Balcony glazing, Stories Amsterdam

Photo: © MWA Hart Nibbrig

The characteristic feature of Stories is its deep facade – a special zone with an important function as a microclimate between the interior and exterior of the building.
Olaf Gipser, Olaf Gipser Architects Amsterdam
Prof.M.Arch.Dipl.Ing Olaf Gipser
Prof.M.Arch.Dipl.Ing Olaf Gipser
Prof.M.Arch.Dipl.Ing Olaf Gipser

Learning through experience

In many ways, the project is representative of the Dutch approach to sustainability, which leaves little room for dogmatism, but allows plenty of space for innovation. The structure is not entirely wooden, nor can it be fully flexibly partitioned – but that was never the goal. Instead, the idea is to allow for experimentation and to learn from experience. “In our next project, we can contribute what we’ve learned right from the start of the design phase”, Olaf Gipser says.

From industrial harbour to flagship borough

The Polder Buiksloterham business park in the north of Amsterdam is slated to be transformed into a flagship borough with a circular economy of materials by 2030. In light of the economic situation at the beginning of the project, the city of Amsterdam opted for a slower, more sustainable transformation strategy around 15 years ago. Today, the area offers an exciting mix, with building collective projects and zero-energy houses popping up between logistics companies and hardware stores.
One of these projects is Stories, designed by Olaf Gipser Architects. It is located at the junction of a main traffic artery and an old harbour basin. Stories is 46 metres high and boasts 13 storeys, the top ten of which are made of wood. However, this is not visible at first glance, as the building is wrapped in an elegant white steel facade with tall niches for plants.

Stories Amsterdam

Sustainable housing for building collective projects

The project started with a call for tenders for which building collective projects were permitted to apply. One of the city’s important prerequisites was that the majority of the materials used in construction should be suitable for returning to the material cycle in future. Olaf Gipser – originally from Switzerland, but resident in Amsterdam for over 20 years – came up with the idea  of developing a hybrid wooden building with green spaces for the facades. 
The building houses a total of 29 individually designed flats and six commercial units. The flats have a ceiling height of 2.90 metres and measure in at between 43 and 235 square metres. The base of the building and the 7th and 11th floors each host a loft apartment that extends over two storeys.

The 29 flats are individually designed and measure in at between 43 and 235 square metres of floor space. Photo: © MWA Hart Nibbrig

Apartment block made of laminated timber with concrete base

As the designers were not yet ready to risk constructing a solid wood building with 13 storeys in 2015, and because a parking garage with 40 spots was required on the ground floor, the three-storey base of the building was made of concrete. Above that, the 32.5-metre wooden tower with its concrete central column rises into the sky. The architects moved the tower toward the road to create space for a communal rooftop terrace on the western end of the base; the residents have used the space to start an urban farm.

The tower is made of laminated timber. For each storey, 15 load-bearing elements measuring 160 to 240 mm in thickness form a grid with an axial dimension of 4.80 metres. These wooden bays have large openings that allow the spaces to be flexibly partitioned into one to six flats per storey. In order to allow for changes in future, more door openings than necessary were added to the corridor walls. This flexibility was important not only to the building collective, but to the architects, as well. Olaf Gipser is part of a network of 14 young firms that came together to publish a joint Dutch ‘Open Building’ manifesto. They consider making buildings as flexible as possible, particularly in terms of future changes in layout or function, as an essential aspect of sustainability.

Stories Amsterdam
Stories Amsterdam
Die Holzkonstruktion ist im Inneren bewusst sichtbar. Foto: © MWA Hart Nibbrig

Flexibility versus acoustics

However, achieving the desired level of flexibility in this project meant sacrificing acoustics to a certain degree. In order to meet fire safety requirements, the walls separating the flats are clad with plasterboard, which also improves sound insulation. In order to allow the residents to still be able to see the wood, the combustion rates of the ceiling elements were calculated and their underside left visible. In the flats, the wooden ceilings contrast powerfully with the white plastered walls. The top of the ceiling elements is covered with a 100-mm layer of foam concrete, on top of which is a 40-mm layer of footfall sound insulation. All pipes and cables are embedded in foam concrete, so changing their position would be very difficult.

Stories Amsterdam - Vorgefertigte Fassade
mit Stahlregal
Stories Amsterdam - Vorgefertigte Fassade
mit Stahlregal
Die filigrane Stahlfassade bietet mit großen Pflanz-Nischen Raum für Biodiversität. Foto: © MWA Hart Nibbrig

Prefabricated facade with steel construction

The facades of Stories consist of prefabricated timber frame construction elements that came with 300 mm of thermal insulation and floor-to-ceiling wooden-frame windows already installed. Cladding made of pre-greyed, heat-treated spruce wood planks treated with a fire retardant protects the facades from the North Sea climate. A two-metre-deep steel framework with balconies stacked in pairs is positioned in front of the cladding; the balconies are separated from their neighbours by six-metre-high niches for plants. On three sides of the building, each of the niches houses a tree with multiple trunks, surrounded by undergrowth consisting of shrubbery, herbs and grasses. On the north side of the building, the steel framework is just 1.50 metres deep and planted with vines.

Floating gardens as a biodiverse habitat

The architects’ goal is for the deep, plant-covered facade to be more than just an outside space, to offer protection from the sun and prying eyes, and to be a filter for particulate matter; they also want it to serve as a habitat for insects and birds. From inside the flats, the green niches actually do feel like little floating gardens. From the perspective of passers-by, however, the steel facade lends Stories an elegant, airy look, and thanks to the different colours of the leaves on the five species of trees, its appearance also changes constantly throughout the seasons.
Transparent balcony glazing that can be opened in a flexible way underscores the elegant look of the steel facade. The glazing is arranged in such a way that, in combination with the vertical railings, it animates the facade.

Stories Amsterdam - Balkonverglasung für Wetterschutz
Stories Amsterdam - Balkonverglasung für Wetterschutz
Die Balkonverglasung bietet im Frühjahr und Herbst angenehm temperierte Bedingungen. Foto: © Luuk Kramer Fotografie

Versatile weather protection

The transparent balcony glazing protects the outdoor areas of the flats from noise, wind and weather. As a thermal buffer, it also improves energy efficiency and protects the fabric of the building. It is intuitive to use; its operation is based on the slide-and-turn principle: Each glass element can be pushed to the side and can swing out by 90°. The glass panels can be parked in a bundle at the side of the balcony, allowing every balcony facade to be opened up across almost its entire width.

Stories Amsterdam - Flexibler Witterungsschutz
Die raumhohen Schiebe-Dreh-Elemente von Solarlux können als schmale Glaspakete an der Seite geparkt werden. Foto: © MWA Hart Nibbrig

Floor to ceiling or on balustrade

Due to the varying balcony sizes, storey heights and positions in the building, the glazing is either floor to ceiling – to access the floating gardens – or is mounted to a glass balustrade. Twelve configurations of the Solarlux SL 25 (on balustrade) and SL 25 XXL (floor to ceiling) systems were used in total. These also include versions in which the glass elements can be moved across both corners, allowing the previously protected balcony to be fully opened on all sides. The successor to the tried-and-tested SL 25 is the innovative Proline T from Solarlux.

Stories Amsterdam - Bautafel
Stories Amsterdam - Bautafel
Plattegrond: © Olaf Gipser Architects

Construction sign

Building project: Stories Amsterdam 
Client: Bouwgroep BSH20A
Architecture: Olaf Gipser Architects, Amsterdam -
Team: Erik Feenstra, Olaf Gipser, Jonathan Hibma, Monique Hutschemakers, Jacoba Istel, Simona Puglisi, Jean-Marc Saurer, Jan-Dirk Valewink, Abdullah Zakrat
Location: Polder Buiksloterham, Amsterdam
Planning and construction time: 2016-21
Area: 5,500 m2


Drawings: © Olaf Gipser Architects

Engineering at a glance
Sound reduction index
R'w up to 17 dB
8, 10, 12 mm TSG-H
Height compensation
Up to 8 mm
Locking mechanism
Double rotating knob or handle

Balcony glazing

You can use glass sliding or slide-and-turn systems to shelter yourself on your balcony – not just from harsh weather conditions such as wind, rain and cold, but also from noise. You can choose a fully transparent or a framed system, depending on your requirements. The versatile, non-insulated glazing will transform your balcony into an airy pergola or a sheltered room whenever you want. The wide range of system solutions can also be retrofitted onto existing balustrades. 

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