The Exploded View: a biobased house as a starting point for a different value system

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? The Embassy of Circular & Biobased Building is all about sustainable building. Curator Lucas De Man of Biobased Creations talks about circular materials and construction methods and their philosophy. Because sustainable construction is more than just the building. It is about our value system and about the change that will take place.

Type Update
Published on 3 September 2021
Part of Embassy of Circular & Biobased Building
The Exploded View: a biobased house as a starting point for a different value system
Part of Embassy of Circular & Biobased Building

Within the Embassy of Circular & Biobased Building, eighty organisations and companies are working on a life-size biobased house. “You can walk through it and see, feel and smell the different materials,” says Lucas De Man. Each room has its own story. “Many people are now focusing on wood as a sustainable material, but there are so many more possibilities. Consider making walls out of sustainable, cement-free concrete, hemp, or bacteria.” The project, The Exploded View – Beyond Building, is an iconic building. This is the sequel to the scale model of a house that the Embassy of Circular & Biobased Building made last year, The Exploded View – Materials and Methods.

The Exploded View: Beyond Building by the Embassy of Circular & Biobased Building
The Exploded View: Beyond Building - credits: Biobased Creations

Linking worlds

De Man: “It’s cool to see the house. After an alarming report on climate change, it gives hope, energy, and inspiration for the future. We show that we can build circularly and biobased on a large scale.” And the will is there. Curator Lucas De Man and Head of Design Pascal Leboucq of Biobased Creations collaborated with several different parties, from ministries to construction companies and from artists to designers. “When we connect these worlds, we really make a difference.”

That change is very important to De Man. “I don’t want to point the finger and say that everyone should do it differently. That’s not how it works. We must work together towards a sustainable, circular world.” This goes further than just biobased construction. “For example, construction is also dependent on agriculture and government legislation,” he explains. TNO going to work on getting ten sustainable materials actually to obtain their certification. The rules have to change concerning building permits and bank loans to really start building sustainably. “Universities and colleges are also adding their knowledge in this area.”

Another value system

“These are all practical matters, but what do we really think is important? Sustainability, health, and affordable housing came up a lot in the discussions we had. Then we suddenly look much further than just biobased materials,” he says. “To make this big change, the whole value system has to change.” The research behind these major themes can also be seen during the upcoming Dutch Design Week. Four critical themes around the house have been outlined – health, value, neighbourhood and agriculture. You can find more background stories via a QR code. Lectures and other events are also organised by partners of the Embassy on these important themes of sustainable construction and a changing value system. 

“We have to keep in touch with each other and look to the future together. Building a single biobased house has been possible for a long time. According to the old standards, it is only ten percent more expensive than building a house,” says De Man. 

“We don't want to make just one house more sustainable; we want to make entire cities and villages more sustainable. Squares that store extra water to help deal with heavy rainfall and periods of drought, buildings where fruit and vegetables from along the walls, and modular homes that can easily be made smaller or larger based on demand. It's about the total picture.”
— Lucas De Man

Cyclic thinking

“Changing the system is complicated but also very interesting,” he continues. “It is an interaction between rules imposed from above and the motivated people who implement change from below.” That’s not easy. “The next 20 to 30 years will be difficult. The old system can’t be changed at the 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 new world

De Man: “This project really brought about a major change in my mind. It started with: how can we ensure that construction does as little harm as possible to nature? Now I can see how construction can help solve our problems. For example, we can make our own water purification installation in neighbourhoods by utilising plants and water storage. Green roofs can also provide more biodiversity, and there are several examples in which construction has positively contributed to nature.” 

We need that positivity to keep asking questions and to look for new possibilities. “I’m proud that from a relatively small group of people, we’ve been able to bring together a large number of parties. That’s the start; we learn by working together. Everyone wants to go for it one hundred percent. This house symbolises the need to change the world.”

Although the sum of the projects is the added value for this Embassy, they explain the two projects in more detail. The first project shows the possibilities of residual flows. During DDW20, Omlab already showed within The Exploded View – Material and Methods, a toilet building that they manufactured using 3D printing. The unique thing about this is the material they use for printing: a paste consisting of cellulose, Kaumera, and calcite, which they have extracted from sewage water using special techniques.

The Eindhoven circular designer Rik Maarssen (Rik Makes) is also involved in residual flows. Local residual flows such as flax, hemp, and rapeseed straw form the basis of the project Compostboard he designs. When the boards can no longer be used, they can be returned to the earth. The plates still contain fibers that make the earth extra nutrient-rich. Rik’s strength lies in seeking to link agriculture to products.

The Exploded View – Beyond Building of the Embassy of Circular & Biobased Building is a beautiful combination of physical and digital events. Tours are given through the house. If you physically visit the house, you can scan a QR code for all the themes and materials to read about them more in-depth online. There is also an online tour of the house. There are also lectures and other events for anyone who likes to zoom in on a particular theme. 

Lucas De Man - credits: Anne Harbers
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