The deadlines for meeting the targets under the Paris Agreement and the Dutch National Climate Agreement are approaching and the Netherlands has yet to move to the head of the European class. Our little country can use innovation to turn the tide and make an impact by improving the sustainability of the built environment. The construction and property sector is home to many keen innovators, as became apparent at CFP Green Buildings’ tenth Innovation Day, entitled “Innovation Dragons’ Den”.
Prelude: The Planet Escape Room
As a prelude to the Dragons’ Den, visitors were invited to participate in the Planet Escape Room, where they attempted to save the Earth by solving various puzzles. “It was a great way to connect with other attendees,” said one participant. “But the time just flew!”
Innovation Dragons’ Den
“Innovators had five minutes to pitch their idea for saving the planet,” said Bram Adema of CFP Green Buildings and Laetitia Nossek of Dutch Green Building Council. Boas Kraaijeveld of CFP Green Buildings explained why it’s important to invest now and to focus on innovation: “We’re reaching the limits of what our planet can bear, for example depletion of the ozone layer, aerosols in the atmosphere, marine pollution and loss of biodiversity.” He believes that the construction and property sector should get down to business and that we, as a society, must change. “We need to enlarge our positive footprint. We should be turning grey apartment blocks into green walls and roofs and surplus parking spaces into tiny forests. Bring nature back to buildings.”
Contributing to biodiversity
That is exactly what Daan Grasveld of The Urban Jungle Project envisaged: “We need to put the focus back on nature, because it contributes to a better urban climate and increases property values.” And yet nature is often missing in cities, in part because there is simply no room for trees. “Sometimes the urban landscape isn’t suitable, but in fact extreme heat and increased rainfall are making trees and plants more important. So we’ve come up with a way to have trees contribute to biodiversity in places under extreme conditions. A tree can in fact grow in The Urban Jungle because sensors detect its nutritional needs and nutrients are added based on this data. That allows us to unlock the unused potential of the existing building stock.”
Kieran Dartée of Field Factors emphasised the importance of climate-adaptive environments and highlighted the increasingly extreme weather events. “Summers will be hotter than ever and the increasing amount of rainfall will lead to more flooding. We’re also consuming more drinking water and the Netherlands’ National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) expects the demand to rise even further. We’re likely to use 30% more drinking water in 2040 than we do today.” Field Factors is focusing on a solution that captures and stores 95% of all rainwater. “Space is at a premium in many urban environments, so it’s a compact solution. We retain rainwater and purify it to make it suitable for reuse.”
Improved wellbeing and productivity
Lisan Crommentuijn of Signify also acknowledged the value of a healthy environment and talked about Nature Connect. “Daylight is extremely important for our wellbeing and our aim is to let natural light back inside. During the development process, we went back to nature and tried to connect the indoor and outdoor environments. We project different types of light and use natural colours on the walls. Combining the three delivers the most natural experience possible.” She believes that experience improves wellbeing and productivity. “It supports the biorhythm and gives people more energy. It also makes your surroundings more inspiring.”
In a bid to bring circular construction a step closer to reality, Walter de Groot of CircuWall told the participants about circular adhesive. “After a lengthy development pipeline, we have succeeded in making a removable, non-toxic flooring adhesive.” De Groot says the adhesive is completely circular and can be removed without damaging the base layer. “The adhesive layer is very thin, 35 to 50 microns, and has a firm grab. At the same time, it’s easy to remove and can be used for all sorts of floor coverings, including carpeting, poured resin and Marmoleum.”
From bio-waste to green energy
Rene Schers of Circ also wanted to speed up the drive towards circularity. “We have a great opportunity to link food waste to upcycling and use all of it to maximum effect.” Circ aims to use its Biodigester to convert local and small-scale bio-waste into green energy. “Bio-waste can be upcycled in a way that benefits the local economy, but it’s an opportunity that is too often overlooked. We can derive up to 80% of our energy from our own waste. One banana peel produces enough energy for 30 minutes of cooking.”
Steven Bleker of FIBERunlimited also focused on the circular transition and connected it to the growing trend towards digitalisation. “Mineral resources are becoming increasingly scarce. Our copper reserves will be depleted in 100 years.” Copper is commonly used in network cables, for example. “There are 1.7 kilometres of traditional copper network cabling for every 100 metres of building. That has to change. We can install polymer optical fibre without connectors,” an activity that Bleker says reduces cabling by 90% and eliminates the need for copper.
Raising awareness and changing behaviour
One important factor in addressing raw materials depletion is human behaviour. This was the topic addressed by Immelie Fehmers of MBRC The Ocean, which seeks to clean up marine pollution. “More than 11 million tonnes of plastic waste end up in the ocean every year. We remove fishing nets and plastic soup and turn them into recycled yarn, for example.” Setting up what are known as “cleaning hubs” makes the local population aware of the plastic waste problem. “That encourages behavioural change. The challenge now is to scale up the initiative.”
Bert van Dorp of Orange Climate Group was up next and explained that the energy transition can only be affordable if we put enough effort into innovative materials. “Phase Changing Materials ensure that the energy you store is not lost. You store energy when you have a surplus and release it when you have a shortage.” The materials can be used in ceilings and turn an office building into thermal battery, for example.
Water: Most important SDG?
Raymond Tieman of Smartvatten focused on one of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): Clean water and sanitation. “My advice is to start with that goal.” He explained why: “The agriculture sector uses 70% of the world’s drinking water and drinking water is the most important element of good health. Water scarcity is a global problem that we need to address.” Progress can be made in the built environment, first of all by analysing water consumption. “We only know how 40% of all water is used. We provide monitoring that can save you up to 20% on water. And if you detect a leak, your investment will immediately pay for itself.”
After the Innovation Dragons’ Den, CFP Green Buildings is already looking forward to its next events: the Green Buildings Regatta on 17 September and the CFP Green Buildings Conference in October 2021. Keep an eye on the CFP Green Buildings website for future events.