Blog circulaire R&D gebouwen van Renze Evenhuis


22 February 2024

By: Renze Evenhuis

Sometimes the trick is to keep seeing progress especially in these turbulent times. For a long time I have been committed to climate. And for longer I have been standing up for the reuse of materials in labs or cleanrooms. Fair? In the beginning this went against the grain with questioning or frowning looks on the other side of the table. Then you just keep going even if you doubt yourself for a moment. That is part of pioneering. I think it is wonderful to see that R&D organizations in all sorts of places in the Netherlands are now starting to participate.


In 2023 I tasted pioneering spirit in the cooperation with clients. Pushing boundaries in reuse within labs or clean rooms or the application of renewable materials. Modular construction and detachability are becoming the rule rather than the exception in programs of requirements. At meetings, fortunately, I no longer have to be the first to mention it. R&D employees are also full of circular ideas and happy to contribute. It’s really great that these circular measures are now gaining momentum. I see the acceleration more than ever.


I encountered such a tipping point earlier also in the energy sustainability of laboratories. Even though less than ten years ago ‘sloppy’ rules of thumb for ventilation rates were used. While, with dynamic control and after-measurement, you save gigantic amounts of energy. Now we are at such a tipping point in terms of circularity. Would you now replace reused panels at the very last minute because of a minute color difference? Or tear down a cleanroom wall because of a wooden adjustment block behind a metal plate? Probably not, yet that was the reality until recently.


I also see a growing realization that circularity can be beneficial for the business case and for flexibility in operations. Good detachability also simplifies management and maintenance of labs and cleanrooms. Also, circular solutions can provide much shorter construction times. I therefore expect a further breakthrough of detachability, modularity, reuse and the application of renewable materials this year. This is also going to lead to new work standards.


You start with the inventory of material that is really needed and must be new because of cleanliness requirements, for example. Detachability with reusable or renewable material is then the criterion for the remainder. Basically, dealing with materials more consciously and selectively. Of course this applies to office and meeting facilities, but I expect to see biobased components in critical areas or reuse of cleanroom walls and installation components such as pipes and ducts in the near future.


Such measures were long unimaginable but our clients like TU Delft or Byondis are investigating their application. Because it is justified even for critical spaces. An attractive lab in an old shed with reused material? Byondis already thought about it with participation of local residents. The sense of community gets stronger when you work together on circular building in this way. That’s a good thing especially in this day and age.


Chain players are also broadening their horizons and knowledge. Architects are becoming as much designers as experts in circular materials that also provide a ‘warmer’ building aesthetic for R&D environments. Material manufacturers, in their turn, are working on innovations for more renewable materials and ‘climate-positive’ solutions. In our design for the Brightlands Circular House, we are already working with campus companies on the use of circular plastic materials.


We are not there with that, of course. The next step is regenerative design. In the circular economy and the built environment, we need to move toward CO2 storage in as many places as possible. Building materials that we put into a building should at least come out with just as much value. Here also lies an opportunity for R&D environments because climate-positive design is also within reach for labs and clean rooms. But well I admit for a pioneer there is always something to be desired.


Renze Evenhuis