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On “the Edge” of sustainability

The Edge looks like a glass spaceship has landed in Amsterdam. The building has also reached the highest sustainability standards ever recorded.

It might not have been chosen as the most beautiful building in the world but the Dutch know what’s what when it comes to innovation and sustainability. The Edge by PLP Architecture is the 40,000 square metre Amsterdam headquarters of consulting firm Deloitte, elected the greenest office building in the world. It was recently awarded the highest rating ever recorded by the Building Research Establishment (BRE), the global assessor of buildings’ sustainability. Snatching the title from One Embankment Place in London, UK the project achieved a BREEAM new construction certification of Outstanding and a score of over 98 out of a hundred points thanks to its use of innovative smart technology, where 85% is the minimum score for entering this bracket. BREEAM, Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Methodology, is an approach for assessing and rating the sustainability of buildings that takes into consideration criteria such as energy and water use, transport links, materials used and waste management processes.

The Edge: the best in the world

The Edge features a remarkable mix of technologies like passive temperature control and energy-efficient design. It even generates its own electricity. The exterior doesn’t look architecturally innovative, it simply resembles a giant glasshouse, though the south facade is entirely covered with invisible window-like solar panels. An aquifer thermal energy storage system has been installed deep down underneath the soil to power the heating and cooling of the building when passive ventilation isn’t sufficient. Rainwater is collected and used to flush its toilets and irrigate its green areas.

 

The Edge was the first building to make use of Philips’ Ethernet-powered LED connected lighting for offices, according to the building’s developers, OVG. Light design incorporates a new future here. More than just bulbs, lights are paired with sensors that are able to transmit data to the energy management grid. This means the environment is always under control, allowing for workers’ maximum comfort.

Technological innovation and innovative thinking processes

The workspace, in which workers move around like ants in a giant anthill, is organised around a 15-storey atrium which is the lung of the building, ventilating the offices. The base of the atrium holds a restaurant, café, exhibition spaces and conference facilities. This natural setting has become the testing ground for a radical, highly connected new way of working. Employees have no fixed workspaces and can set their individual climate and lighting preferences via an app.

 

The location of the construction certainly enriches its complexity. Situated in Amsterdam’s Zuidas area, which is rapidly emerging as one of Europe’s most important business districts, the Edge is completed with excellent connections to public transport, cycle-route networks and a new high-speed train station.

The complex sheds new light on the real estate of the future: buildings that generate more energy than they consume. Yet something is missing from this great glass sculpture, which is as modern as it is impersonal. A sustainable building must also merge with its surroundings, and the Edge’s exteriors don’t integrate harmoniously with the fabric of the city. This may be the only flaw in this visionary piece of Dutch architecture, which is definitely on the edge of sustainability.

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