Retrospective 2021: Embassy of Circular & Biobased Building
In the future, will vegetables grow from your walls? Will your kitchen be made from leftovers? And will your doors be mainly constructed from algae? If it’s up to the Embassy of Circular & Biobased Building, we’re definitely headed in that direction. During Dutch Design Week 2021 (DDW21), visitors got a taste of what their house could look like in the future, completely biobased.
The Exploded View – Beyond Building, as the biobased house is called, encouraged discussion and made people think. As Curator of the Embassy, Lucas De Man, said, “What do we think is really important? Sustainability, health and affordable housing came up a lot in the discussions we had.” Biobased construction is an important part of this, but it goes much further than that.
Changing the value system
To be able to implement these sorts of big changes, the whole value system needs to change. That is complicated and will take several decades, but according to De Man, it is much needed. “The value system is an interaction between rules imposed from above and the motivated people who implement change from below. The old system can’t be changed with a snap of the fingers. There will be renewal and delay. This creates a lot of buzz and, ultimately, a new value system. That may no longer always mean thinking in more, bigger, better, but thinking more cyclically. With more attention to nature and – hopefully – less inequality.”
A complete experience
The Exploded View – Beyond Building was open to being admired on Ketelhuisplein during DDW21. Visitors walked through the full-size house, and in each room, they got a different insight into the materials, the production process, and its philosophy. They could see, smell, taste and feel all materials; it was a complete experience that took you on a trip to the future. Cementless concrete, hemp walls and bacteria cabinets, all kinds of new materials were tried in the house. Visitors could read additional background information about the materials via QR codes. In addition, these stories also gave them a glimpse into the future. What will society look like if we really start building biobased?
This was also the question on the designers’ minds affiliated with the Embassy of Circular & Biobased Building. Pascal Leboucq, chief designer and co-curator of the Embassy, previously tipped off two interesting designers who are pre-eminently involved in this. For example, Omlab designed a 3D-printed toilet building. They use a paste consisting of cellulose, Kaumera and calcite filtered from sewage water using a special technique to create the building. Residual flows can also form a beautiful, new material. Rik Maarssen uses the residual flows of flax, hemp and rapeseed straw for his Compostboard project. When the boards can no longer be used, they can be returned to the earth. The plates still contain fibres that make the earth extra nutrient-rich. Do you want to learn more about Rik Maarssen and the projects of his company RikMakes? Read the interview with him here.
There were many other materials used, such as the Bacteria Lamp by Jan Klinger, resilient mycelium flooring by Mogu and seaweed tiles by Studio Klarenbeek & Dros. All these materials and methods are conveniently collected on the website of The Exploded View.
The predecessor of The Exploded View – Beyond Building, a scale model, was also on display. The Exploded View – Materials and Methods inspired visitors to look at building and living in a different way. “It was cool to see the house. It gives hope, energy and inspiration for the future,” says De Man.
During DDW21, visitors enjoyed both exhibitions at Strijp-S. The various tours allowed them to experience the house in all possible ways, both physically and virtually. There were also various talks, debates and workshops. For example, Chief Government Architect Francesco Veenstra talked to employees of the Central Government Real Estate Organisation and the Ministry of the General Affairs about the opportunities that biobased construction offers for making the built environment more sustainable and the realisation of fast, affordable and innovative new construction. In addition, the Agrodome Foundation organised a mini-symposium on healthy building and other benefits of natural building materials.
‘This trajectory really shows you that it is possible to learn together from all the things we don't know yet.’
The professional field joins in
TNO organised the workshop The Exploded View as a field lab for zero-emission construction. In round table discussions, various parties in the construction chain, such as architects, area developers, producers and policymakers, discussed the circular construction economy.
Fully circular and biobased construction is still a complicated task for many companies. There are already more and more start-ups and other companies looking for new materials and construction methods. They have to connect with the rest of the chain. One of those start-ups is Waterweg by Eva Aarts. They are also one of the partners of the Embassy. The company makes water-compatible tiles from materials that have been dredged from rivers and canals. “We notice that everyone is transferring responsibility when it comes to circular biobased construction,” says Aarts. “When you come together, you can hear very clearly what everyone’s questions are and everyone’s position. This trajectory really shows you that it is possible to learn together from all the things we don’t know yet. That balance is nice.”
In addition, the Embassy organised a conference in which builders, architects, housing corporations and other stakeholders from Brabant discussed the idea of realising circular housing. Several ambitious targets have already been set, such as Green Deals, City Deals and Climate Agreements and Plans. During the conference, the parties involved looked at how they could objectively and measurably achieve these plans.
The Embassy of Circular & Biobased Building created a common ground for both construction professionals and the general public. Inspiring people and projects took everyone into the world of tomorrow, in which homes are affordable and sustainable.