Changemaker Pieter Stoutjesdijk: ”Construction costs are skyrocketing”

Pieter Stoutjesdijk is the day-to-day manager at TheNewMakers, which aims to transform construction through the digital production of circular housing. They do this now and in the future with renewable materials such as wood, pipes, hemp and tomato plant leaves. Worldwide, construction creates half of our waste and a quarter of CO2 emissions. In addition, construction costs in the Netherlands are skyrocketing. That has to change,” says Stoutjesdijk.

What is the advantage of digital production?

“Due to digitalisation, we cut most of the labor out of design, engineering, production and assembly. We have developed a software platform that makes it possible to put together a unique home and apply for the permit within an hour and start digital production. In a normal construction project, such a process takes months. All parts are then extracted from sheet material from recyclable raw materials or waste streams on our digital CNC machines. Due to the precision of digital production, the parts can be easily clicked together and apart. This is how we make fully circular living affordable and scalable.”

You first started a furniture line with friends?

”After graduating from TU Delft, I bought a 15-year-old computer-controlled (CNC) milling machine, 7 meters wide and weighing 7 tons. This gigantic beast took all my savings. Because it would take a while before I could get homes out of the machine, I first designed a high-end furniture line. Thanks to the precision of digital production of 0.1 mm, we design connections that click together without glue and screws. The combination of this with bio-based sheet materials creates a clean and circular product. This furniture has always provided a kind of basic revenue.”

What about the houses?

“With our mobile circular Uuthuuskes, we want to tackle the housing shortage by using temporarily available locations. The government wants to build 15,000 flexible homes quickly. Ons Uuthuuske is one of the few detached flex homes that are almost exclusively bio-based and for a fee. Despite the housing shortage, we unfortunately feel that decision-making in companies and the municipalities’ temporary supply of land is extremely slow. Because a Uuthuuske can be temporarily placed in a place for 10 years without a change of destination, we had hoped that this would go faster. It is cynical that, with the current demand for housing for starters, the elderly, status holders and refugees, we can produce tomorrow, but are hindered by regulations and decision-making.”

Do you still want to continue?

”Sure. We have also devised the stackable and movable prefabricated HoutenThuis for densely populated areas. Now we can stack up to four layers and we can build higher from the end of next year. We are now looking for a pilot site to apply this.”

Do you insulate with jeans?

Our homes consist of 75 percent renewable raw materials. In many cases this is (still) wood, with an FSC quality label. Many from Germany and Finland. We make sure that we use all parts of a tree as much as possible: So not only the straight parts of a trunk for columns, but also low-quality side branches for sheet materials or sawdust for insulation. Where possible, we supplement the natural materials with materials from waste, for example we have facade cladding made of recycled plastic and of course also acoustic insulation made of jeans and old paper. Wood is now a material that is readily available, well priced and well certified. In the future, we foresee the use of many other renewable materials such as hemp, reeds and straw.”

Do you believe in churches too?

,,We have developed ComfortCabin, a circular prefabricated sanitary cabin that can be built modularly and can be easily disassembled after 10 years. We also use it in our Uuthuuske and HoutenThuis, but also in wooden houses from other major builders such as TBI and Lister Buildings. Just like our No Waste (NoWa) kitchen. Our floor and wall systems have also been further developed so that homes can be built in vacant real estate. In the Netherlands alone, 2,000 churches will be empty over the next three years. If we convert half of it, we can realize 40,000 homes for 60,000 residents.”

What is your dot on the horizon?

”In five years, I hope that all new housing in the Netherlands will be made completely removable from renewable materials. It will only be possible with digital production in combination with smart platforms. Of course, I hope that by then our digital platform and our circular solutions will be one of the most used in the Netherlands and that we will have taken the first steps towards internationalization. NewMaker’s main goal is to create a positive effect.”

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