In its sustainable development work, the Rotterdam, Netherlands, firm ArchitectenConsort concerns itself not only with energy use and water consumption, but also with the subtler matter of what makes a dwelling or neighborhood last. The durability of materials and details is part of the answer, says senior architect Edgar Bosman, but so are the ways in which people interact with the buildings, the site, and each other. Truly sustainable houses and communities function well enough that people will value and maintain them. “For us, social cohesion is a really important part of the design,” Bosman says. The firm’s new housing development in southern Sweden reflects that philosophy.

Designed for Netherlands-based developer ScanParks, the neighborhood will be in Ljusstaden, a 500-unit planned suburb of the Baltic seaport city of Kalmar. The 3.2-acre property is surrounded by dedicated open land, an advantage the architects amplify by blurring distinctions between developed and undeveloped areas, between neighboring properties, and between the structures and landscape. Green roofs will cap the 21 single-family dwellings, which will front on a common open space that includes public gathering areas and an entry drive surfaced with permeable pavers. The buildings will be clad in locally sourced softwood siding, thermally treated so that it requires no finish. “It’s really important for us,” Bosman says, “because we don’t want to use toxic materials or other ways of treating wood.”

Window size and placement optimize winter passive heating and obviate the need for air conditioning in the warmer months. The development will rely on grid electricity, but if soil conditions allow, a central geothermal heat pump plant will supply in-floor hydronic heat to all the units. All stormwater will be handled on site, with rainwater stored for flushing toilets. Because the site plan devotes open space primarily to common use, each floor plan includes either four or five private outdoor terraces. The houses, which range in size from roughly 1,200 to 1,500 square feet, are aimed at middle-class buyers, with prices from 3 million to 4 million Swedish kronor (approximately $440,000 to $580,000).