The Havenlofts: living life afloat

Spurred on by a growing population problem and the prospect of a changing climate, the Rotterdam city council partnered with Public Domain Architects to bring the future to the district of Feijenoord. They took on a challenge that only few architects have dared to undertake - to build an entire neighbourhood on the most whimsical of all surfaces: water.


Rotterdam, the Netherlands

Project completion


Designed by

Public Domain Architects

Project type

new build

Building type


Roof surface

ca. 800 m²

Roofing membrane

Elevate RubberGard EPDM 1.1 mm 

Home to the largest harbor in Europe, the city of Rotterdam is a densely populated metropole that is on the constant lookout for solutions to accommodate an ever-growing population and a lack of available space to respond to its housing needs. In an attempt to spare an already dense city centre bursting at its seams, the Rotterdam city council was forced to look for solutions elsewhere. Enter: the Nassauhaven in the Feijenoord district. The Nassauhaven, a long-abandoned harbor basin from the 1890s, provided an answer to the city council’s challenges. If there is no available space on the land, one might as well build on water.

Light as a feather, yet robust

In 2019, the construction of the Havenlofts project, a neighborhood of eighteen floating houses on the Nassauhaven, was set into motion. Designed to be future-proof, sustainable and great to live in, they presented a very sustainable solution to the housing dilemma. Each equipped with six solar panels, a biomass generator for heating and a state-of-the-art water filtering and purifying system, the houses are fully carbon neutral and allow for comfortable off-the-grid living. Each house even has a private dock to attach a boat. To expand upon the sustainable nature of the neighbourhood, the developer collaborated with local partners to give inhabitants of both the Havenlofts and the Nassauhaven easy access to electric shared cars, charging points and electric bicycles.

As Rotterdam is located in a delta that has open access to the sea, the Nassauhaven is subject to tidal changes that may fluctuate up to two meters. To mitigate this problem, each house was built over a maintenance-free and unsinkable concrete pontoon, making it resilient against future challenges brought on by a rising sea level caused by global warming.

The construction materials were selected on the basis of sustainability, robustness and aesthetics. Due to this, the buildings are as light as they are durable and robust: they are thoroughly insulated, cultivating a healthy indoor climate.

A further testament to their lightness, all eighteen Havenlofts were prefabricated off-site. Once the walls, constructed with aluminium and wood frames, were finished, the roofs were waterproofed with Elevate’s RubberGard EPDM 1.1 mm thick roofing membrane, fully adhered on top of rigid PIR insulation panels. The houses were then transported to their final location in the Nassauhaven.


RubberGard EPDM is ideal for prefab construction. It is available in a wide range of widths, which maximizes efficiency and minimizes material losses. In addition, the RubberGard EPDM roofing system is installed without using open flame, which is a very important aspect of offsite construction.

RubberGard EPDM is also extremely durable and resilient and is compatible with photovoltaic and green roofs. It is also an inert material, which means that it does not release pollutants into the rainwater that runs off the roofs. This allowed rainwater to be released directly into the Nassauhaven without the need for further treatment.

This project was nominated for the Dutch “Roof of the Year 2020” awards, in the Flat Roofs category.


Elevate RubberGard EPDM 1.1 mm


PIR insulation


Vapor barrier (bitumen)



There is a lot to
discover about EPDM

EPDM is the most future-proof roofing solution when it comes to sustainability, performance and design freedom. Learn more about the role it played within this project and many others by discovering its benefits.

How did EPDM elevate this project?

Solar Roofs

The UV resistance of EPDM is the highest among all available roofing solutions. It lasts longer than the solar panels, which allows to create sustainable, low-maintenance solar roofs that function for many decades.

Quick installation

Installing EPDM is fast, flame-free and safe for people and the environment. When it comes to large roof surfaces and irregular shapes and forms, EPDM ensures a swift and easy installation process.


Roofs represent about 20–25% of the total urban surface area. What is particularly visible on satellite photos is that we are not making the most of our roofs yet: more often than not, they stay empty. At the same time, as cities continue to grow and expand, becoming warmer and noisier in the process, roofs are expected to go beyond their primary function of ensuring watertightness. More than just “covers” on top of buildings, they need to contribute to their energetic efficiency, sustainability and overall reduction of the environmental impact. Green roofs are among the best solutions that address all these needs.