Symposium ‘Sustainable reuse of buildings, the Dutch approach’

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The re-used building BK city

Olivier Graeven and HielkjeZijlstra approached the demand for sustainable reuse as anarchitectonic assignment. From the analysis of the surroundings, the history and the building they presented design solutions for renovation and reuse of a building. Zijlstra had elaborated this in her so called ABCD method in which ‘understanding the building’ is fundamental, from context to detail. She showed an adjustment of a concrete façade panel in the reconstruction neighborhood Jeruzalem, Amsterdam. The panel that once was the visual expression of modern standardization and mass production, could only meet the modern insulation standards by adapting its thickness. By doing so the typical expression of the design of the dwellings could be preserved in the area that has now been listed as a national monument. The question remains if such an expensive and radical renovation of an existing building can be financially affordable.

Olivier Graven presented a redesign of the mail sorting building TPG Post at Holland Spoor, The Hague. By placing a huge volume on top of an existing building, the originallandmarkeffect of the once futuristic building was brought back into its surroundings. He approached the redesign of the building as an evolutionary process that allows it to grow and to change, in a natural, logical and poetical way.
Michiel Haasquestioned our understanding of sustainability by discussing the scarcity of materials instead of energy. The energy of the sun is endless but the availability of scarce materials for our products is ending. He showed how this scarcity of materials influencesthe dependency in between countries and continents. For example the production of advanced technology products that are largely owned by Chinese entrepreneurs in Africa. From this logic he argued that redundant buildings should not be considered as waist but as material suppliers. That we should demolish in a sustainable way. In this view throwing away materials is a waste of energy. In the ideal future situation we might think of materials that do not have any environmental impact and grow again during their lifespan. He introduced the concept of ‘zeromaterials’, in analogy with zero energy concepts.
As final speakerRudy Stroinkpresented his vision on the future development of the Netherlands. He started with the conclusion that estate development and market in the Netherlands are derailed. He made a clear distinction between the crisis and the problems in the estate market, taking into account that the latter will not be easily overcome. He stated that the vacancy in the office market is now 20% and will raise in the future to a 40 to 50%. In short: we have more than enough buildings. As a consequence of this he expects the prices of the stock to fall. Thereafter he showed the TCN concept of redevelopment. TCN invests in non-profitable buildings by finding new users that are looking for a cheap workplace, for example small creative industries and freelancers. These companies are compensated by additional services and a sense of communal belonging for example with good coffee, parking space or child care. So he invests mainly in the social community of renters, instead of in buildings only. He viewed the different actors in building process as parties that should create clearly defined conditions to realize new developments. In the future development of the Netherlands he expects the government to develop according to the American model, in which the role of the government as an investor will diminish. Stroinkalso stated that an integral approach is essential for reuse. All stakeholders should perform according to their role in the processand stimulatethe development process. To create out of their own specialism fruitful conditions for the other stakeholders. Thus transforming projects into platforms for original creations.
The introduction of the American model in Europe, as RudyStroinkmentioned, gave rise to some discussion. Emmanuel Moulin, director of the URBACT Secretary, asked about the Dutch debate around social housing since this issue was not mentioned in the debate. This might have been due to the typical Dutch situation of the major influence of the housing construction associations and needed some explanation for the international visitors. Other participants in the room asked if for the transformation of lesser profitable locations the developing role of the government would still be needed.
At the end of the day FrédériqueCalvanus, lead partner of LINKS from the French city of Bayonne, presented the goals of the LINKS project. She stated that in the rest of Europe the stock of traditional buildings is even bigger (30%) and asked for more attention for knowledge of the traditional building physics and damp-open properties of these buildings. In the end of the dayBas Verkerk, mayor of Delft, reminded us on the fact that the 9th of May is also the day of Europe. The mayor stressed the importance of European exchanges and strongly advocated the social European alternative for the individualistic American politics and collective Asian market, taking the ‘Dutch approach’ to an intercontinental level. After all the symposium gave an impression how scarcity can and should actuate the formulation of new ideas and insights. Thinking about a sustainable future the integral approach is crucial. The symposium attempted to draw some outlines of this future.

Ilse Rijneveld, Wim van Unen, city of Delft, July 2012

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