De Ceuvel: A cleantech playground

Closing loops at Amsterdam's circular living lab

De Ceuvel, a sustainable office park built on the site of a former shipyard in Amsterdam North, has become an internationally acclaimed circular economy case study. Home to 17 workspaces and a popular community cafe, the site was conceptualized as a ‘cleantech playground’ with numerous living examples of decentralized technologies and recycling of local resources. 

  • Client: Stichting DOEN, Waternet, City of Amsterdam, InnovatieNetwerk
  • Partners: space&matter, DELVA Landscape Architects, Jeroen Apers, Wouter Valkenier, smeele architectuur, Woodies at Berlin 
  • Date: Opened June 2014
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The challenge

Turning a polluted city plot into a thriving, circular living lab

In an effort to transform the post-industrial neighbourhood of Buiksloterham into a mixed-use residential and commercial area, the City of Amsterdam awarded four plots of land to pioneering initiatives focusing on sustainability and circular urban development. In 2012, Metabolic and a group of organizations won a tender to turn the De Ceuvel site – formerly a derelict and polluted shipyard – into a ‘regenerative urban oasis’, with the aim of stimulating new ways of thinking about how we manage resources in our communities.

Together with our partners, the Metabolic team set out to find practical and creative solutions to build a circular urban hub with the following considerations in mind:

  • The specific needs and interests of the local Buiksloterham community
  • Heavily polluted land due to years of industrial activity
  • Minimal budget for construction and operations
  • City regulations regarding brownfield remediation, waste disposal, and water and electricity management
The challenge
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Our approach

Designing the cleantech playground

Metabolic was asked to provide the sustainability masterplan for the De Ceuvel site, working with a large group of partners, entrepreneurs, and volunteers to transform the area. By upcycling 17 old houseboats into buildings, using specialized plants to clean the soil, and installing low-cost clean technologies to make the development’s resource management as circular as possible, we helped the City transition a dilapidated and polluted zone into what is now a sustainable community hub, workspace, and place for sustainability and circular economy education.

The site was designed to house the offices of around 30 companies, including Metabolic Lab – a learning hub for workshops and masterclasses – an on-site cafe, and an aquaponics greenhouse which provides microgreens for cafe meals served. Solar panels on the roofs of each boat generate electricity that is shared between the boats via a microgrid, and grey water from each boat is filtered through natural substrates so it can serve as water for the plants. Sanitation in each houseboat was designed to facilitate the collection of organic waste that can be fed into a biodigester and struvite reactor, from which valuable nutrients can be extracted for the greenhouse. 

The culture of the space is one where the creative and social enterprises that rent the houseboats-turned-offices have bought into the collective ideals and vision for a more sustainable and circular community. This is complemented by the energy and enthusiasm that comes from the people of the surrounding neighbourhood, who are encouraged to use De Ceuvel as a cultural and community hub to come together, enjoy shared experiences, and get involved in creative projects.

Our approach
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The outcome

A showcase for circular experimentation

De Ceuvel is a blueprint for circular experimentation, showcasing urban, closed-loop thinking in action. Since its conception in 2012, the project has generated significant national and international interest and income to the area. Pre-Coronavirus, the site was receiving over 35,000 visitors each year, striving to attract everyone, from young students to utilities and locals from an older generation. It has welcomed students, policymakers, and businesses from Taipei to LA to Cape Town. 

It has also become an important showcase and research center in Amsterdam for applied sustainability and scalable solutions, winning many awards for sustainability innovation. Its experimental nature cultivates diversity, shares expertise, and contributes to open-source knowledge. It brings alternative methods of urban resource provision to life by setting a positive example and inspiring thousands of visitors every year. 

De Ceuvel is where visible circular development started for Amsterdam. Its successful birth in 2014, in tandem with the conceptualizing of neighbouring sustainable floating village, Schoonschip, prompted the signing of the multi-partner manifest for a fully Circular Buiksloterham. The city’s focus on circular urban development has continued to strengthen, with its current focus on numerous initiatives, one of which is the consideration of circular tendering procedures for the development of city plots, which has the potential to transform the entire city’s development patterns.

The outcome

“De Ceuvel isn’t just the hippest office park in town. It’s considered a model of eco-design.”

- Wall Street Journal

“The project is an example of Amsterdam’s commitment to urban experimentation.”

- New York Times

Founder and CEO

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