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Many students today live alone in one-room flats with their own bathroom and kitchen. Loneliness is a big problem among young people and these flats are expensive and uses unnecessary amount of resources and energy. What if we could create a new norm of co-living for students, with large social kitchen, and shared spaces that support a sustainable lifestyle?

Planlösning i 3D för Testbed KTH 2.0.
Planlösning för Testbed KTH 2.0.


To achieve the 2-degree goal and the 17 global sustainable development goals  adopted by the UN (Agenda 2030), major changes are needed in all sectors of society, including construction and housing. This project contributes to achieving the following global goals within Agenda 2030: 11. Sustainable cities and communities, 12. Responsible consumption and production, 13. Climate action, and 16. Peace, justice and strong institutions.

There is today a great shortage of student housing in several cities in Sweden. In 2014, Akademiska Hus was given an expanded mission to develop, build and manage long-term student and researcher housing. At that time, an opportunity was identified for a total of 10,000 new homes on land owned by Akademiska Hus. Building more is important, but so is building sustainable, purposeful housing that students can afford.

Project description

The purpose of this project is to create a sustainable and flexible co-living of the future. The goal is to develop a new knowledge base and standard for co-living that creates value socially (by creating conditions for community), offers learning and is resource and energy efficient. The project's focus is communal kitchens and shared bathrooms in student and researcher housing on campus. Students are generally a group prone to change as they move to a new place and embark on a new phase in life. They have a more flexible lifestyle and are more open to environmental issues and to new ways of living. Here is a unique opportunity to establish sustainable habits and trying out new technical and social solutions.

In this project, we take a broad approach and gather partners from the real estate industry, architecture, service design and white goods to, together with researchers from KTH Royal Institute of Technology, investigate, develop, and test new solutions for the sustainable co-living of the future. As a test bed, we use KTH Live-In Lab (LIL) where all concepts can be tested in real homes within the project time plan; all in co-creation with the residents (students).

Our vision is to develop a co-living that will be at the forefront in terms of social, economic, and ecological sustainability. Here is an opportunity to think innovatively in everything from energy and resource efficiency, coexistence, learning, cooking, and hygiene. The goal is to develop data and knowledge to influence norms, building regulations and future construction.

The student housing on campus consists of different sub-areas, in this project we will focus on the following two:

  • The kitchen (cooking, food storage, eating, composting, recycling)
  • The bathroom (bath, shower, toilet, laundry)

The kitchen and the bathroom are places in a home where resources are consumed, transformed, and recycled. In the communal kitchen, opportunities for stronger social communities can be created; at the same time, it is also a place where irritation and friction can occur. If we understand the residents' perspectives better, we can create new incentives and encourage lifestyles where we share resources and at the same time strengthen social ties. The project will explore today's student housing, develop proposals for different solutions, build and develop prototypes, and test these in practice at LIL.


The goal of Co-Kitchen is to create a new norm of sustainable co-living for students. We work with explorative and creative solutions in terms of energy and resource efficiency, socializing, learning, cooking and hygiene, as well as developing knowledge to influence building regulations.
The project brings together partners from the building, real estate, architecture, service design and appliances together with researchers from KTH, to research, develop and test new housing solutions, products and services. Academic House will build 7000 new student housing and will be able to directly utilize the knowledge in their work.

  • Save 30 % living space and 50 % energy use per person compared to today.
  • More flexible and resource-efficient co-living housing with satisfied residents.
  • Increased perceived benefit of each built square and cubic meter – leads to customer satisfaction, "living as a service" and value for money for the resident.
  • Increased flexibility in identified parts of buildings / systems / functions – leads to future-proof built environments.
  • New sustainable and resource-efficient products and services for the kitchen and the bathroom on the market.
  • Increased understanding of the collaboration between different geometry-technical system services in housing.
  • Fewer people living alone, richer social networks, and reduced mental illness among young and elderly*.

*It is also our goal that parts of the project results can be applied to co-living solutions for other groups, for example the elderly who increasingly experience loneliness, anxiety, and worry.


To solve major complex challenges such as this one, an interdisciplinary work methodology is needed. Therefore, this project, in collaboration with companies from different industries, brings together many different skills and research fields. The overall methodology is taken from service design and user-centered design, which has long proven to be effective in creating innovations that are positive for users, technically feasible and have a good economy.

We will start with service design as a methodology and apply it to architecture and housing, with the goal of also contributing to method development in service architecture. We see everyday life as practices that are created through a complex interplay of materialities, knowledge and societal norms. To succeed with a change initiative, all these parts need to be involved and new practices established, which can then be spread and scaled up to the rest of society.  

The project is run in collaboration with LIL, a platform with multiple test beds for testing and research of new technology and new methods, with the goal of increasing collaboration between academia and business. 300 student housing units will form the basis of our interviews, observations, and co-created workshops. By testing the concepts sharply in real homes for a longer period (4 - 10 months), we can get results faster, but also provoke reactions, thoughts, and behaviors in the residents.

The different housing solutions and prototypes will be measured by several sensors in the apartments. In this way, we can obtain accurate data regarding the consumption of, for example, water, heat, and electricity.

KTH Seed (Department of Sustainable Development, Environmental Science and Engineering) will make calculations of resource efficiency and climate impact of various prototypes and design strategies in the project. This will be done based on life-cycle analysis methodology, mainly based on the European standard EN15978.

From the viewpoint of behavioral science, our starting point is based on social practice theory; we believe that technology, habits, and social norms together create practices and lifestyles. To change our lifestyle, we need to look at the various elements, such as technical infrastructure and habits, as a whole. (Shaw, Spaargaren).

Read the report CoKitchen – Coliving i KTH Live-In Lab:

Read more about Co-Kitchen here: CoKitchen, Sustainable Co-Living for Students

Project update april 2021

The new layout for Testbed KTH 3.0 is finished. Renovation will take place in the summer of 2021.

The floor plan for Testbed KTH 3.0.

The first renovation was carried out in the summer of 2020, from four ordinary student single room apartments to a co-living, where five students share a kitchen, living room and study places. This was the first test round. This autumn, the journey will continue, and new solutions will be developed and tested in LIL. In collaboration with the students who live there, climate researchers, service designers, architects, and Akademiska Hus as industrial partner, will develop proposals and new prototypes for how we can streamline and share more resources in our homes without having to reduce housing quality.

A chat with Anna Sundman and Maja Westman, architects at Theory Into Practice

Design for co-living – Live-in Lab is transformed step by step

From the individual student dorm, the four units have now transformed to one co-living unit, with a shared kitchen, a working table, and a living room.

– The bedrooms and bathrooms remain private, but in the next step we look at altering these as well, explains Anna Sundman, who is drawing the new co-living proposal.

She elaborates on the different challenges of designing a co-living.

– We are studying the physical possibilities of the Live-in Lab, to see what our options can be. Our ambition is to increase social space and shared spaces, and to find a good balance to meet the needs of the students, who require a stimulating home environment but also spaces for recovery and rest. We are drawing new layouts to accommodate the needs and combining these with ambitions to lower the climate impact, when comparing co-living to ordinary housing.

The impact from second order effects on resource consumption will be especially interesting to study. 

– Some things are obvious, if we use less material, less products compared with all having individual kitchens, resource savings can be made. But what is even more interesting is the next level, savings made possible from the behaviour in co-living. How the architecture can affect the behaviour of the students. This is what we like to find out more about, through working with the students. Do we use less or more electricity in co-living, when we can eat and cook together? What behaviours are impacted from more shared spatial solutions?, Anna Sundman concludes.

Design development for the Live-in Lab

Making the transformation to co-living, the shared space becomes a new asset for the students. What do we want to share? How many different activities can the spaces handle? The architects at Theory into Practice have examined the possibilities through multiple sketches and they can now share some results from their work in progress.

– One big difference between planning individual housing and co-living lies in how we design the connections between spaces, making a good flow between private, semi-public and public functions. It is important to care for the different levels and to make the spaces cater for a diversity of interactions that are possible in co-living, says Maja Westman.

The heart of the design proposals is the co-kitchen, a shared space accessible to all students. Since we are operating on the same total area as before (four one-bedroom student apartments), this space is made possible by moving functions from private to common spaces. This way functions can be shared by more residents, making the carbon footprint per resident smaller than in individual housing.

We are excited to see how the students use the new spaces, and if/how the co-living design helps make their everyday life easier, healthier and happier.

Is co-living the solution for lowering emissions from construction?

Parallel to the design process, the life-cycle assessment of the proposed layouts for co-living are compared to the one-bedroom student apartments with respect to environmental gains of the design.

– The collaboration with KTH Seed informs us in our design process and helps us, as planners, make responsible choices. It is especially interesting to study the potential of co-living when scaling the test to a whole building in relation to the 4-5 units in the Live-in Lab, Maja Westman concludes.


Project Manager


ITM, Department of Machine Design

Collaborating partners

Akademiska Hus AB, Green Leap, Savvy design, TIP arkitekter, KTH-Live-In Lab, Elektrolux, Seed. The project is financed by The Energy Agency

Research / Development area

Sustainability, energy-efficient and social student housing, Co-living, creative solutions both in terms of energy and resource efficiency.

Project duration

2 years