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The Hive

A project proposed by Construction 21

Buildings Sustainable economy Management and governance Local life


Specialist :  Hugues Joinau
Contact : 



The project is an operation of social experimentation that takes the notion of "experimental" to heart so that it can be inscribed in a reality that is understandable and accessible to all the actors in the project, from its conception to its realization and throughout its life.

It is a social cooperative collective housing project, i.e. it is a group of reasoned people constituted by cooptation to pool their resources in order to build their housing. The users benefit from the investment of a social landlord and from a project ownership assistance. However, this takes us away from the classic process of setting up an operation. By the very nature of the project, everyone (users/owner/contractor) is involved and responsible, giving the project a "brought in" dimension.

The construction system of wood frame and straw infill, the passive ambition of the operation, the bio-sourced character of the materials used and all the attitudes of the project stem from this human dynamic. This attitude is at the heart of the energy saving issues, however simple it may be.

The innovation goes in the direction of simplifying the systems used, a return to the essentials, promoting local, renewable resources, integrated into the natural cycle of manufacture and end of life and encouraging the development of local networks and an economy on a human scale. Against the tide or as the bearer of a respectful current of life on earth, the project wishes to praise the highest human ingenuity, the awareness of its potential for mutual aid, listening and transmission.

The cooperative housing of Bègles "La Ruche", translated in English "The Hive" is the bearer of this desire to transform the city, an urban village with a human face. To build tomorrow's housing together and differently. Thus the success of this project will have an immediate effect on the transformation of the city of Bègles in the sense that it commits it to the path of cooperative and participative housing, and thus to real changes in the ways of making the city and its main component, housing.

Themes : 
  • Rénovation / Réhabilitation
  • Quality of housing
  • Construction
  • Social solidarity economy
  • Economy of service functionality
  • Strengthening of social links and of solidarity
Scale : 
  • Housing


marker  Nouvelle-Aquitaine / Bègles
Type of territory : 
  • Metropolis
  • Urban community
Delivery date :  01/07/2016
Built-up surface area :  950 m2
Project cost :  € 1 450 000
Project manager :  Axanis Bordeaux
Project owner :  Dauphins architecture
Associated partners :  180° ingénierie ; Éco Étude


Labels / certifications :  Effinergie + (-20%)
Competitions / prizes :  Low Carbon Laureate - Green Solutions Awards 2018; Special Prize of the Jury for Outstanding Operations awarded by the Coop HLM (Low cost housing) in 2016; 2nd regional prize for wood construction 2018; Winner of the Sustainable Development Award 2017

Project evaluation*

based on contributor declaration

Criteria n°1: SUFFIENCY

The layout of the building respects the town’s Local urban planning scheme (PLU) and frees up additional outdoor use by occupying the roof terrace due to the small size of the plot.

The gardens are freely used by the inhabitants.

Four parking spaces have been designed as permeable and reversible surfaces for use as gardens at the request of residents.

The project benefited from the support of the “Bâtiment Aquitain Basse Energie” region where an LCA study was carried out. It was completed by an experimental study with a view to the E+C- experimentation; the operation would be E3C2 equivalent to date.

The materials used for most of the project are wood, straw, earth and lime from the region (pine from the Landes and Limousin, straw from the Gers, clay from Biganos and lime from St Astier)

Each lodging is equipped with a statement of consumption by station allowing the users to correct their consumption. They are equipped with an individual pellet stove with a consumption of less than €150 per year to heat their dwelling due to the thermal performance of the walls insulated with straw and coated with earth. In summer the comfort is excellent with a delta of 6 to 8° between inside and outside at the most critical PIC at the end of the summer day.

The concrete floor screed poured over the wooden floor, combined with heavy cob walls and earthen renderings, provides a good phase shift. Large south-facing windows with high-performance blackout blinds also contribute to the energy efficiency of the project.

The systems implemented are simple and can be appropriated by the inhabitants (pellet stove and thermo-dynamic tanks for domestic hot water).

The inhabitants were introduced to the construction method of the project through a participative building site and were given a user’s guide for a better appropriation of their housing.

An ASL (Free trade union association of owners) manages the shared spaces. They have been trained to manage future housing expenses.

The knowledge of their building, the simplicity of the systems and the involvement of the inhabitants ensure the longevity and care of the project.

Criteria n°2: INCLUSION

The project initially involved the territorial actors, the City of Bègles, the EPA Euratlantique (Public planning establishment) and the HLM (low cost housing) cooperative Axanis in order to allow the acquisition of land at a controlled cost and oriented towards a participative housing project.

Public meetings led by an AMU (Assistant to the Democratic participation), CERISE, over a period of one year made it possible to form a group of residents who chose the architects and co-designed their habitat.

This participative housing project of eleven homes brings together families ranging from 5 children, to a reconstituted home, to a childless couple, to young couples with young children, retired women and single men with alternating childcare … In short, a great social mix with social accession and social rental (via the Aquitanis subsidiary).

Today the place is teeming with life, with retired people looking after the children and adults… An inspiring response in these times of isolation!

The fact that there was social rented housing (2 dwellings) made it possible to maintain the initial group of residents. Any inhabitant wishing to join the project and co-opted by the already constituted group could do so without reference to the financial (borrowing) capacity of the household. This was a courageous choice by the operator and was made possible thanks to its rental subsidiary. Today, one of the social rental units has been purchased by the ASL (Free trade union association of owners) in order to reduce the rent and keep the household in difficulty on the premises.

Proof of solidarity in the face of difficult situations ….

You have to come to The Hive to see how the place has been appropriated. Every corner of the outdoor spaces is inhabited by plants, trees, a terrace, a children’s play area, a bicycle shelter, etc. The sanitary containment has been serenely overcome within the project.

The common room, which is open to the neighborhood, hosts AMAP (Associations for the maintenance of peasant agriculture) baskets, cultural associations (language courses), screenings, relaxation practices, etc. The Hive actively participates in the life of the neighborhood.

Criteria n°3: RESILIENCE

A more intuitive approach that responds to a demand from residents to live together and be active in their homes, to use local and healthy materials and to know how they work.


The 180° design office enabled us to cross-reference intuitive data with quantified verifications (LCA, RT, GHG, sunshine study, phase shift (summer comfort), etc.). The acoustician helped to optimise the installation of wooden floors. The meeting with local craftsmen on their way of doing things guided the design of the project. It is the sum of this synergy within the project management team and the local actors that the project becomes coherent on its territory.

Criteria 4: CREATIVITY

Within the framework of this project, we can more humbly speak of feeding or sustaining the existing sectors.

Through the so-called “participative” training site, we have reached about fifty local actors from all walks of life over a period of 6 weeks to learn about earth and straw construction methods (framework and wood walls and cob partitions): inhabitants, students, engineers, architects, craftsmen, elected officials (and yes, an elected official from the neighboring commune), etc.

The construction methods call on pre-war know-how or the advent of concrete, in particular the cob walls. For the earth-coated straw walls, we are using a modern construction method which is becoming more and more competent year by year; we were using insulated wooden I-beams with exterior panel bracing and interior earth coating (making the building airtight).

Concerning the governance, said to be horizontal or by consensus, this is part of the functioning of the inhabitants. (see the life charter of The Hive project).

Last criteria: potential of replicability ?

Axanis is extending participatory housing operations using the same methods as The Hive project.

The agency carries out other housing operations in participatory housing or in inhabitant cooperatives.

The constant is the group of residents who originated the request (specifications, programme).

The Hive project lasted a total of 4 years, including 1 year to set up the residents’ group before the project management team was chosen.  The operation was completed at a construction cost (1450€/m²) and a resale price per m² (2600€/m²) well within the market price range, with a high quality of life and materials used: “This type of housing should be the norm”, as Brahim, a resident of The Hive, explains.

About Solène

Mission Officer, Working Group, and Projects. Student at the Urban School of Sciences Po Paris, focusing on the ecological transition of cities.

About Quentin

Motivated by climate issues and planetary boundaries, Quentin decided to study land use planning at the Ecole Nationale des Ponts et Chaussées. His experience in associative field at the Fresque du Climat, helped him to better understand the stakes of the ecological bifurcation. Between his native Haute-Savoie and his home town Rennes, where he gained expertise in mobility and sustainable agriculture, he is now based in Paris to deploy the Sustainable City by France’s territorial workshops throughout the country.

About Alice

After five years’ study at Sciences Po Lyon, with a specialization in territorial transitions, Alice joined Sustainable City by France (France Villes et territoires Durables). She actively contributes to the deployment of the association’s territorial workshops and working groups.
See her LinkedIn profile 

Currently studying as a second-year Master’s student in International Relations at University Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, Tara holds a Bachelor’s degree from INALCO, with a double-major in Hindi language, and International relations / Environmental studies. Her work with us is in line with her former experiences at UNESCO and the Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs, thus deepening her professional expertise in the field of environmental diplomacy and international cooperation for sustainable development.

See her LinkedIn profile


She holds a Master’s degree in Development Economics from the Panthéon-Sorbonne University and is currently studying for a Master’s degree in International Relations and Action Abroad at the same university. She approaches the problems of sustainable cities and territories through these different perspectives and her international experiences.

About Isabelana

Isabelana is a Mexican journalist who holds a Master’s degree in Digital Communication and Data Analysis from the Sorbonne University. She previously worked in communication and press relations in the cultural sector in France and Mexico. Today, she is interested in ecological actions and solutions to preserve the environment and the biodiversity.

About Camille

camille photo
With a background in social sciences, art history and architecture, Camille has worked in communication within the VINCI group: from major international projects to La Fabrique de la Cité, a think tank dedicated to urban foresight.

About Alexandra

A geographer by training (Saint Petersburg State University), she started as a geographer and economist at the Academy of Agricultural Economics (Russia), before pursuing her career in France as an administrative and accounting assistant (Air Liquide, Association TGV Provence Côte d’Azur, COFHUAT, Groupe Hervé)

About Marion

Trained in international and European affairs between England and France as part of a double degree at Sciences-Po Lille / University of Kent, Marion started her career in advocacy and institutional relations of non-governmental organisations, in the fair trade sector (Max Havelaar France label). Her experiences are also linked to territories, with a passage in decentralised cooperation at the level of a departmental council.

About Sébastien

Before joining the SCbF team, he held several positions in local government management. From elected official and deputy mayor of his native city Besançon, in charge of university relations and international cooperation, to Director of Economic Development of the City of Pantin, to Chief of staff in Montreuil – where he notably piloted the in-depth redesign of the urban project towards more ecology and sustainable development – he continued his career as Senior Resilience Officer of the City of Paris.
He promotes a holistic and systemic vision of sustainable development and brings his expertise in territorial resilience, ecological and social transition.