Circular construction requires a different landscape

The Embassy of Circular & Biobased Building is building a truly circular and modular exhibition at Strijp-S for Dutch Design Week 2022 (DDW). “DM Construct is working on this. They were inspired by the circular and biobased house we set up during DDW last year,” says Lucas De Man. He and Pascal Leboucq are the curators of the Embassy of Circular & Biobased Building.

Type Update
Published on 5 September 2022
Part of Embassy of Circular & Biobased Building
Circular construction requires a different landscape
Part of Embassy of Circular & Biobased Building

The Embassy of Circular & Biobased Building has a twofold programme. On the one hand, an exhibition is displayed in the self-built Embassy called “Een ode aan de durvers” [An ode to those who dare]. It is about realising sustainable, circular and biobased construction. “We present a number of examples of how our partners, including Caspar de Haan, Hurks, Wam&VanDuren and DM Construct are shaping their transition to more sustainable construction,” says De Man. In addition, the Embassy shows the results of a study they conducted together with TNO. “We linked nine designers to nine companies that want to reduce their CO2 emissions by working more with biobased materials. They present the results achieved and the insights obtained,” says De Man. 

Finally, the exhibition includes a scale model of the biobased house that the Embassy built last year. “We also want to take this on trips, for example to schools to help tell the story of biobased construction in an educational and accessible way,” says the curator. “With An ode to those who dare, we want to show what is already possible in the field of sustainable construction. But there is also room to show the challenges we still face, for example, in scaling up.”

Redesigning landscape

The exhibition concludes the project that the Embassy of Circular & Biobased Building has been working on in recent years. “Now we want to look further, because there is still a lot to do. The next step is the landscape,” says De Man. Different materials are needed for circular and biobased construction. “That means that we will be using the ground differently and that supply chains will be shaped in a different way. Changes like these are not fast or easy to bring about. Many players are involved, such as farmers, builders, designers and policymakers.” 

The Embassy of Circular & Biobased Building wants to start a new project during DDW called Possible Landscapes. “We will look at what needs to be done to scale up to a sustainable alternative in construction. North Brabant is the starting point as a landscape for this,” he says. To do this, North Brabant has been divided into seven areas. Stakeholders for each area come together – by invitation – to see what is possible. “We can create new landscape designs on the basis of models made from biobased materials. To begin with, we consciously focus on the possibilities, leaving practical objections aside for now. After the summer, we will calculate out all those dreams to see what is actually possible. We will make visualisations of them that we can share with others. In this way, we can really start a conversation about a different system, a different landscape.” Designers Liselot Cobelens and Stichting Fabrikaat, and others, play an important role in this.

Accessible and easy to apply

“A model is a very accessible way to start a conversation. Everyone understands how it works and can imagine new plans and possibilities,” the curator continues. Possible Landscapes can therefore be viewed in two ways. On the one hand, it concerns future dreams of possible new landscapes; on the other hand, the plans must also be possible and feasible. De Man wants to show the results of this during DDW next year. “After that, we want to roll out the project further. Using the models, you look very locally at a problem and a solution, but you can apply this way of working all over the world. You can then combine the results and compare them with each other.”

‘Under all crises lies a crisis of value. What do we stand for? And what is really important to us? These are questions we need to answer in order to tackle the various crises. We have to have the courage to stand up for something.’

Crisis of values

With Possible Landscapes, De Man and his team mainly want to focus on the possibilities for the future. “Something has to change; that much is clear. People are often afraid of change. They are afraid that change will cause things to deteriorate. But different doesn’t always mean worse. The coming years – in which we will go through various transitions – will be very complicated, but also very interesting,” he says. At the moment, we live in a world with different crises, a climate crisis, nitrogen crisis, housing crisis and refugee crisis. De Man: “Under all crises lies a crisis of value. What do we stand for? And what is really important to us? These are questions we need to answer in order to tackle the various crises. We have to have the courage to stand up for something.”

Essential role for designers

The role of the designer is very important in this. “A designer can imagine, connect and tell. This enables us to show what is possible and to inspire people to look at existing processes in a different way. We have proven that this works with the biobased house,” De Man reflects. “It is important that a designer does not have to sell anything. We don’t belong to anybody or anything; our agenda is out in the open. All we want is to tell a story. We do not proclaim one truth but show the possibilities.”

Circularity and solidarity

And that works. New ideas and plans for the future are springing up like mushrooms. “Now we have to be vigilant that ecology doesn’t just become something for the rich. At conferences on sustainability and technology, you very often predominantly see older, white men. So when designing a new kind of world, we reach for old ideas. This is something we tend to do as humans. That is why products like the models are very important. They ensure that everyone can participate in conversations. For example, it is important that social housing builders also become involved in circular and biobased construction. This makes it more accessible. We are now slowly seeing a positive trend.”

De Man: “I believe that we are going to solve a lot of problems in the world, but the question is for whom? Will it only be something for rich people who have the means to quickly make their homes more sustainable and buy an electric car? Or is it something for all of us? It is very important to keep that in mind when developing and rolling out new plans. I hope that the new system will eventually become more circular with more solidarity.”

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