VENLO – The green façade of Venlo's City Hall in the south of the Netherlands, by Rotterdam-based studio Kraaijvanger Architecten, is instrumental in providing a healthy working environment with a cradle-to-cradle (C2C) approach throughout the full design process. Four key aspects were targeted in the realization of the C2C building: enhancing indoor and outdoor air quality; continuous material cycles; renewable energy that produces more than it uses; and enhancing water quality.
The 2000-sqm ‘green’ north façade – currently the largest in the world – features more than 100 different plants which contribute to biodiversity of the area and create a clean and healthy environment by absorbing 30 per cent of the sulphur and nitrogen oxides from the air, offsetting the emissions generated by the adjacent motorway. A three-storey greenhouse at the summit of the west elevation (which uses a solar chimney to convert energy from the sun into natural heating for the whole building) features a wooden staircase to encourage exercise, contributing to the health of both employees and visitors. The green roof collects rainwater which is used internally throughout the building, as well as to water the plants across the expansive façade.
Suppliers for materials were chosen based on their ability to guarantee C2C specification standards, which means that not all materials were sourced locally. ‘The embodied energy isn’t the only factor,’ says the firm. ‘All of the products used had to be free of toxins during the full life-cycle, as well as having the ability to be re- or up-cycled, so that put certain products out of the question straight away.’ All of the raw materials and parts used within the building have a ‘passport’ detailing their production process and origin in order to ensure that they meet the C2C standards.
More and more, architects are considering the impact of the quality of the built environment on the inhabitants of their buildings. Venlo City Hall is an example of how a building can not only impact on nature but possibly even make a positive contribution to the health of both the surrounding environment and its inhabitants. ‘It’s not only about the health of the environment anymore but also the health of the users. Not only is that better for the employees but it is also cost effective,’ explains the architect. ‘If you imagine the life-cycle of a building to be 40 years, then 90 per cent of the costs are employment costs. If you can improve the health of the employees then the return on investment is comparable to that of investing in energy efficiency.’
Elevation – North