The Netherlands Pavilion
The Netherlands Pavilion features a Food Cone in the middle of the structure that hosts more than 3000 plants Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News

Standing on flooring made out of mushrooms, next to a water harvesting system that extracts 800 litres of water from UAE’s desert air every day, the Dutch presented their sustainability-centred pavilion at the Expo 2020 Dubai on Tuesday to the media.

Having just been named the Best Sustainable Construction Project of the Year at The Big 5 Construction Impact Awards for its temporary circular climate system, the pavilion is ready to receive the public from October 1.

Completely sustainable structure? Challenge accepted….

At the pavilion, which architect director of V8 Michiel Raaphorst called “completely circular” sustainability is on centre stage. “It’s a radical statement but it can be felt throughout all the aspects,” Raaphorst said.

By “circular” Raaphorst means every aspect is environmentally friendly. The term comes from circular economy, which is an economic system that tackles global challenges like climate change, biodiversity loss, waste, and pollution. Everything a community needs is located within a circular area, much like a donut. So, people don’t use too much of transport, local businesses grow and the carbon footprint is minimal.

Three years ago Raaphorst, Dutch officials and companies behind the making of the pavilion, took on a challenge of integrating water, energy and food into the project. Currently, the structure hosts a Food Cone in the middle. Shining under sunlight sifted through solar panels, the cone is lined with over 3000 edible plants.

The Food Cone at the Netherlands Pavilion
The Food Cone at the Netherlands Pavilion Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News

The plants are of six different varieties, carefully placed across the massive cone. “Depending on the difference in height, humidity and temperature we selected different plants and placed them accordingly on the cone,” said Raaphorst.

The plants also employ the ‘crop per drop’ method. Each plant is given water in droplets and a “smart” system is in place to carefully detect when a plant needs to be fed across the day.

Rain in the desert? No problem…

Speaking about aspects which were considered when deciding the shape of the structure, Raaphorst said: “The cone shape was chosen so that the exterior and the interior can both be used efficiently.”

“It’s a geometry trick. Cones have a lot of surface area, hence we can grow a lot of plants,” Raaphorst added.

One of the central features of the pavilion is the Water Maker within the Food Cone. Designer Ap Verheggen developed the solar-powered rain shower called ‘SunGlacier’, a Dutch innovation that allows to harvest hundreds of litres water at the pavilion every day.

The device is right at the roof of the pavilion, dropping water down into a well-like structure, which depicts rain in the desert.

The plants are mainly herbs, like basil and mint. Throughout the Expo season, the crops will be harvested and new ones will be grown. In the end of the Expo, the plants will be planted into the ground or moved into a greenhouse.

Green structure

When asked about what aspects of the Netherlands Pavilion will be especially inspirational to visitors, Raaphorst said: “The building itself is the message.”

A host of Dutch companies, innovators and artists came together to make the pavilion.

“We had to challenge ourselves to use little resources and be creative and innovative,” said Carel Richter, Commissioner General for the Netherlands Pavilion and Consul General of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to Dubai.

“We got together out-of-the-box thinkers to make the pavilion come to life,” he added.

One of the other challenges of constructing the pavilion was that the structure needed to last a limited amount of time and have limited amount of waste once the event is over.

The steel used to make the basic structure of the building, is rented from the UAE’s construction industry. “It’s steel that can be used to make skyscrapers and we will return it once the event is over. Steel pipes used in its infrastructure are the same,” Raaphorst said.

Steel used in the structure is rented from the UAE construction industry Image Credit: Falah Gulzar/Gulf News

The textile used to make the curtains inside the pavilion and a canopy right at the entrance of the pavilion are designed by Amsterdam-based BuroBelén, and are the first textiles made of biopolymers.

While the tiles on the floors and on the inside walls of the Food Cone are designed and executed using a new bio-based building material made of mycelium – a fungi found in mushrooms.

Speaking about the implementation of sustainable technologies into everyday life, Raaphorst said: “These technologies are there, ready to be used and we are making it more and more efficient.”

All things Dutch…

When one looks around the pavilion virtually everything is used to highlight Dutch innovation and talent.

Netherlands pavilion
A clock inside the Netherlands Pavilion reminds us that timing is running and action to save the environment needs to be taken Image Credit: Falah Gulzar/Gulf News

The series of clocks by Dutch studio Atelier Van Lieshout to remind us that time is running out and action to save the Earth is needed.