"Sustainability requires creative solutions"

28 June 2019

Sustainability plays an increasingly important role in our society and in the construction world. At Pieters Bouwtechniek we see increasing social attention to sustainable building as a necessary development that requires a different way of thinking.

Robin-Schipper-met-naam.png"Sustainability plays an important role in almost all projects in which we are involved. This varies from making a structural design for a longer lifespan of a building and the use of sustainable materials, to the re-use of an existing building and fully circular construction, "says Robin Schipper, directeur/partner at Pieters Bouwtechniek. Sustainable construction requires a different way of thinking. This requires not only the necessary creativity, but also guts. Precisely that makes work as a constructor more fun and challenging according to Robin. "It is not for nothing that the term rethink is number one on the priority ladder for circular construction. In many cases you can ask yourself whether it is necessary to construct a completely new building, "says Robin. For example, the main load-bearing structure of most buildings lasts up to two hundred years, a façade has a lifespan of twenty-five years and the installations last for fifteen years. "So you can also choose to leave the main supporting structure and only replace the facade and installation of a building," says Robin. Another way to build more sustainably is to create a different design that gives the building a longer lifespan. Consider, for example, a flexible layout that makes it possible to give the building a different function in the future. "Although it is often found that the retention of the hull is more expensive than demolishing and new construction due to all the measures, there is currently an increasing choice to re-use an existing building," says Robin.

Waste as a raw material
Circularity is seen by many as the pinnacle of sustainability. With the Netherlands Circular program in 2050, the government wants to ensure that almost everything that we use by that time gets a new life. In other words: waste becomes the new raw material, also in construction. Urban mining, extracting usable materials and raw materials from buildings and reselling them for reuse, is a development that comes from this idea. Materials and raw materials are also reused as much as possible in Pieters Bouwtechniek projects. An example is the reuse of concrete. A good thing, because the cement industry is a huge burden on the environment. "Cement reacts with water during the hardening process of concrete. But because too much cement is often used, about forty percent of the cement has never reacted with water. This makes this cement reusable, "says Robin. Natural - and therefore sustainable - materials are increasingly being used in new construction projects. Take  Hotel Jakarta and Patch22 in Amsterdam, two leading buildings that mainly consist of wood. Although this is a positive development according to Robin, it does present constructors with new challenges. One of these challenges is that wood is less sound-absorbing than concrete. Fortunately, a (sustainable!) Solution has been devised for almost every challenge: worn jeans and old floor coverings are nowadays used as sound damping.


100% circular
Going one step further now also happens: a good example of fully circular construction is The Green House, a 100% circular catering pavilion in Utrecht. Pieters was involved in this project as a construction consultant. Robin: "It was already known in advance that this building should make way for the construction of a new tower in fifteen years. The circular idea has therefore been leading in all choices within the project. The complete construction is removable and can therefore be moved in its entirety in 15 years. Moreover, all materials are durable and reusable. "The foundation of The Green House is composed of prefabricated Stelcon panels. There are standard concrete blocks on top that spread the forces from the steel columns to the foundation. The steel construction is provided with bolt connections and can be completely dismantled. The floors are made with wooden beams, the roof with steel roof plates and the facades are made of glass. Vowels lie on the floor of the ground floor. Another example is the BRET Garden near Amsterdam Slotervaart station. This is a circular office building that is made up of stacked sea containers. Here too, Pieters was involved as a construction consultant. Just like the location of The Green House in Utrecht, this area will also have a different purpose in a few years. "We have applied the same foundation method here, so that after a while the entire building, including the foundation, can be removed without loss of material and rebuilt elsewhere," says Robin.


From clients - and especially from the government - there is a huge focus on sustainable construction. For example, the standards for energy efficiency (Energy Performance Coefficient, EPC) and environmental impact (Environmental Performance of Buildings, MPG) and the degree to which a building is circular of new buildings are being tightened every year. "We can express both the energy efficiency and the environmental impact of a building in numbers, making it possible to provide insight into the sustainability of various design solutions as early as the design phase," says Robin. The extent to which a building is circular can now also be calculated (Building Circularity Indicator, BCI). In this way, sustainability plays an increasingly important role in design choices. "We always strive for the most efficient construction possible, with a minimum of material use. The latter is often also the most economical way of building. "According to Robin, it is a good thing that it is becoming increasingly apparent in the construction world that new construction in particular is a huge burden on the environment. "Our raw materials are running out and therefore it is good that more and more attention is being paid to alternative ways of building, such as the re-use of existing buildings, circular building methods and the reuse of material. This requires creative, out-of-the-box solutions. It is precisely this that makes the sustainability issue so enjoyable and challenging for a manufacturer. "

Hotel Jakarta | Image: SeARCH
Patch22 | Image: Luuk Kramer
The Green House | Image: cepezed, Lucas van der Wee

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