On the outskirts of Borne is an office building full of circular solutions. You don’t need to have a trained eye to see that something special has been realized here. Maurice Beijk is responsible for this particular project. ReintenInfra’s ‘Rentmeester2050’ has been ahead of the pack for more than twenty years.
Maurice Beijk is a talking waterfall that, with its mission and passion, is absolutely at the forefront of circularity. More than twenty years ago, his own newly built house had to deal with his urge to act, and he has now realized an extremely green factory (Unipro), garage (Volvo Harrie Arendsen) and office building (de Boerderij). ‘Green=do’ is one of his mottos.
The circularity is fully revealed during a guided tour of Beijk (photo on the right) in Farmen (Borne). The ReintenInfra daughters TWW, Negam and Dusseldorp found a home here. Beijk draws visitors’ attention to a used concrete staircase that is slightly damaged, which does not hinder its primary function at all. Handles on the doors in the boardroom differ from each other, but are also not inferior to each other. And the doors of the toilet groups have a rather oversized height, while the toilet doors behind look normal. So who eats? Outside the characteristic walls that stand out – more on that later – as well as the amount of buzzing bees in the green.
‘Suddenly I made all sorts of new friends in the concrete world’
Beijk made the switch from Unipro to ReintenInfra in 2018, with this building as one of the lures. “As long as I’m not used to it greenwashing and window covering”, he told his new boss Herman Reinten. “I wanted to make sure his intrinsic motivation matched mine,” says Beijk. And then it happened. The entire construction of the Farm was already there, including permits, data in BIM and with bill of materials Virgin materials. Nevertheless, Beijk together with architect Martin Kleine Schaars (I’M Architecten) managed to limit the amount of new steel and concrete to the utmost and to make the building energy positive.
Beijk calls the process of greening the original design design by chance. Coincidentally, there was quickly a suitable donor building, Erasmus MC in Rotterdam, which produced a large amount of used material: 330 hollow slab floors, the steel structure, stairs, doors and frames. The enormous amount of concrete presented a huge logistical challenge. The slabs were delivered in sets of five on a truck and patiently awaited construction for another two years in an adjacent meadow.
This long-term storage made Beijk laugh at first because the project seemed to be a failure. “We were publicly mocked,” says Beijk. But when construction started, the LinkedIn post about that concrete was good for about 80,000 views. “Suddenly I made all sorts of new friends in the concrete world”, laughs Beijk about this mild form of rehabilitation. “Now it seems they can suddenly make removable hollow slab floors.”
The dimensions of the donor building meant that the design had to be adapted. In several places, the sizes were slightly wider and higher than indicated in the permit. Beijk: “If you saw off the donor building, the price goes up. Because we now used as much one-to-one as possible, the building has become 80 centimeters deeper.” It was there that the fight with the municipal apparatus began, an abomination that not only Beijk experiences. On the one hand, as a major developer, the government is the guideline for the circular transition, on the other hand, the government is still far from being able to apply circular principles easily.
On the way to the circular goal of the future, Beijk encounters even more barriers. Anyone wishing to mitigate investment with finance from government schemes (MIA, Vamil) must acquire a BREEAM label. A thorn in Beijk’s side. “BREEAM has held me back more than it has helped me. Sometimes I think it’s a nightmare. It’s technical durability, which consists of alpha males.”
“A simple example”, continues Beijk. “If I buy a 50 by 50 centimeter insect hotel in a hardware store, so to speak, I almost have my BREEAM tick. What we came up with based on our inner motivation, together with our own ecologist, landscape architect and in consultation with nature organisations, does not count.
I think probably a thousand species of insects have been added. In the small square in front of the entrance alone, you can now see ten different types of bees within six months. Organically, things are going very well here, but getting that tick requires an extreme effort and burden of proof.”
Stamp of 20,000 euros
“So there it is be recycled insulation material under the roof. With three layers on top of each other, you achieve a very high insulation value. However, BREEAM stipulates that the material used must be placed in a cassette and measured in a pressure chamber with sensors at TNO Delft. The monitoring then takes three months, and then a stamp is issued that the solution is sufficient. That test costs 20,000 euros excluding transport, while new insulation costs a total of 8,000 euros. I think the world is protecting itself. That way we don’t get circularity over the stage.”
“This was by far my most difficult job,” admits Beijk. “You come across rules and legislation. And against the regular, linear construction world that is completely packed with quality brands. And that instead of sober and old-fashioned common sense. I call it system failure.” According to Beijk, the mainstream market often struggles, especially the concrete industry. For example, concrete foundation piles were driven into the ground that did not contain the prescribed 30% aggregate, but 50%. It’s swearing in the church, so even a the contractor gave up because of all the trouble – according to Beijk – and he finally called in a company from Friesland.
Anyone who thinks Beijk is mourning is wrong. Above all, it is a deep-seated passion for sustainability – ‘I don’t like the word sustainability; there is “expensive” in it – running through all his veins. Whereby the highest thresholds to disappear are reviewed. Meanwhile, he talks at high speed about the innovations in the building. For example, Beijk can’t help but talk about the stone facade, the showpiece of the building, which consists of halved paving stones that look like exotic natural stones.
“Usually used pavement tiles end up as granules, so it’s downcycling. Now they go to the sheltered workplace, where they are blasted clean with a high-pressure cleaner. Then a pneumatic cutter cuts them in half and with that we upcycled them. And now it is the outer wall of this property and really not cheaper than a new brick. Still, we do it because we find it relevant from an internal motivation. It would then be nice from the government’s side that we have fulfilled our obligation in current projects in connection with SROI [social return on investment; red.]. Not because we have to, but because we want to.”
This is a short version of the full interview with Beijk; read the full article in the new digital magazine Circularity nowincluding:
- “At the end of the day, this building is not cheaper than usual. I get a standard question about that, which is really Dutch. I almost think it’s a rude question”.
- “Ask me not what it costs, but what it gives in the end.”
Maurice Beijk gives one of the keynotes during the conference Gamechangers in construction & infrastructure (Sustainable innovators & innovations 2023). Buy your ticket here!
Text and image: Ysbrand Visser