. Nesting boxes will be placed on and around the building to provide a safe haven for birds and insects. In this way, SAWA connects to the existing ecological structures in the city and increases the biodiversity of the neighbourhood.


With a mix of owner-occupied and rental properties ranging from 50 to 165 m2, the future residents of SAWA will form a diverse community and a reflection of the city. Fifty apartments, about half of the number of dwellings in SAWA, are intended for mid-rent. This makes it accessible to all income groups to live in SAWA, including the group of middle-income people for whom it is increasingly difficult to find an affordable home in the city.

“We build the city with love for the neighborhood and nature. Pioneering in a sustainable, nature-friendly and social way, we develop SAWA from and for the community. With SAWA, we are offering a gift to the city.”

Mark Compeer Nice Developers
Mark Compeer
Nice Developers

Energy neutral

SAWA is a low-installation building, with a healthy indoor climate and possibilities for future adaptations. The houses are equipped with cross ventilation and temperature plus CO2 controlled ventilation valves in the facade.

SAWA is not only the healthiest building in the Netherlands, it is also energy-neutral. By using PV panels on the roofs in combination with “remote solar”, sustainable district heating and other sustainable measures, SAWA has achieved an EPC of 0. This makes SAWA as a building energy-neutral, both after realisation and during the construction process.
After completion, SAWA itself generates the energy it needs for the communal facilities. The solar panels on the roof power the lift, the lighting in the galleries and the electric cars and bicycles.

Scale model by Studio Faber

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July 6, 2023

February 20, 2023

SAWA aerial view Lloydkwartier

February 13, 2023

Wandkleed 75B bij Mei

January 26, 2023

November 29, 2022

Robert Winkel en Mark Compeer bij de prijsuitreiking van AMP

November 28, 2022

  • Nieuws
  • insight
Fenix I maquette

November 22, 2022

  • Nieuws
  • event
  • work in progress
Persfoto start bouw SAWA

November 4, 2022

SAWA mockup van boven gezien

October 20, 2022

September 23, 2022

Maquette SAWA

September 19, 2022

September 15, 2022

Bigbags SAWA worden gevuld

September 2, 2022

Pano of SAWA building site

June 17, 2022

Collega's van Mei in het raam voor Nice Place

June 15, 2022

Rotterdam Architectuur Maand logo

June 8, 2022

February 14, 2022

  • Nieuws
  • publication
SAWA westgevel terrassen

January 25, 2022

January 12, 2022

SAWA aerial view Lloydkwartier

November 26, 2021

November 17, 2021

SAWA boekjes met bloemzaadjes in het papier

November 3, 2021

  • Nieuws
  • event
  • work in progress
Robert Winkel en Mark Compeer voor het SAWA bouwbord op locatie

October 27, 2021

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  • event
  • work in progress
interieurrender van SAWA

May 31, 2021

May 21, 2021

April 19, 2021

March 23, 2021

March 22, 2021

December 8, 2020

  • Nieuws
  • work in progress

December 1, 2020

November 16, 2020

  • Nieuws
  • award
  • work in progress

November 11, 2020

September 29, 2020

July 14, 2020

July 8, 2020

June 9, 2020

May 20, 2020

  • Nieuws
  • event
  • publication

May 13, 2020

April 7, 2020

SAWA sequentie plans gif

March 12, 2020

February 20, 2020

February 13, 2020

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