I have no idols. I admire work, dedication and competence.
Architect Ron Bakker explains how balancing cost efficiency with the environment helped him design The Edge in Amsterdam.
Dutch-born architect Ron Bakker is a founding partner at London-based PLP Architecture, the team that conceived The Edge. Currently used by accountancy firm Deloitte as their Amsterdam office, in 2014 it was rated “outstanding” by the environmental sustainability assessment agency BREEAM – the highest rating ever. In conversation with GROHE Bakker discusses sustainability, how to design workspaces for the 21st century, and why GROHE products complement his environmentally friendly outlook.
When did PLP Architecture begin?
About six years ago: in the Nineties I came to London and worked for KPF architects for 18 years. Then some colleagues and I decided to start a new company. We now employ 200 people, and work a lot in London, Europe, the Middle East, China and Korea.
Who came up with the original concept for The Edge?
The idea was developed by the design team in close collaboration with Deloitte and project developer OVG. The Edge is a market office building and Deloitte occupy six or seven levels while the rest shared by a variety of other companies. With The Edge, we tried to unite different aspects of the office environment by integrating technology with sustainability in a way that redefines the concept of the workplace.
In 2014, the environmental assessment agency, BREEAM, awarded The Edge with the highest score ever, thus making it the most sustainable office building in the world. You’ve said elsewhere that this was partly caused by 2008 the recession, which encouraged you to source eco-friendly, cost effective materials. Is that correct?
Yes. When the recession hit it became harder to take the risks involved with developing a large project. However, we carried on, and researched how we could make it work. We looked at different strategies, like phasing and multi-purpose functionality, and also read up on studies about how we could balance sustainability with cost efficiency, which helped us discover that there were better ways to build the structure.
The award from BREEAM was also the highest they’ve ever issued. How did you achieve that?
Sometimes with difficulty! BREEAM looks at every tiny aspect relating to sustainability, so it’s easy to lose your way by trying to score as many points as possible. That said, Deloitte and OVG weren’t interested in point scoring. They wanted a sustainable building for the sake of sustainability, which is why the building was conceived like that even before we discussed accreditation. OVG and Deloitte set targets high, which made us realise our potential.
As an architect, how do you design workspaces and help create new ways of working?
At PLP, we’ve been talking about what makes a good workplace for a long time. Through these discussions it’s become apparent that people seem to enjoy being in a workplace where they can have chance encounters. In fact, we’ve recently been working with a client who backed this up. The project itself is the Crick building in London, and when it’s finished it will be home to the UK’s most advanced and innovative biomedical research building. Anyway, while we working with them, someone from their team mentioned to us that each large advance in biomedical research can be traced back to a chance meeting between two people from different fields. It’s a brilliant story, and maybe there’s something in it. These people are experts, after all.
In OVG’s office 13th floor you’ve installed GROHE Blue® and GROHE Red® faucets in the middle of their kitchen. How do these products fit in with the overall ethos of The Edge?
Unsere Agentur hat schon immer GROHE benutzt, weil der Name für Hochwertigkeit und Spitzendesign steht. Aber speziell diese beiden Armaturen waren mir neu. Wir hatten sie noch nie verwendet. Mit GROHE Blue® erhält man filtriertes und mit Kohlensäure versetztes Wasser, GROHE Red® liefert bei Bedarf kochend heißes Wasser. Besonders beeindruckt hat mich GROHE Blue® im Hinblick auf Nachhaltigkeit. Die meisten Menschen gehen heute mit einer Plastikflasche Mineralwasser zur Arbeit, weil ihnen klar ist, dass Trinken zum gesunden Leben gehört. GROHE Blue® unterstützt also umweltbewusste Menschen, ihren Plastikverbrauch zu reduzieren.
Coen van Oostrom, OVG’s founder and CEO, says he uses GROHE faucets in his home – would you do the same?
Yes, I think so. In fact, I would love to have a GROHE Blue® faucet at home. Here in London, the water doesn’t taste as good as in Amsterdam because apparently it’s already been drunk seven times before! Back home, sand dunes provide natural filtration. Recently, I read a research paper on the comparative benefits of drinking tap water or bottled in water in London. Overall, they found that tap water was safer than bottled water – and perhaps even better for you – since bottled water is quite high in minerals, which isn’t always good for you. Faucets should play a much more important role in people’s lives than they are currently given!
GROHE Blue® purifies your tap water, giving it a fresh refined taste. The built-in cooling unit and exchangeable carbonisation bottle add the necessary chill and sparkle. With GROHE Red® you can draw filtered kettle-hot water directly from the tap without having to wait. Up to three litres. Simple. Economical.