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Remountable construction

Leon van Woerkom

cepezed considers remountable construction as a smart contribution to the circular economy. We have been pioneering the kit-of-parts, a construction kit of prefab elements, since our founding in 1974. Remountability goes one step further. Remountable buildings can be used temporarily and then taken apart, to be rebuilt in whole or in parts elsewhere.

Back in 1990, the two demountable houses under one roof were built in Delft. There was no detachability index at that time, but when it was made up recently it turned out to be 72%. In late 2019, Bouwdeel D(emontable) was completed behind our office and a year earlier, the temporary pavilion The Green House in Utrecht, both fully detachable. Another great example of remountable construction is Amsterdam's temporary court building. This complex, representative two-storey building served as a court for 5 years and was then dismantled and moved in separate parts to Enschede.

Detachability requires a completely different approach than is common in construction. For example, designing a detachable structure requires enormously close cooperation with the structural engineer. The developer and the dismantling company also engage in something new, because it is not the building or the land that is valuable, but the loose parts. One party may be responsible for dismantling, another for remounting, a third party may be the owner of the remounted building.

The value has to be determined for each phase, sometimes without knowing anything about the next phase. In 2016, for example, it was not yet known where the temporary court building will go after five years. Both structurally and financially, the construction of the temporary court in 2015 marked the start of something new. As an example of remountable construction, we list the three phases of the temporary court.

léon van woerkom

phase 1 | court building on parnassusweg, amsterdam
The demand for temporary accommodation came about when the Amsterdam District Court wanted to replace one of the two existing court buildings on Parnussusweg with new construction between 2016-2021. During the demolition and construction period, the 'temporary court' functioned as the new main entrance to the Rechtbank Amsterdam, as a courthouse (complete with police cells), and was connected by a footbridge to the existing building that remained in use. The client is the Rijksvastgoedbedrijf.

The temporary court building meets the request in every respect. It is representative and comfortable, guarantees the safety of staff and visitors, has a logical layout despite the very different functions and complex user flows, and the detachable components are fully circular - minimising material waste was also part of the request. All components are designed in detail, made of high-quality new material and labelled. This way, not only can the building be easily assembled, it is also easy to disassemble after 5 years of use, it can 'travel' as a kit, and it can be reassembled elsewhere.

The building's structure, facade, recessed and installations are separate. As are the walkway, the entrance portal and the escape stairs. The basic structure is a main load-bearing structure of steel with concrete hollow-core slabs. Part of the structure consists of demountable timber-frame elements. All prefabricated components are nicely finished in the factory, so carcass construction is immediately finished. Finishing with additional material is therefore not necessary. On the outside, the facades are clad with reusable black fabric. Together with IMd consulting engineers, cepezed designs a special channel plate with a demountable head - a prototype that is subsequently also applied by other constructors.

léon van woerkom
lucas van der wee

phase 2 | the demounting
A detachable building celebrates other milestones. For example, the 'unscrewing of the first nut', or the start of dismantling, was festively heralded on 9 November 2021 with a meeting in the court that could be followed online. Louise Attema of the Government Buildings Agency observes that the temporary court promotes circularity 'in a way that was very special in 2016 and actually still is'. During the dismantling, the construction shows itself in full force; it is like building in reverse. In the end, an empty lawn remains, without a trace of the building.

involved parties
The temporary court building was developed by the consortium dpcp (Du Prie bouw & ontwikkeling and cepezedprojects), which is committed to the project on a risk-bearing basis. Du Prie bouw & ontwikkeling is also the contractor. Lagemaat BV, which specialises in dismantling, remodelling and circular reuse of materials, dismantled the building. Groothuis Bouwgroep took ownership of most of the parts after dismantling and will rebuild the building in Enschede, where it will have a new owner.

After dismantling and before the building can be rebuilt, its parts are stored in various places. Partly in Genemuiden and Heerde, partly already at its destination: Kennispark Twente. There, the former courthouse will serve almost in the same form as an education and business centre. For parts that will not be used for the business centre, Lagemaat is looking for a new use. For example, worn-out floor tiles protect the stored ceiling tiles from damage. And the cells will be put to new uses as 'eco-mates': fauna towers for birds, small animals and insects.

lucas van der wee
lucas van der wee

phase 3 | company building in twente
The year 2022 was all about dismantling, 2023 is the year of remounting. Step 1 is getting all the parts ready, in exactly the right order. Construction is expected to start in late 2023 and the building will be commissioned in 2024. It looks the same as in Amsterdam, but because of its new function, it will have a different layout - the construction allows internal walls to be moved. However, it will remain a pleasant and large building (of 5,400 m2) with plenty of daylight.

In 2017, the Temporary Court won the Amsterdam Architecture Prize (AAP).

Moving the building from Amsterdam to Twente will save 2,000 tonnes of CO2 compared to new construction at Kennispark.

The building has a detachability index of 0.88 on a scale of zero to 1, which is unprecedentedly high.

lucas van der wee

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