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The Old Buildings

In addition to the new wooden building, our project also includes two more existing buildings: the old hospital administration building and the former gatehouse on Karlsruher Straße. In the development of these buildings, we set different priorities than in the newly constructed house. The refurbishment of the old buildings is guided by two key objectives: We want to create educational open spaces and, at the same time, permanently affordable, communal living space.

The large old house

The old administration building will be home to around 80 people from summer 2023 onwards. Around 50 of those people will complete an orientation year between school and their further lives, with the aim of learning about different courses of study and training as well as developing their own personalities. The orientation year is an important component of our educational concept and is expected to begin in autumn 2023.

The remaining apartments include two privately financed shared apartments and six apartments for subsidized rental housing. This is intended to create housing for people who cannot meet their housing needs on the open market. If you are interested in one of these apartments, you can write us an e-mail or contact us by post using the contact details at the bottom of the page.

In addition to living spaces, there will be several multifunctional seminar and community rooms on the ground floor, which will be accessible barrier-free. There will also be communal areas on the upper floors. In the basement, small workshops and storage rooms are planned to complement our wood workshop in the new house.


The renovation essentially comprises three aspects: a conversion of an office building into a residential building, an energy-efficient refurbishment, and the creation of additional living space from the existing building fabric. Therefore, the floor plans will be edited, and the building will be upgraded structurally, acoustically and in terms of fire-protection. achieve the best possible energy standard in the existing building (KfW55), the external wall, the basement ceiling and the roof will be insulated, and the windows will be replaced. Finally, the roof will be extended by adding tow dormers and wooden bay windows to provide more living space with sufficient light input and comfort in the apartments and common areas.

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Planning document showing the façade of the large old house from north-view.

In every step of the process, we take care to reuse and recycle building components and materials, as well as to use ecological building materials wherever possible. For example, cellulose flakes will be used as insulation in the roof, and pressed straw will provide the new drywalls. Doors, flooring, staircase railings, slates and other elements are going to be reused. Photovoltaic panels will complement the system on the new house, while the high occupancy will reduce heating demand.

The Café

On the first floor of the former gatehouse, a self-managed café will provide an opportunity for meeting and exchange. It is intended to serve as a contact point, especially for the neighbourhood. In addition, the café will provide space for a small food cooperative and/or a “repair café”. Here, things like electronic devices can be repaired together. The rooms on the upper floor are intended for offices of the self-administration as well as for a counselling centre for the Mietshäusersyndikat.

Planning and renovation

Together with the Heidelberg architectural firm Gerstner + Hofmeister, we are currently in the process of planning and implementing the renovation of the old houses. Since the old buildings date back to the 1930s and were last used as administrative offices, some structural changes will be necessary. In order to make affordable housing possible, our goal is to keep the renovation and remodelling work to a minimum, thus preserving the existing building fabric. Together with the direct loans from our supporters and cost savings through construction work by own labour, KfW-subsidies for energy measures will also make affordable renovation possible. In committing ourselves to creating affordable housing, another financing component will be the financial support for subsidized rented housing.

To an even greater extent than in the new wooden building, we want to carry out the work in the old houses ourselves. The various participatory construction sites and work camps have made and will continue to make a contribution to this: Since summer 2020, several weeks of joint work with local and international volunteers have been driving forward deconstruction work as well as parts of the actual renovation. We can already look back with pride on many successful actions: In the last two years, the old building was freed from walls, debris, cables, pipes and much more in demolition campaigns with the support of many hard-working helpers. More information about the workcamps and summer school between 2020 and 2022 can be found here.

The International Building Exhibition (IBA), an Excellence Initiative of the German government for urban planning, was active in Heidelberg from 2013 to 2022 to work on future-oriented solutions for urban planning and social challenges. In 2015, the Collegium Academicum’s initiative was selected by the IBA Heidelberg as an IBA-PROJEKT under the motto “Wissen schafft Stadt” (knowledge-based urbanism). Since then, the IBA is supporting both the new building and the old buildings.

Assisted by the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research (ifeu), the project shall serve as a real-life model for research on living conditions that save space and offer a high quality of life. The principle of sufficiency (to focus on the essential) is reflected in the experimental living, common space design and rooms for creative work.

Der Feuer Voigl

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Der Fertig Voigl

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