On the website duurzaamgebouw.nl (sustainablybuilt.nl), a fellow architect recently made an appeal to designers not to follow the omnipresent trend of circularity. In fact, we should refocus on building for eternity. After all, why would you go dragging buildings and components around and what does that cost in terms of transport, fuel and pollution? The beloved historic warehouses have been there for centuries and have constantly adapted to changing usage. In short: real estate should not become movable.
In itself, this is a valid point and a pleasant counterargument in the circular hype. But it’s also a romantic position that can hardly be sustained in the light of the quantity, quality and speed of construction and spatial development over the last century. In my opinion, the colleague also confuses purpose and means. After all, demountable and circular construction is not primarily intended to drag its results across the globe. Sure there are temporary, movable buildings such as our Temporary Courthouse in Amsterdam and catering facility The Green House in Utrecht, but these are certainly not the main objective of the circular construction production. Demountable construction does explicitly facilitate ever-changing use however. In addition, it intelligently deals with both the quantity of materials and their different lifetimes. And above all, it offers opportunities to achieve higher quality within the same budget and in less time.
Since the beginning of our more than 45-year existence, we have therefore been designing buildings as construction kits that are easy to assemble and disassemble. A lot of attention is paid to the connections between components and their specific sequences. Such an approach leaves ample room for pragmatic, progressive improvements in all sorts of aspects; of the various components and therefore of the whole as well. The goal is to realize truly ‘moving property’. If you don’t watch out, the results may just still be standing after a hundred years.
Ronald Schleurholts, architect partner cepezed
Cobouw, May 14th 2019