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Cepezed’s new offices are a demonstration of circular design

Design for deconstruction out of low-carbon materials is the way of the future.

We love wood construction because it stores carbon for the life of the building. But people often ask, “What about when the life of the building is over?” The answer is what has been called design for deconstruction, and now Cepezed architects call circular design. This is evidently a thing in the Netherlands:

The Netherlands has set itself the goal of rendering all construction activities fully circular by 2050, while cepezed has a long reputation for modular and demountable design and construction. Moreover, director Menno Rubbens of developer cepezed projects is part of the national program committee to achieve the national circularity goals. Partly for those reasons, Building D(emountable) also had to become an example project on cepezed’s own grounds. Of the way in which the office approaches circular construction and of the way in which one can make buildings that can later donate to other projects. Or even be reused elsewhere in their entirety.

Interior of d mountable building© lucas van der wee | cepezed via V2com Newswire

The building is very much like what I have called new old buildings – basically, an open wooden warehouse like everyone built a hundred years ago. But it has a slender steel supporting structure and Laminated Veneer Lumber (LVL) prefabricated beams, all left exposed. I do not understand Dutch fire regulations, but somehow “the entire building functions as one large fire compartment. As a result, little material was required for fire-resistant measures; only the stairwell has a fire-resistant partition.”

glazing of exterior face© lucas van der wee | cepezed via V2com Newswire

The architects talk about how the entire building is demountable, but I wonder about the windows. First of all, there are a lot of them; secondly, there are no traditional window frames; the glazing is mounted directly onto the steel. This is not easy, and depends on precision; “the steel builder had to comply with the very limited tolerances of the façade builder, which was no small task.”

glazing-detail© Glazing detail/ Cepezed Architects

You can see here in the detail that there is a bracket fastened to the steel. When I was an architect many years ago I tried this, and it did not end well. I also wonder how demountable it is, compared to a conventional window frame. But it is elegant and minimal; there is almost nothing to it. The entire design seems to be predicated on using as little of everything as possible.

structure demountable© Cepezed via V2com Newsire

When I was a kid I had a Meccano set of metal parts that I could use to build anything and take it apart, and keep going until I lost all the little nuts and bolts. This building reminds me of it, and of my Kenner Girder and Panel Building Set – lightweight framing that screws together, prefab panels that drop in, wrap a skin 'round the whole thing and you have a building. It's so simple and logical, no wonder it could be built in three weeks.

“This was possible, among other things, because of an integrated process with thoughtful preparation and close, integrated cooperation between the various cepezed disciplines.” Cepezed is the owner, developer, architect, interior designer and implementation coordinator.

detail of glazing demountable building© lucas van der wee | cepezed via V2com Newswire

One might have quibbles with us showing yet another all-glass building, but there is a lot going on here to admire. Thinking upfront about circular design ensures that the carbon stored in the wood stays stored, the repetitive steel frame can be unscrewed and unbolted and reused. It is a simple, uncomplicated but very sophisticated building. And when they get tired of all that glass, they can probably change that pretty easily.

exterior in the daytime demountable building© lucas van der wee | cepezed via V2com Newswire

We have also admired the bus and bike facilities designed by Cepezed, seen below in related links.

Design for deconstruction out of low-carbon materials is the way of the future.