“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. Consequently, in the area around de Ceuvel many sustainable projects are now being realized, 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. A mix of hyperaccumulators, which absorb high concentrations of metals, and excluders, which have more of a stabilizing role for the earth was planted. The process is called phytoremediation and can be a promising ecological solution for cleaning up polluted sites in urban areas around the world. For health reasons as well as protecting the plants, we build a jetty over the garden. The process of phytoremediation takes decades, but in the meantime, as de Ceuvel demonstrates, there can be other uses for the space.
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.
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.
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.