The inside story by Constantijn Berning, Executive Development Director at EDGE.
The new Triodos building in Driebergen has just won the award for “Most sustainable building of the year” by Cobouw and was crowned “Office building of the year” by ArchitectenWeb. What’s the story behind such a project? We take you back to the start and behind the scenes of this award-winning development.
The start of a remarkable project
As an ethical bank, Triodos wanted to set itself apart also in its choice of location, seeing a sustainable office as one of the means to do exactly that. The Netherlands has always been protective of its nature, even ten years ago choosing an office on protected land certainly wasn’t an easy choice. But Triodos wanted to stay close to Driebergen-Zeist and the protected De Reehorst estate presented itself as a perfect location – in the middle of an area of natural beauty. However, the area was slightly neglected and hadn’t been living up to its potential, creating both an enormous challenge and an opportunity for this nature-inclusive development. One of the leading challenges was building on protected land in the middle of a financial crisis, while also keeping in mind and finding solutions for the ecological consequences. This makes it less surprising that the project was nine years in planning & conception, but only took only one and a half years to actually realise.
An important factor for Triodos Bank was that their office location should be connected to the public transport network. As that was not the case at the time, the key to success of this development was to approach it as an integral “area development” together with the station-area. Although it was not yet possible according to the existing policy of the Province and Municipality, this was the only way forward. Whilst the advisors and stakeholders involved said this would not be possible, Constantijn Berning, Executive Development Director at EDGE, however, was determined to complete the project up to Triodos’ aspirations and knew it would be one of the biggest challenges he had taken on as a developer.
Constantijn explained how he searched for an umbrella deal between Prorail, local government, the Reehorst Foundation and other partners and developers. This appeared to be quite a puzzle, which didn’t come together as intended; “In the end we had to look for separate deals with Prorail and the municipality”. Pieces of land had to be literally shifted, in order to enable the redevelopment of De Reehorst Estate inclusing the office building, the Driebergen-Zeist station and to add extra amount of hectares for the natural ecosystem. “When looking back, the synergy between the involved parties was the key success factor within this whole development”, giving a boost to the natural surroundings on many different levels.
Triodos itself was rewarded for having the guts and a lot of patience to move this project forward. They were adamant that it should be an integral process, that was both socially and ecologically responsible. As a result of the completed process, a state-of-the-art building integrated in iets surroundings has been delivered.
A nerve-racking period
Despite the positive results of the process, there were some moments of nervousness. EDGE had to go to Court because of the changes planned for the project. “Only with these changes were we able to make this complex project a reality. We knew it would be possible, but when the judgement was suspended three times and the European law changed, we got a little nervous” Constantijn explained. It all took a positive turn when the Court of the State eventually gave the project the go ahead.
This project shows us that taking a different path can lead to fascinating developments. Now, as a unique office building, the project can act as a source of inspiration for other construction projects. The Triodos office is integrated in the natural surroundings in a sustainable and circular way. It shows that it’s possible to create a convergence between nature, preservation and construction. The delivered building is a new kind of office, which fits not only the strategy of Triodos Bank, but also their core company values. Rather than the Zuidas financial district, they chose for nature as a surrounding.
A new way of thinking about buildings
Some years ago, even the idea to build with supporting structures made of wood was revolutionary. When EDGE, together with the architect and advisors, decided to take another innovative approach with this development, we were one of the first developers to do so. Nowadays, this approach is gaining in popularity and wood-hybrid buildings have become more common, giving this outstanding project more relevance.
The new way of building goes hand in hand with a new way of thinking. The building is completely remountable. Everything is circular and recorded in a material passport. Triodos is, together with EDGE, one of the first companies to be a kennedy for Madaster and therefore their building was also placed on this platform. The demountable/modular building approach, where everything can be dismantled, reassembled and repositioned is starting to become a trend. The demountable aspect almost sounds like a contradiction for Triodos, as the building could actually stand on the estate forever – it fits perfectly within the environment and feels at one with nature.
How a building fits with its environment is paramount, but it’s much more than that, as Constantijn explains. “During the development of the building, the development of the estate and the wider area was taken into account too. Bat routes, tree replacement, drinking places for animals, fauna, insects, infrastructure, everything.” The development of the new Triodos building has definitely had a positive effect on the local environment. The goal was to connect the ecology in the area: 2.5 hectares of nature were added to realise this.
Intensive collaboration for impact
Much can be learned during a project with so many facets. The scope of the project truly engaged the contributing partners. From EDGE’s point of view, it was imperative to the project to really deep dive into the opportunities within the surroundings of the building. To create a holistic view on the development, which included ecology, history and archaeology. Also, the relationship between developer, the architect and all the other advisors is vital in the smooth running of such a long and complicated project. With so many strong and passionate opinions it’s not always easy, Constantijn is honest about this.
The world is ready for a new way of building. The Triodos project showcases the value that we can create when we start a challenging project, with realistic potential. Involving highly skilled expert partners, with the aim to bring the project to the highest possible level, has made the building more than a success. The multi-stakeholder approach and the way of collaborating worked out perfectly, which is not only reflected in the responses and awards, but also in the movement that has been initiated, towards a better way of building.
Article courtesy of EDGE