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Mastering the art of sustainable architecture | Rethink Sustainability

Mastering the art of sustainable architecture | Rethink Sustainability


When it comes to
sustainable architecture, some of the most
interesting examples can be found in and
around Amsterdam. Here in the narrow streets
at the historic old town, you’d struggle to
build anything new. But I’m on my way to meet
some architects who found a way around that problem. Hello. Hello. Architect Marthinj Pool is using
possibly the most sustainable method of all. Repurposing buildings
that already exist. This way. Let’s go. His team is transforming
Amsterdam’s old bridge houses into hotel suites. They were used for
hundreds of years to control the city’s
canals and waterways. We love working with
existing structures. It is actually to
open up a dialogue, digging up about its past. Modernising old buildings can
be an expensive undertaking, but it is more
environmentally friendly. Construction and
demolition debris account for the largest waste streams
in terms of mass in the EU. And that’s before
you get to the energy costs of actually building. Because that stored
energy cost is… it’s something you can’t
see, it’s not tangible, but it is valuable, isn’t it? Actually it’s a pity
that carbon is not measured in making a
business case, but I do believe that that’s the
way to move forward, and whatever
holistic appreciation of the construction
economic value, historical value embodied
energy in its materials. The company that
runs SWEETS hotel is renting the Bridge Houses
from the city for 20 years as a financial investment. So far they have 28. I want to see another one. I think that’s it over there. Doesn’t look like
much, although this must be one of the coolest
rooms in Amsterdam. This one was built in the 1960s. Wow. A lot of glass. The challenge is to
create comfort and privacy in a structure that was designed
to do something else entirely. Oh, the bridge is going up. Wow. The city is going on around us. Maybe we need to change the
way we think about hotel rooms if we’re going to be
repurposing industrial buildings into places to stay. But can this idea of repurposing
be used on a wider scale to tackle, for example, the
global housing shortage? The Netherlands alone
is facing a deficit of nearly 300,000 homes. These modular units
in nearby Alkmaar are designed to be repurposed
and never demolished. This lot are about to
start their first life as accommodation for young
people, but when that’s done, they can be rejigged
and even relocated. So this is a studio
flat for one person. Yeah. How could that be
adapted or changed? One thing you can do
is you can link to, and then you would have an
apartment for elderly couple. You can also make an
office building out of it. We always compared
to giant Legos. Giant Lego bricks with
low carbon footprints. They’re made from sustainable
wood rather than concrete. It’s a little bit cheaper or
the same price as a traditional build. The advantage is that it’s much
faster, much more sustainable, and it’s much better quality. It’s certainly quick. What’s so incredible is
that three weeks ago this was just foundations. There was no
structure here at all. That’s correct. And in three weeks’ time,
people will be moving it. In a country where space
on land comes at a premium, the Netherlands has
found another way. This is an entire floating
neighbourhood just outside Amsterdam. Almost a third of the country
is situated below sea level. So projects like this may
be essential in creating more housing. We all know that sea
water levels and river levels are rising. A lot of people
live near the water. Take for instance big
cities, like Manila in the Philippines or
Jakarta in Indonesia, they are being flooded. They’re sinking. Nearly 100 homes are already
here, and by the time it’s finished that
number will have doubled. Each unit is pulled
into place by boat and supported by
buoyant concrete tubs. So just 10 minutes from the
centre of Amsterdam here. The city centre is that way
where everything is so compact, but here it feels so
spacious, so quiet. I could definitely live here. The projects I’ve
visited suggest there is no one
blueprint for success. Although they do all seem to
be sacrificing low upfront costs for something bigger. Flexibility and
adaptability for the future. And from what I’ve
seen the Netherlands is definitely taking
a lead role when it comes to innovation
driven by the demand for more housing and the need to think
imaginatively to create it.

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