circular economy

Cradle to Cradle in the office

The office sector is increasingly relying on material cycles. Supply bottlenecks and rising energy costs are making the concept increasingly attractive. Read here what "Cradle to Cradle" means for products in concrete terms and get to know exciting projects that implement the concept.

Apr 25 2022

This is what the office of the future could look like: Office chairs, desks and shelves can be recycled into new furniture without leaving any residue, while the carpet and acoustic panels can be composted. "Cradle to Cradle" is the buzzword for such a circular economy, to which more and more companies in the office sector are committed. 

In production, manufacturers largely rely on environmentally friendly and reusable materials. Ideally, the complete office furnishing can be disassembled after use and returned to the production cycle. A concept that seems increasingly attractive in view of dwindling resources and rising energy prices. 

Innovative closed-loop showroom 

To show that such a circular economy works, office furniture manufacturers such as Steelcase, Flokk or Wini have already participated in the Berlin project C2C LAB in 2019. For this, an East Berlin prefabricated building was consistently converted according to the criteria of Cradle to Cradle. According to the operators, this is the world's first refurbishment according to this principle, in which all raw materials used can be reused. The LAB is now a showroom for best practice and market-ready innovations.

C2C LAB in Berlin © Cradle to Cradle NGO

Certified environmental friendliness 

Companies can obtain the Cradle to Cradle® certificate for switching to environmentally friendly production. To do so, they must use healthy materials and renewable energy, minimise water consumption, use recyclable raw materials and act in a socially just manner. To avoid waste as much as possible, the materials used should be preserved over several life cycles. In terms of the office sector, the working environment thus becomes a storehouse of materials and raw materials.  

Less is more 

According to the principle of "Cradle to Cradle", modular construction with as few parts as possible is preferred for office furniture. Composite materials, whose physical inseparability prevents reuse, are largely dispensed with. Instead of glue, screw and clamp systems are used, which also make the products more flexible. 

The use of harmless paints and varnishes, which also ensure clean indoor air, also contributes to an improved environmental balance. Examples of certified office products include healthy carpets whose yarn and fibres can be separated from the backing and reused as a new resource. 

Office building "The Cradle" in Düsseldorf's Medienhafen © INTERBODEN Gruppe/HPP Architekten; Visualisation: bloomimages

An office for better building 

A current pilot project for the circular economy is being built in Düsseldorf. The architectural firm HPP is realising an office building there with the significant name "The Cradle". All building materials used in the timber hybrid building can be reused after use or returned to the material cycle. A digital "Material Passport" stores all data for later deconstruction. In this way, the products and materials used are also evaluated in terms of their ecological impact. 

Ecological and economic added value 

One of the keys to setting cycles in motion is not only the ecological but also the economic added value. If raw materials are recycled several times, the advantage is obvious. This is shown, among other things, by the example of the municipal administration in Venlo, the Netherlands. In the case of the city hall realised in 2016, construction and operating costs were significantly reduced thanks to savings in materials and energy. 

Another improvement of the ecological construction method: After completion, the sick days of the city's employees decreased significantly within a year. Especially in view of the current discussions about health in the workplace, this appears to be a solution with a future. 

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