Vladimir Ondejcik
Architecture and design
Bonsai Art

Use and reuse - Westraven

Is there a possibility of second reuse of buildings, and of (re)use of new materials to keep building sustainable?

TU Delft, Vladimir Ondejcik, 2010
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Sustainable architecture has become a necessity. At the end of fossil age is important for further development to change behavior of society and in our case in fi eld of architecture. One of the main tools for sustainable architecture is reuse. Big usage of material can be reduced by reusing building material or even whole elements for new constructions and new purposes. Nowadays are mainly reused concrete skeletons of building from previous era from around 60s to 80s, and contemporary materials as carbon fi ber, Tefl on or ETFE are applied in favor for recreating modern look. These materials are not explored yet in all their possibilities and in many cases the usage should be different and solution is more expensive and more materials are wasted. The main question of developer and architect is what is more sustainable, to renovate building in a new sustainable principles or destroy the structure and build new building on the base of sustainable principles without of constrains of the old building. The results of researches running on this topic has varying in range but as relevant result I had in my hand is research of TU delft team on former building of faculty or architecture, where the result was approximately of 10% better for favor of new building. Around we can see number of buildings which are abandoned despite the relative good static condition. Here comes the question for second reuse of the building. Moved more far for reuse of the original purposes of the building on the place where is needed. So easy said, building is not trying to be adapted for new functions needed on place but it is fi nding new area where is demand for original purpose for which it was ideal. The research in this fi eld is still bit in the shadow of modern „sustainable“technologies. Nevertheless the great achievements were made during the time. The fi rst and the most famous is a crystal palace build in London’s Hyde Park for Great exhibition 1851 by J. Paxton. Whole building was moved apart after the end of exhibition. Another great example is IBM traveling pavilion from R Piano. Build in 1964 for European division of IBM Company. The building travels over Europe on several customs build trailers and could be assemble in less than 3 week. This more dynamic sense of reusing is less explored over time and therefore I would like to more focus in this direction of “reuse thinking.“

Theoretical references

The development of new materials has led to revolutionary changes in world around us. Take the tremendous advance of polymers over past forty years. Their potential applications today are almost numberless: from dairy product packaging to car components, and from carpets, to pipe lines. Technological developments now enable complete car dashboards to be manufactured from one and the same material. This makes recycling process far simpler and more effective. (Beukers, A, van Hinte, E, 1999) For instance, I case of glass fi ber reinforced polyester it is legitimate to ask whether the glass fi bers which lend the composite its strength are held together by resin or whether the characteristics of the resin as a construction material are improved by addition of glass fi ber. In fact, both approaches are relevant. The precise answer to this question is perhaps than the fact that plastic in general offer a great many possibilities. (Hendriks, CF, et al. 2000,p. 599) Fillers and fi ber are added to plastics in order to improve various properties, for example: increase stiffness, increase impact resistance, reduce creep, different types of fi bers may be added to resign and can be placed in different way. Short fi bers (less than 3 mm) are usually from glass, are adding tensile strength to rubbers. If the ration of length to diameter is greater than 100 or so, the tensile strength is increased, in addition to raising the stiffness. (Hendriks, CF, et al. 2000, p.615) The reinforcement with long fi bers is used with combination of thermosetting resins. The reinforced material mostly used is glass, carbon and aramid fi bers. The amount of reinforcement conferred by long is determined by the fi ber content and the orientation of the fi bers. It is also important the ratio of the elasticity modulus of the fi ber to that of the matrix: the greater this stiffness ration, the stronger the fi bers. (Hendriks, CF, et al. 2000, p.615). The power of composite materials is shown on example of suspension bridge by the specifi c design load y=0,50 is the maximum span s (B=5,36) of steel bridge is 1980m, the glass fi ber is around 7000m and the ultimate solution is cables made of carbon fi bers with maximum span of 11860m (Beukers, A, van Hinte, E, 1999)

Current situation

Westraven or Rijkswaterstraat is an offi ce building build for the Ministry of public works and water management in around 1970. The system which was used was so called, jack-block, where the building is build from top to bottom fl oor and raised after each fl oor has been build. The biggest advantage of this system is building 2 stories in 3 week by using light prefabricated concrete blocks, mostly enlighten by hollow fragments. These hollow spaces were later used for placing installations during the reconstruction. The tender for renovation was placed in 2002 and the winner was Dutch offi ce CEPEZED. Renovation of Westraven brings building back to modern age and increase offi ce area by building low rise block. The reuse consist of keeping the skeleton of jack block system and building core including elevators and staircases. Most of the other fragments and parts as facade a low-rise area were destroyed. So the fi nal ration of reused materials is not very high. (Fig. 3, 4) During the construction and reconstruction the big emphasis was put to climate solutions. All building is divided into 5 climate zones depending on need of heating/cooling and natural and the air circulation between these zones. (Fig. 1) As I mention already in the introduction to this article the modern renovation are using the great amount of new-modern materials. The Westraven is also this case. Use of Tefl on and carbon fi ber textile on high-rise block is giving the new look to the tower and reduces the wind on high fl oors. Also the ETFE material is used as a fragment co cover entrance area and put new contemporary look to the building. However the new materials are always capable to provide all their advantages when traditional building technique is use instead new more progressive methods which incorporate advantages of material system instead of simple replacing other material with same usage. (Fig. 2) Mariaplaats is urban block with housing function built in heart of Utrecht historic centre. The contribution of new block is more in fi eld of building in historic environment than in fi eld of reuse. The unique modern look and historic building is joining into very pleasant collaboration. Used materials and overall geometries of housing blocks are matching surrounding areas. For person walking by the inner area remains hide and the keeps tourist of out of inner courtyards, which provides very quiet atmosphere just few steps from busy center. The main aspect is material use over housing blocks, zinc roofs, white plaster and red bricks are well combined and also very durable which keeps building site in new look even after several years of use. (Fig. 6) IBM pavilion build in 1982-4 by Renzo piano is great example of lightweight architecture. Like a modern equivalent of the circus, the demountable pavilion travelled from city to city in a fl eet of specially built and emblazoned trailers. The pavilion continues Piano’s research in lightness, transparency and constructions with repetitive units. The pavilion essentially was a transparent vault, 48 m by 12 m wide and 6m high mad up of 68 half arches. These half arches were in fact three-dimensional trusses, with both the cladding membrane and the structural web between inner and outer chords. (Buchanan, P, 1993) I choose this building because despite the year when it was build posses other way how to deal with building problematic than any other building. Inspired by Crystal palace and with computer calculation of sunlight in every new location build to adapt great and simple at time shading system of opaque inner pyramids is the treasure of forgotten practics in sustainability.

Alternatives -redesign

As a fragment to redesign I have chosen the ETFE façade on Westraven building. This part is belonging to climate zone with no heating nor cooling and its purpose is entrance area. Current solution is infl ated ETFE cushions on a steel frame spanned over space. The materials are durable but by building process are bind to this certain solution.The entrance areas and covered atriums and passages are used in many buildings nowadays. So this is opening good conditions for reusing these parts. For example when the Westraven building will not be need de anymore the lightweight system can by replaces in newly built or renovated building in nearby area or inside the city. The other reason is use of EFTE material in this area in use with „classic“steel skeleton. The ETFE material is more suitable for use in combination with other structural plastic materials as aramid or carbon fi ber.I called proposal DIFS, lightweight modular system which can be disassembled and easy transported to other place. Main use is the facades but similar principles can be use for extension fragments to curved or double curved roofs and shell-like structures. To keep system reusable are used materials very important. Durability long life, long life cycle and small ageing of materials are main keys. The other side is the weight of materials according to easy transport. If the conditions of weight and durability are fulfi lled the next step is transport. For the cheapest transport solution the use of standard trailer has been chose, which infl uence the maximum size of one unit.The last feature is the easy montage and demontage for fast and easy building process. For these requirements the DIFS has dimension of 3.1 and 2 m with light aramid frame. The frame is fi lled with insulation material to prevent heat lost thought the frame, the infl ated system is incorporated into structural strength by 2 cm glass fi ber stripes running along the edges. And panels are connected together also with glass fi ber stripe. (Fig. 10)This give DIFS ultimate lightness and the defl ated panels are easy to load on the trailer thanks to the solid frame. The climate of new system is better to present Westraven ETFE facade. The ETFE cushions are in the panels have same physical properties but the frame and steel connections in Westraven are heat bridges between outer and inner environment. This fact is removed by isolated composite frame. Infl ation of DIFS is provided with the same way as in current Westraven from hollow roof supporting columns. (Fig. 13)


The new materials based on reinforced plastics doesn’t have very good life cycle, but on the other hand because of the long life are ideal for building reusable construction , to be specifi c reusable and transferable. This is a new way to ultimate sustainability especially in bigger cities where is a need for dynamic building. The DIFS designed as redesign for Westraven is only one example how to use strength and lightness hand by hand with structural stability and easy transport. It is based on today’s fabrication method and building processes. It the future it can be moved even more far, for example the company can hire semi permanent structure for some purposes like workshops or offi ces and when there is no need for this space, because of change in production distribution company will disassemble this structure and hire it to other person in the city. This will save energies, material and maintain costs.


Buchanan, P, 1993, Renzo Piano building workshop vol. 1, Phaidon press, London Hendriks, CF, Bijen, JM, Felix, F, Fraaij, ALA, Jase, H, Munxk, ED, Reintjes, RC, Schutte-Postma, ET, Stroeven, P, Voglander, JG, Wegen, GJL, 2000, Durable and sustainable construction materials, Aernas, Eindhoven Beukers, A, van Hinte, E, 1999, Lightness, 010 Publishers, Rotterdam Cepezed, 2010, Offi ce building for Rijkswaterstraat, 010, Rotterdam Miotto,L, 1987, Renzo Piano, Edition du centre Pompidou, Paris Nakamura, T, 1990, Renzo Piano building workshop 1964 – 1988, A and U, Tokio, NY Piano, R, 1989, Buildings and projects 1971 -1989, Rizzoli, NY IMB traveling pavilion, http://faculty.samfox.wustl.edu/Donnelly/Donnelly/347-F98/IBM_Pavilion/sld002. htm Ziyang Poh, IBM pavilion, http://ziyangpoharchitecture.blogspot.com/2009/11/ibm-pavilion.html

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design: Vladimir Ondejcik (c)Vladimir Ondecik 2011
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