Disassembling a building from floor to ceiling: welcome to reversible design

Posted on 24 September 2020.

In the Netherlands, a vast building housing the offices of the Dutch bank Triodos was designed according to circular economy and biomimicry principles. Sustainable development on every floor!

The building has more than 165,000 screws to ensure the structure can be easily disassembled.

There is a unique building near the Driebergen-Zeist railway station, between Driebergen-Rijsenburg and Zeist in the Netherlands - the consummation of a joint venture between the American real estate development company Edge and the Dutch bank Triodos. What makes it so special? It can be completely dismantled – a feature known as reversible design.

With a wooden structure designed by RAU Architects, the building was assembled using more than 165,000 screws. This ensures that the entire structure can be efficiently disassembled, unlike mechanically-welded structures where the various metal parts have been welded together.

Better still, if one day the building were deconstructed, every section could be disassembled and installed in another building. In other words there would be no construction waste, just resources that could not only be recycled, but reused.

One of the objectives of the Edge project was to turn the new building into a materials bank, based on BIM (Building Information Modeling), an online approach that consists of listing and modeling all the information relating to a structure throughout its life cycle in order to optimize the use of resources and develop sustainable management of building materials and components. 

In this case, the data is stored on the Madaster platform, a public library designed to track building materials and eliminate waste production by facilitating reuse or recycling. The material "passport" for Triodos' offices therefore includes information such as the size of the wooden beams and the origin of the silica used to make the glass on the façade.


Massive use of renewable energy

The eco-construction approach doesn't stop there. The choice of wood - whose production generates fewer greenhouse gas emissions than concrete or steel - as a building material also makes sense because it sequesters carbon.

What’s more, thanks to the massive use of renewable energy to heat and cool the offices, the building is energy neutral. So more than 3,000 m2 of solar panels have been installed on the parking lot roof, which can also charge a fleet of electric vehicles.

But not only. These vehicles are able to re-inject electricity into the building's grid if necessary thanks to bi-directional charging, an innovative technology that allows energy to flow in both directions.

Triodos Bank employees probably won’t use their cars because every effort has been made to encourage them to choose soft modes of transport: showers and changing rooms have been included for cyclists, and the building is close to both a railway station and bus stops.

Other solutions have been installed such as a rainwater collection system for flushing toilets.

And last but not least, the building, constructed alongside a protected forest area, was designed to be in harmony with the surrounding flora and fauna. For example, its shape has been designed to avoid disturbing the flight of bats, its lighting system to minimize light pollution at night, and the landscaping includes a pond the wildlife can use for drinking.