Amsterdam’s Zuidas financial district is distinguished by the work of an impressive roster of architects, such as Toyo Ito, Rafael Viñoly, and Pei Cobb Freed, all of whose designs fit into a traditionally corporate atmosphere. But a new office building, completed in 2015, has a different agenda: The Edge, by developer OVG and PLP Architects, applies both sustainability and state-of-the-art digital technology to the creation of an innovative and, above all, congenial workplace. This multi-tenant, 15-story concrete structure is energy-neutral and was awarded a BREEAM “Outstanding” new-construction certification with a score of 98.4 percent, the highest since the UK-based Building Research Establishment began its Environmental Assessment Method program in 1990. It was also dubbed “possibly the smartest building on the planet” by Bloomberg BusinessWeek. But sustainability in itself is not interesting, says architect Ron Bakker of the London-based firm PLP. “What people respond to here is the connectedness between the building and the occupants who work here. The building is now part of their team.”
The 430,000-square-foot building’s north-facing atrium is a far cry from the typical marble lobby. The soaring volume, filled with daylight even on gray days, offers welcoming amenities such as a coffee bar cum informal meeting area on broad terraced steps, a restaurant on the second floor, and a generous internal terrace on the fourth floor with a long communal table, armchairs, and tall, green tuxedo-style settees for private conversations. Everywhere you look during a workday there is some kind of interaction going on. Even the elevator lobbies above ground level have glazed balconies overlooking the atrium. Bakker compares the atrium to a campfire or, in more modern terms, a “social condenser” or nucleus. “How and where we work is changing,” he says.
The building’s client and main tenant, Deloitte, occupying 60 percent of the space, was previously spread over a number of locations. The international accounting firm wanted to consolidate its Dutch operations in a smart building that would serve as a catalyst for the company’s transition into the digital age—but with the knowledge that only 25 percent of their employees are actually at a desk at any given moment. Another 10 percent are at in-house meetings; 35 percent are working from home; 10 percent are traveling; and 20 percent are at meetings with clients. Deloitte wanted working spaces that are flexible and social, as well as physically and virtually interconnected.
At The Edge—which has two underground parking levels and 1,100 workstations for the 2,800 employees of Deloitte and the five other tenants—there are no assigned desks. The digital and physical meet in a smartphone app, through which occupants can locate colleagues, reserve a room or desk, see a train schedule, and order healthy groceries from an in-house food shop. They can also manage the lighting and temperature of their work zone.
This is the one of the first buildings in the world to use a connected lighting system, where more than 6,000 LED fixtures—each with its own IP address and every second luminaire equipped with sensors—link to user smartphones through visible light technology and connect to the building’s IT network via Power-over-Ethernet (PoE) switches. The system senses daylight, ambient temperature, CO2 levels, occupancy, and motion. In addition to potential energy savings, this technology provides data that improve building efficiency and management—for example, collecting information about which coffee machines need to be replenished and which are the popular restrooms.
Folded on the diagonal, the facade of the north-facing atrium comprises 70 percent glass, allowing the interior to benefit from indirect sunlight without overheating. The offices are located in a U-shaped block on the building’s east, south, and west sides, their large floor plates arranged around the atrium for maximum daylight penetration throughout. Striped with horizontal rows of solid aluminum-paneled spandrels, the east- and west-facing facades are composed of 45 percent glass balanced by 55 percent concrete, which provides thermal mass. Similarly, the south-facing facade is 40 percent glass but the concrete on that elevation is clad with photovoltaic panels. Electricity is also provided by 65,000 square feet of solar panels on the roof, as well as on rooftops at the University of Amsterdam, which partnered with OVG. The PVs supply the grid, offsetting any additional electricity The Edge might require.
The Edge is said to consume half the energy for cooling as a typical Dutch office building. According to Bakker, “The way the energy calculation works is that it measures the amount of energy used by the building (heating, cooling, and lighting) and balances this against the amount of energy generated.” The building also produces enough electricity to drive the pumps that circulate fresh air, as well as the hot and cold water from the groundwater aquifer 300 feet below the building. The fresh air is cooled, filtered, and dehumidified before being pumped into the offices. The spent air then transfers out through slits above the windowsills into the atrium, where it rises and is sucked out through grills at the top. Developer OVG claims that over a period of 10 years, The Edge will save 42 million kilograms of CO2 as compared with a “normal” office building.
“While the physical building is finished,” says Bakker, “socially it is still developing.” The workplace is now shaped by layers of technology that alter how people interact with their environment. Architects are looking for ways to use these virtual frameworks to stimulate collaboration and social encounters. Says Bakker, “This is the new role of architecture.”
Personnel in architect's firm who should receive special credit:
Ron Bakker, Founding Partner (registered architect in UK)
Architect of record:
Fokkema & Partners
Structural: Van Rossum Consulting Engineers
Sustainability Consultant: C2N Bouwmanagement
Ronald Tillemans - +31 10 4952316 – Copyright Ronald Tillemans
Horizon Photoworks - +31 10 245 07 07 – Copyright Horizon Photoworks, Interior Architect – Fokkema & Partners
Raimond Wouda - +31 6 50250404 – Copyright Raimond Wouda
Helene Binet – +44 (0)20 7209 9596 – Copyright Helene Binet
Dirk Verwoerd - +31 33 461 57 57 – Copyright Dirk Verwoerd
430,000 square feet
Metal panels: Rollecate (facade contractor)
Metal/glass curtain wall: Rollecate (facade contractor)
Other cladding unique to this project: Solar Panels - also provided by Rollecate (facade contractor)
Glass Roof: Brakel Atmos
Metal frame: Integrated
Glass: Rollecate (facade contractor)
Skylights: Glass Roof: Brakel Atmos
Integrated Window Blinds: M&N Projecten
Special surfacing: Green Wall: Maars Living Walls
Carpet: Expona by LEOXX (restaurant and meeting centres)
Fixed seating: Smeulders Interieurgroep
Interior ambient lighting: Various brands for pendants and lamps, among which: Axo, Flos, Secto, Diesel, Moooi, Hollands Licht
Dimming system or other lighting controls: Main lighting system: Philips Power Over Ethernet
Energy management or building automation system: Johnson Controls
Other unique products that contribute to sustainability:Building Mobile App: Blinq Systems