architecture business food

Building of the week: Van Gelder’s greenhouse HQ

This week was the Ecobuild conference in London. I didn’t get along this year, but I did look up the BREEAM awards to see who had won and make some notes for future ‘building of the week’ posts. Among those that didn’t actually win was this great building for a Dutch fruit and vegetable company called Van Gelder.

Their new corporate headquarters shares a site with their distribution centre, so it needed to include office space and logistics, and they combine in a large greenhouse-inspired building.

The greenhouse is functional too. There are orchards at ground level, and growing spaces on the roof. Vertical farming systems are incorporated as part of the company’s development labs, providing food for the experimental kitchens and for the restaurant and visitor centre.

At the back of the building is the distribution centre, which is temperature controlled. The excess heat being removed from the warehouse is pumped into the offices and greenhouses, reducing heating costs. The building also has solar PV and intergrated wind turbines, rainwater harvesting, and underground heat and cold stores. I’m sure there are lots of interesting details about the building, but most of the information is in Dutch.

I’ve mentioned a couple of distribution centres here in the past, and they can certainly be made sustainably. What I like about this one is that it breaks with the convention of the faceless grey monolith, an anonymous logistical netherworld glimpsed at speed from the motorway. Instead, Van Gelder have opted for something bright and transparent. It invites people in to see what’s going on, demonstrating an enthusiasm for its product and pride in its business model.

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