Circular Pavilion to give visitors environmental wake-up call

On 10 October – Sustainability Day in the Netherlands – a number of ABN AMRO stakeholders were invited to descend into the construction pit for a Green Tour of what's soon to be the bank's Circular Pavilion. 'I didn’t realise circular building was so complex,' one of them remarked.

Chiara and Alexander, two schoolchildren, stare wide-eyed into the pit from which ABN AMRO’s Circular Pavilion will emerge in the coming months. Around them are walls made from coal waste, while overhead is a grid of larch wood beams stained with a sustainably produced varnish. Under their feet is a system of pipes carrying groundwater to cool and heat the pavilion in an energy-efficient way. Chiara says, 'I didn’t realise circular building was so complex. They've thought of absolutely everything.' Alexander adds, 'They could even disassemble and recycle the whole thing if they needed to. Just like Legos.' 

Hans de Jong, Facility Management Project Manager, and Mark van Rijt, Managing Director of Facility Management with ABN AMRO, are giving visitors a Green Tour of the Circular Pavilion which is currently under construction. Schoolchildren, industry professionals and bank staff – young and old alike, all wearing safety helmets, protective clothing and footwear – descend into the pit, which in just six short months will have been transformed into a circular hotspot. 

In the trailer next door before the tour gets under way, Mark talks a little bit about why ABN AMRO is investing in zero-waste circular building. 'Ever since the Industrial Revolution took place in the nineteenth century, the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere has been steadily rising. Plus we keep extracting more and more raw materials from the earth. We owe it to future generations to reduce our carbon emissions and our use of raw materials. We can accomplish this by exploring for new materials or by changing the way we use existing materials. It’s a burning issue everywhere, especially in the Netherlands, where we import two-thirds of all our raw materials from outside the European Union. And that makes us vulnerable.'

A circular building showcase

The Circular Pavilion is scheduled to open its doors in May 2017 and will serve the Zuidas district of Amsterdam as a place for visitors to meet and socialise. A largely public space, the pavilion will be open not just to the bank’s employees and clients, but also and above all to other users and local residents. As was the case in making the ABN AMRO Alkmaar branch zero-energy and the head office in Amsterdam more sustainable, all the expertise gained during the construction process will be made public once the Circular Pavilion has been completed. 'We want to give everyone the right to copy us,' says Mark. 'The pavilion will allow the bank to truly showcase the concept of circular building.'

Hans de Jong explains all that's gone into selecting the materials used to create the new space, showing a small selection of them. The larch wood has been cut and stained locally, and smart design has ensured that waste has been kept to an absolute minimum. A 35 per cent reduction in carbon emissions was achieved in the production of the concrete, widely known for its harmful impact on the environment. What’s more, the entire building is being assembled without a single drop of glue, sealant or polyurethane. During the Green Tour, Hans says the inside walls of the conference rooms actually come from an existing building. Visitor Jasper Feuth, who works for a large Dutch energy company, says he now realises just how serious ABN AMRO is about its commitment to circular building: 'ABN AMRO is very far ahead in the area of circular building, and we have so much to learn from each other.'

Hans stresses, though, that circular building is still in the experimental phase. He says, 'The construction industry is one of the biggest polluters, as well as being one of the most traditional sectors out there. That's why we’re committed to continue raising the issue of sustainability of materials with suppliers. Normally, 50 per cent of the aluminium we’re using would have been recycled, but we’ve managed to convince our suppliers to raise that to 100 per cent for the pavilion.'

ABN AMRO employees Tina Beoletto and Cees Henk Koelewijn are accompanying Hans on the tour. Tina says, 'Outside my job, I have an avid interest in sustainability. The pavilion beautifully demonstrates what's happening in this area. My favourite thing about it is that every last detail has been considered. It's truly a cradle-to-cradle project, not empty words.' Cees Henk says, 'Even the insulation is made of recycled material – 16,000 pairs of old jeans which were donated by ABN AMRO employees. In that sense, all of us at the bank are contributing to the pavilion.'