Even before completion, the new Triodos office in The Netherlands had been awarded the title 'Office Building of the Year 2019'. What makes it so special? For the unsuspecting passer-by it is the round, organic shapes, total glass outer walls, and green roofs that grab the attention.
At the same time, the structure blends naturally into the wooded surroundings of the De Reehorst estate in Driebergen. And it has given that nature extra support through the creation of woodland and ponds.
Once inside, the imposing wooden pillars and furniture reinforce that impression of naturalness. Architect Thomas Rau calls it 'a cathedral of wood'.
“From the outside, the building has a light, airy feel. Once inside, you feel it enveloping you”, says Matthijs Bierman, managing director of Triodos Bank Nederland, who was closely involved in the construction. He realised that although Triodos Bank often finances sustainable buildings, it seldom has the opportunity to construct such a building itself.
“We had outgrown our old surroundings and were looking for office space. It had to be close to a train station - which was not the case with the old building. That was an absolute condition. And it had to express our identity. But we couldn’t find suitable existing office space available for redevelopment at centrally located stations such as those in Utrecht and Amersfoort.”
The site has special history as it is also where the Triodos Foundation, the forerunner of the bank, was founded in 1971. So it feels like the bank is ‘coming home’. Bierman continues: “We wanted to use the site to develop nature, culture and economy in harmony. The estate is part of a National Ecological Network, but it had come under pressure due to, among other things, the redevelopment of the station area. The construction also had to pay respect to the cultural history of the estate by, for example, restoring old sightlines.”
Five-star Lego set
‘From real estate to re-assemblable property' was the concept used by Thomas Rau to persuade the bank to take the project on. In total 165,312 screws hold the building together, making it possible to dismantle and rebuild it elsewhere. The data for all materials used is stored in a public materials database created by his firm to give materials an identity.
This prevents waste and will hopefully usher in a totally new building culture. Rau says: “A structure is not for eternity. This temporariness has become apparent by making everything re-asemblable.” The grand 'Lego set' is the result of an intensive process between Triodos and the designers, he says. “That required guts and courage on the part of the bank, and it rose to the challenge.”
Thomas Rau expresses the revolutionary character of the design by flipping a number of concepts: from property to 'quality land' with higher natural values; from building site to assembly site; from landowner to land manager; and from CO2 emissions to CO2 absorption. “1,633,052 kg of CO2 is stored in the wood of the building. In the German forests from which it comes, the 2,623 m3 of wood grows back in 11 minutes and 36 seconds.”
And the most important twist: from sustainability to circularity. “Sustainability optimizes and facilitates ownership. Circularity makes the finite infinite and encourages responsibility.”
The green roof and the constructed pools help insects and birds to thrive. The design even takes into account the flight path of the local bats. Rainwater feeds the green roof, but is also used to flush the toilets.
For parking, often the Achilles' heel of 'green' office buildings, an original solution has been found. In a 'bi-directional' charging bay with a large solar roof, electric cars can not only charge their batteries, but these batteries can be used in turn to store solar energy. Thanks to the solar roof, which has to supply 505,000 kWh per year, the office is 'energy-positive'.
The building has lots of light, beautiful views and elegant, recycled furniture. “Every employee should feel like they are in the front row and in the best seats”, says Thomas Rau. Does this also encourage a different way of working? Managing director Matthijs Bierman explains: “On the ground floor there are flexible workspaces, partly available to other entrepreneurs who see money as a means to change the world for the better. The first floor is a 'collaboration space' for employees, where we will usually work within project teams. Furthermore, each department also has its own home base, reflecting new, flexible ways of working”.
“The bank now has a wooden, circular, and not just sustainable, backbone,” says Thomas Rau. “I hope this inspires the bank to position itself even better within the circular economythat is now developing.”
All images are copyright Bert Reitberg for J.P. van Eesteren.
Find out more
Triodos Bank has many years' experience in lending to building projects with high environmental standards - for example Ssassy Property in Oxfordshire. Visit our business lending pages to read about how we finance projects and organisations that have a positive impact on society, culture and the environment.