“De Ceuvel is An experiment in which we make sustainability creative, accessible and fun for everyone.”
We call De Ceuvel a Cleantech Playground. The concept was developed to stimulate new ways of thinking about how we manage resources in our communities. The Cleantech Playground is a concept that responds to the ambitious sustainability targets set early on by the De Ceuvel community while offering a fun and engaging educational environment. Throughout De Ceuvel are showcases of technologies and techniques that operate on a small scale to close local cycles and bring us back in touch with our basic needs. The creative reuse of waste materials throughout the site is a key component of extracting value and nutrients from what many people view as waste.
You can explore the techniques at De Ceuvel through the overview below. We aim to continue to evolve over time, and so will the technologies used on-site. Working with new technology partners, research institutes, and government agencies enables us to create a rich educational environment for exploring the future of circular urban environments.
De Ceuvel is situated in the old industrial area Buiksloterham and is one of the pioneers in the transformation of this polluted zone into a sustainable residential area. Metabolic together with the Municipality of Amsterdam, several real-estate developers, Waternet and many others involved in BSH have signed the Manifest Circulair Buiksloterham.
As a consequence of this covenant, many sustainable projects are being realized in the area around de Ceuvel, amongst which many DIY buildings, sustainable living on the water Schoonschip, PEK Ecostroom and Waternet's bio-refinery. Buiksloterham is on its way to become Europe's most sustainable neighborhood and at de Ceuvel we're very proud to be in the vanguard of this development.
Due to the pollution of de Ceuvel grounds, it was impossible to dig in order to lay a sewage system. Instead, each boat on De Ceuvel is equipped with a compost toilet. Waste is collected and pre-composts in the toilets before it is brought to our tumbling composter for further composting.
While conventional flushing toilets produce wastewater discharged to the sewer, dry toilets do not use water for flushing and produce solid compost. Because reusing human waste comes with risks, we have conducted research on the quality of these fertilizers on different parameters, such as metals, pathogens and medicine residues, and which treatment steps and production methods can be applied to best harvest the nutritional value.
*NB The Café and the Crossboat do have standard flush toilets installed
Each office boat has a heat pump and an air-to-air heat exchange ventilation system. As warm air leaves the boat, over 60% of the heat is captured and circulated back inside.
The heat pump extracts heat from the surrounding air to heat up each boat. These simple technologies allowed us to circumvent the need for a gas connection and use renewable electricity to power the heating needs of each boat.
We process wastewater from kitchen sinks in decentralized helophyte filtration systems placed adjacent to each office-houseboat. Helophyte filters are simple constructions built using different layers.
Sand, gravel, and shells help remove solids, and a mix of special plants consumes organic matter like nitrogen and phosphorus. Once purified, clean water is then discharged into the ground.
Like many areas of Buiksloterham, the area underneath de Ceuvel is polluted by almost a century of heavy industry. Normally such polluted ground is removed and mixed with clean ground, thus moving the problem to another space. At de Ceuvel, a ‘forbidden garden’ was designed by DELVA Landscape Architects using plants that are known to be particularly good at absorbing these pollutants through their roots.
Like many areas of Buiksloterham, the area beneath De Ceuvel is polluted by almost a century of heavy industry. Normally such polluted soil is removed and mixed with clean soil, thus moving the problem to another space. At De Ceuvel we want to handle this differently. We are reducing the local pollution with the help of plants, a simple technique with a complex name: ‘phytoremediation’.
The soil between our boats is cultivated and maintained as a Zuiverend Park (Purifying Park): a green environment that grows specific sets of plants, which absorb, stabilize or exhaust high concentrations of pollution. To protect both human- and plant-health, we built a raised jetty over the park. Eventually the plants will help us to leave the ground much cleaner than we initially found it, while in the meantime, as De Ceuvel demonstrates, there can be other uses for the space.
Until today, the practice of phytoremediation has only limitedly been used for small, urban areas. Zuiverend Park is part of the unique ‘Cleantech Playground’ belonging to De Ceuvel: we aim to increase our knowledge of this technique in order to improve it, and, ultimately, to transfer our experiences to a larger audience. Due to this learning process, our way of cultivating and maintaining the park develops over time. Now, in 2017, the original plan (designed by the Delva Landscape Architects in 2014) has only left us with the willows, poplars and some grasses. Since 2016 we have been taking a closer look at the plants that spontaneously stem from the polluted soil. We carefully examine their use for phytoremediation, while simultaneously sowing plants that are already known for their metal absorbing qualities. This combination seems to work out really well!
Do you want to help and learn more about phytoremediation?
On the 3rd Wednesday of every month, a group of volunteers attend to the park. You are more than welcome to join one of these fun, relaxing parkdays -- whether you have green fingers or not! We start at 13.00 with a small guided tour and more information about phytoremediation. From 13:30-16:30 we work (and play) in the park. Sign up via firstname.lastname@example.org or just visit De Ceuvel during one of the parkdays.
De Ceuvel is equipped with over 150 Photovoltaïc (PV) panels that generate energy from the sun. The panels are installed on the majority of the office boats and produce around 36.000 kWh of power yearly.
This covers the electricity demand of the heating systems of the offices, along with a part of the remaining electricity needs. The rest of our power is supplied by a green energy supplier.
In September 2017, Spectral Utilities (daughtercompany of Metabolic) introduced a new crypto-currency on De Ceuvel, named after the Joule, the international unit of energy. The Jouliette uses energy production as a starting point. Mining existing crypto-currencies such as Bitcoin consumes a lot of energy, while the Jouliette is generated by the user producing excess solar energy.
Jouliette stimulates the local production and exchange of renewable and so contributes to the energy transition and the local economy. It encourages solarpanel owners to exchange energy locally, instead of selling surplus power to the grid. De creation of new Jouliette's is simple, transparant en based on smart meters. Through blockchain technology, points are generated and distributed among De Ceuvel community, and users are rewarded for smart and efficient usage of power and solarpanels. The Jouliettes can then be traded for power when needed, or for other things as well. The goal is to connect all of the Buiksloterham neighborhood to create a local smart grid.
Organic waste streams including food and human waste contain nutrients necessary for plant growth. The effective use of these nutrient streams as fertilizer for urban agriculture can help close the nutrient cycle on local and urban levels. At de Ceuvel, we investigate methods for recovering nutrients from urine.
Separated urine is collected from Metabolic Lab and Café de Ceuvel men's urinoir, from which phosphate is recovered by using a struvite reactor. These phosphate crystals can then be combined with other local inputs and used as a fertilizer for local food production.
Café de Ceuvel is currently building the world’s very first Biogas Boat. This boat has the ability to convert organic waste into biogas that will be used to cook with in the restaurant. In this way, de Ceuvel is taking its next step towards its mission to close as many loops as possible and to reduce its waste production, contributing to an increasingly sustainable circular economy. The Biogasboat will be operational at the end of 2016.
De Ceuvel has been built largely out of recycled materials. Old houseboats that would have been demolished have been upcycled into creative, energy-efficient workspaces, using secondhand materials from all over the Netherlands. And of course, we make sure to separate all our waste: glass, plastic, paper, organic waste, and rest.
Upcycling is an important part of our philosophy as well as the visual aesthetic of de Ceuvel. The Logic Works workspace across from the Café regularly cranks out newly upcycled furniture using old industrial metals and wooden panes, and benches made from old boats.
The greenhouse is the key to recycling nutrients at De Ceuvel. The greenhouse at De Ceuvel produces vegetables and herbs for Cafe de Ceuvel using a closed-loop aquaponics system combining fish and vegetable production.
The fish excretes are broken down into nutrients for the plants, and the plants provide a natural filter for the water the fish live in. Aquaponics is thus based on the natural symbiosis between plant and water life. Inputs include primarily local nutrients like worms from our composting bins, and struvite from our struvite reactor, produced by men's urine from the Café. In the future, we will be experimenting with algae and insect production.