[#WeFACE] Dutch architect says local architectural projects reusing old materials should go global

Dutch architect Jos de Krieger (Jos de Krieger)

Dutch architect Jos de Krieger, who has been a partner in architecture firm Superuse Studios since 2006, stressed the importance of going global with local architectural projects that reuse old and used materials.

“The construction industry is one of the biggest polluters and the reuse of building materials can help reduce the environmental footprint,” De Krieger said in a recent email interview with The Korea Herald.

He explained how projects that reuse old and used materials can help preserve our environment.

“By giving a material new life, you extend its life and thus reduce the environmental impact of that material,” he said. “In some cases, the additional years may even be more than the original use. It is an important part of cascading materials and it will help to create a circular economy. “

Superuse Studios started in 1997 as architects in 2012, creating small architectural interventions and reusing items such as washing machines, cable reels and car windows. In 2009 the company started building an entire house from salvaged materials and in 2012 it changed its name to Superuse Studios.

Today, De Krieger’s company focuses primarily on creating architecture using circular and sustainable design, in the belief that design is part of a circular process as opposed to a linear process.

To pursue its mission of creating a new building while respecting the environment, his company is working on multiple local projects that involve the collection of used materials nearby.

Harvesting is a popular architectural term that refers to the process of urban mining to salvage used materials, according to De Krieger.

“Over the years, we have completed many projects at different scales, ranging from a single family home Villa Welpeloo to a playground without rotor blades,” he said.

Villa Welpeloo is made from reused materials. (Allard van der Hoek)

Villa Welpeloo in Enschede, The Netherlands is a villa designed for a couple with a collection of drawings and graphic art. The main structure is made of steel beams that were previously part of a machine used for textile production, an industry that was once very important in the region. The wooden slats, which were originally used for cable reels at TKF, a local factory that produces cables, were collected to be used as the facade of the villa.

The playground, called Wikado, is one of Superuse Studios’ Blade Made projects. The Netherlands-based company has created mazelike structures of tunnels and towers that children can play with, from discarded wind turbine parts.

The playground called Wikado was created from parts of discarded wind turbines.  (Denis Guzzo)

The playground called Wikado was created from parts of discarded wind turbines. (Denis Guzzo)

“Currently, we are also working on larger housing projects of 20 to 50 houses,” he said. “In addition to this, we also research the topic of reuse and develop tools that support our work and the architectural community as a whole.”

De Krieger also addressed misconceptions about structures built from reused materials.

“In general, the designs made by Superuse are not just about reuse, but about creating a functional and welcoming space that just happens to be made of trash. In some cases, people won’t even recognize that it’s being reused, ”he said.

De Krieger also added that these buildings can cost less to build.

“The hardware is generally cheaper,” he says.

However, he said the overall cost may depend on labor costs, which are usually a bit higher for construction with reused materials.

“In the end, it usually comes down to being about the same, in some cases it can even be cheaper,” he added.

De Krieger also stressed the importance of the role of government in making the construction of buildings from reused materials more cost effective.

“It would help create a level playing field for the circular architecture if (new) resources were taxed more heavily while reducing the tax on labor,” he said.

The Dutch architect added that his company is currently challenging government regulations with Project Ex’tax, an independent think tank that works to update tax systems to tackle global challenges such as climate disruption, the risks of resource supply and unemployment.

Besides the question of taxation, the Dutch designer also mentioned another obstacle to the creation of an architecture with reused materials.

“Building a new structure comes with regulations and permits, so it’s always a time-consuming process. With the increasing scarcity of materials, we predict that in the future material reuse may be faster than traditional material deliveries, ”he said.

In the interview, he also shared how he became interested in more environmentally friendly architectural projects.

“For me personally, it started when one of the founders gave a talk at TU Delft, showing the Duchi shoe store they were making with salvaged car windows,” he said. “Then and there, I decided to do an internship at 2012Architecten, as Superuse was called until 2012, to learn more about reuse in architecture. I never left the company because it was so much fun to find new life for materials that others see as waste.

By Song Seung-hyun ([email protected])


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