Breaking the long building chain together

“Welcome to The New Block, the hotspot for the circular building economy”, Kirsti Pol welcomes the architects, area developers, producers of e.g. tiles made of seaweed and walls made of residues we flush down the toilet, policy makers, clients, people from construction and installation companies.

Type Update
Published on 23 October 2021
Part of Embassy of Circular & Biobased Building
Breaking the long building chain together
Part of Embassy of Circular & Biobased Building

On a stormy Thursday, makers and market participants gathered for a workshop. In the morning, they were given a guided tour of the Exploded View Beyond Building on the Ketelhuisplein. They were able to smell, see and feel the nine materials from the producers present who are taking part in the TNO programme ‘The Exploded View as a field lab for emission-free building’.


In the coming years, a podium for sustainability should unfold in the old Mircrolab service building on the edge of Strijp-S. Last year, it was still full of installations, says Pol, “you could hardly walk around”. “Now it is still empty, although a number of materials are already on display, and it is still leaking on all sides. A heating system is the next step. But this should become a place where we can meet, where you can meet 1 on 1 and where you can see good examples.”

Meeting each other is necessary, also believes Sanne van Leeuwen, who from TNO is collaborating on the programme ‘The Exploded View as fieldlab for emission-free building’. The workshop is the first of three workshops in which the producers of materials and the market players will talk to each other about what they are up against when it comes to circular bio-based construction.

Van Leeuwen: “You still hear many of the same things coming back. It is still too new, too unknown and too expensive. We want to explore that further and tighten it up. We want to start working with the producers in the near future. Because that is necessary to scale up with bio-based materials.


During the workshop, the participants discuss what they are up against in groups. Van Leeuwen: “You notice that there is a gap in knowledge between those who develop the material and those who install and maintain it. Architects and builders do not know about the existence of materials.”

What does not help, according to Van Leeuwen, is that “our construction chain in the Netherlands is so incredibly long”. “There are so many MBK parties, in every project there is a different collaboration. You almost never see a fixed combination of client, architect, contractor and installer. That’s an interesting fact and a good thing to start talking to each other more.”

In a discussion, Eva Aarts, of start-up Waterweg – which makes water-level tiles from dredged material from rivers and canals – raises the point that she notices that municipalities do say they want to work locally, more sustainably and in co-creation, but that they do not want to pay more for a tile made from dredged material than for one made from concrete. “So it’s competing with concrete which has been around for 100 years.”


Just like any other building material, all bio-based materials must meet requirements and have certificates. Aarts: “All requirements around concrete tiles are made for concrete tiles. There is little flexibility for biobased.” As a newcomer on the market, Aarts and her partner Wies van Lieshout have to comply with all kinds of requirements and provide information for that, “but we often don’t have that yet”.

Sladjana Mijatovic, of area developer BPD, wants to break a lance for the government. After all, she worked for the municipality of Amsterdam for five years. “I agree that innovative tenders can be more functional, but certain certificates are there for a reason. You also have to guarantee a certain level of safety for that city bench or tile. I agree that it can be simpler, but it has to be in balance.”

These kinds of discussions are important to Aarts. “We notice that everyone passes the buck when it comes to circular bio-based construction. When you get together, you hear very clearly where everyone’s questions lie and how everyone is in the race. This trajectory is good that you really show that it is possible to learn together from all the things we don’t know yet. That balance is nice. Today was actually a confirmation of what we already know. That’s nice, we know we’re on the right track.”


During the guided tour, Mijatovic was still uncertain whether she would be able to help the designers in her role as an area developer, she says after the workshop. “But you notice that they really benefit from understanding the process. How you get to scale-up and make the step from product development to the market. In that sense, I was able to contribute something. And I got a lot of inspiration.

“A dredge tile like that is exactly what we would like. What they’re up against, we’re up against too. You’re dealing with a chain and it has to be taken completely into account.”

The nine participating producers in the TNO programme ‘The Exploded View as fieldlab for emission-free building’ are: Blueblocks, EXIE NV, Mogu, Omlab, Rik Makes, Scape Agency, Strotec, Studio Klarenbeek & Dros, Waterweg.

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