Built Positive Principles Play Key Role in Venlo City Hall’s Sustainable Design Mission

Tags: built environment (653)

When the city of Venlo in the Netherlands set out to design its new city hall, opened in 2016, officials decided to make it a shining example of Cradle to Cradle® design. This mission accompanied and was in concert with a central theme of creating a comfortable and healthy working environment and one that would showcase sustainable innovation. Not only did they achieve these goals, the project delivers assurances of return on investment and actionable measurement.

The building’s design team leveraged Cradle to Cradle Certified™ products to achieve Built Positive concepts on several fronts—buildings as material banks, designing for disassembly, and material health.

“We consider Venlo City Hall as a material bank for the future,” says Bas van de Westerlo MSc., specialty advisor for built environment and Cradle to Cradle® consultant for C2C ExpoLAB, which consulted on the project. “Incorporating Cradle to Cradle Certified products was an important aspect during the design and realization of Venlo City Hall. If possible, C2C Certified products were implemented, but we also challenged companies to make the step toward certification. As a result, additional companies received their C2C certificate. Materials have a material passport, so that we know the exact content in the building.” Material passports are emerging as a tool to facilitate information for buildings as material banks and include ingredient disclosure, how to disassemble, and how to recycle or return the material.

C2C Certified products from 21 companies were specified throughout the building, including Shaw carpet, Accoya wood, Hycrete Admixtures, Modulo Green living walls, and Herman Miller Mirra 2 office chairs, among others.

“Besides asking for C2C Certified products, we also learned from the intense collaboration with companies that we can continuously raise the bar,” adds van de Westerlo. “For example, we asked for guaranteed takeback systems to close the loop after the use phase of the building. But also we were convinced by the companies that materials keep a residual value. For example, we made an agreement of 18% residual value for the furniture. This means a total savings of €300,000 for the city. Because of Venlo City Hall, we can now raise the bar in new building projects in the Netherlands, Germany, and Belgium where we are involved as C2C ExpoLAB.” 

These kinds of examples start to quantify the impact of buildings as material banks and create a new value proposition for owners.

The team addressed design for disassembly via a “green demolition” plan devised by the building contractor that provides directives on how to disassemble the building to create continuous cycles. “We also described how the building should be disassembled to use the maximal potential of the building as material bank,” van de Westerlo explains. “By doing so, we hope to contribute to a circular economy by implementing the C2C principles. We see Cradle to Cradle® as an innovative economic principle to add value.” 

Material health was essential to accomplishing these goals, he adds. “The most important reason to go for C2C Certified products is not only that these products can be recycled or upcycled, but also that they have a residual value and of course that they are healthy.”

During the use phase of the building, the indoor air quality is measured, including VOCs, fine dust, CO2, and humidity. An important goal was the absence of chemicals or toxic materials and off-gassing during the use phase. C2C certification provides those verifications.  

Along with a materials approach, Venlo City Hall incorporates Cradle to Cradle® design via systems addressing indoor and outdoor air quality, energy, and water (see infographic, below). A custom real-time system will measure the set KPIs for the four C2C themes. For example, how much renewable energy is produced and what is the consumption? What is the indoor or outdoor air quality in numbers as temperature, fine dust, CO2, and humidity?

“Projects like Venlo City Hall prove that you can be safe and earn money while implementing C2C principles,” van de Westerlo concludes. “In case of Venlo City Hall, we invested €3.4 million in C2C elements, with an ROI of €16.9 million over 40 years. The business case shows us a positive cash flow after one year! So you not only can add a positive impact for health of people or the environment, but also create a positive business case. In that case, what’s the reason for not doing it?”

Learn more about the Venlo City Hall project here. Find Cradle to Cradle Certified products for your Built Positive project here.

Photos: Ton Desar, City of Venlo