Emergis Living Lab

Living Lab Emergis foro van de inkom

General infromation

This living lab was built in Kloetinge (Zeeuws-Vlaanderen) at Emergis, a mental health institution, where the guest rooms were extended with a new circularly built wing. The units can be easily moved, and the rooms quickly rearranged. This allows Emergis to meet the ever-changing demand for housing. However, there will no longer be a need to build or disassemble, but simply make some easy adjustments, without wasting a lot of energy or material. The use of bio-based materials further reduces the ecological impact and ensures circularity at the end of life. Look at the video or visit the lab virtually!

Change-oriented design

From the very start, the goal of the Emergis Living Lab was to create a dynamic environment that makes it easy to extend or reduce the building. That is why it is constructed from modular, movable units in Cross Laminated Timber (CLT). These units can be connected to a central corridor using a ‘plug and play’ principle. A grid and uniform dimensions were used for the facade openings, which can be a closed or open part (joinery or door). Each unit serves as a workspace where patients can be treated, and is constructed in the same way, with the exception of 2 connected units that form a group room and 1 unit that serves as a sanitary block.

The units themselves actually form the layout of the building. So if you want to change the layout, you do this by adjusting the composition of the units as a whole. The central corridor provides good access and opportunities for extension. For each unit, the wall that connects to the corridor is not made of CLT, but is a timber cassette. This is the wall with the most perforations (cables, light switches, door) and the one that is most likely to change in the future.

The installations are decentralised and organised per unit so that each unit can function independently of the others. Lighting, plug sockets, heating and ventilation are powered by a main cable that runs through the corridor using the ‘plug and play’ principle. Sanitary facilities are grouped in 1 unit, meaning that extensions or reductions do not need to take piping into account. An additional electrical conduit is provided in each unit to allow connections to be added in the future without extensive work. Furthermore, all plug sockets and electrical fixtures are placed in a repetitive pattern. Together with the decentralisation of the techniques, this ensures that the CLT walls are impacted (by drilling, screwing, milling, etc.) as little as possible and therefore retain their maximum residual value.

The completed flexibility calculator for the Emergis Living Lab can be downloaded here. This estimated that the building will be moved within now and 25 years with a 60% probability and a function change with a 25% probability. The function change in this case is from office to flat.

Design for reuse and recycling

By working with CLT, the supporting structure can also serve as the interior finish. For example, no flooring, suspended ceilings or plastering are applied, but the CLT is left exposed wherever possible. This ensures enormous material savings and a drastic reduction in material impact.

To keep the residual value of the CLT panels as high as possible, the pipes for lighting and electricity are assembled and the sanitary appliances are grouped in 1 unit. Thanks to this functional separation, technical installations can be adapted without damaging other parts of the building. In the central corridor, too, the main cabling is laid in a cable tray that is accessible and allows for easy extension or adjustments.

The structure of the facade can be completely disassembled with the option of recovering the wooden planks and insulation undamaged. The flat roof has a roof covering that has been loosely placed and ballasted, so that the insulation and the roof covering can be easily separated during disassembly later on. The units themselves rest on steel poles mounted on Stelcon slabs on stabilised ground. The foundations are therefore also very modular and can be disassembled with a high reuse potential. The walls that connect the modules to the central corridor can be regarded as the inner walls. These were provided in a timber-frame construction, with wooden panels as finish and a detachable threshold at the height of the doorway.

The lifting points of the modules have remained, but have been concealed in the roof finish. This makes it easy to disassemble the modules in their entirety later on. The CLT units themselves were assembled from CLT plates that were not glued but screwed together. This means that, if required, the units can also be taken apart with minimal damage to the panels.

The end-of-life calculator for Emergis' Living Lab can be downloaded here. The lifespan of the units has been estimated at 60 years and that the materials will eventually yield around €150,000. The investment to make the building remountable has been divided by two as the investement also has a benefit in flexibility. This has been calculated in the flexibility calculator.

Living Lab Emergis een buitenbeeld

Valorising the existing situation

In order to connect the new part of the building to the existing one, part of the existing building had to be demolished. At first, the architect’s design did not allow for the existing foundations and floor to be kept. With a view to maximum valorisation of the existing situation, the design was adapted to the perimeter of the existing floor and foundations so that they could be preserved. The other parts of the building, which were demolished, were not suitable for reuse and were disposed of using standard practices.

Living Lab Emergis een zicht op dezijkant

Integrating recycled and reclaimed materials

At Emergis, they successfully used recycled planks for the facade. These planks were found on oogstkaart.nl and then cut up, after which they were placed in one piece over the full height of the module. Because this created quite a lot of offcuts, a small amount of new wood was also needed.

The Stelcon slabs used for the foundations were also reclaimed.

Preparing the material bank of the future

To facilitate later reuse, an as-built BIM model was delivered containing the materials and quantities. The contractor also prepared disassembly instructions relating to the assembly and disassembly of the CLT units.

Waste during the construction phase

By opting for prefabrication as much as possible, waste production on site was greatly minimised. The wood waste produced during the prefabrication process was put back into circulation by returning it to the wood fibre insulation manufacturer.

Eco-conscious material choices

Emergis has made a very conscious effort to use bio-based materials wherever possible. This has been achieved everywhere except for the insulation of the flat roof and under the CLT floor. There was no solution available here that eliminated the risk of condensation or moisture problems. In the absence of a suitable bio-based alternative, PIR was chosen as the insulation material. The wood has also been left untreated as much as possible (both facade planks and interior walls). Only in the central corridor was a bio-based whitewash used.

Living Lab Emergis foto van gevelbekleding

Looking for synergies

Synergies were sought in 2 ways. Firstly, they looked at how best to align with the existing condition and operation of the building with a minimum of interference. The design was adapted and parts of the existing building were retained and integrated into the new part. The result was significant material savings. In addition, for the prefabrication of the units, the contractor was able to collaborate with a third party who could offer both the assembly area (site with the required lifting equipment) and transport (from the assembly area to the construction site). This saved a lot of unnecessary kilometres of transport and greatly reduced the interference for users on the site.

Sharing and managing information

For information management, the Emergis Living Lab uses an as-built version of the BIM model containing all information about quantities and materials used. The contractor also provided an informative document about the disassembly and assembly instructions for the prefab modules.

Living Lab Emergis foto van de gang
Het oorspronkelijke ontwerp Living Lab Emergis

Innovative businessmodels and construction processes 

In terms of innovative approach, Living Lab Emergis mainly focuses on standardisation, modularity and prefabrication in order to achieve high material efficiency. The construction of a mock-up (first test module) made it possible to not only make adjustments and prevent difficulties on the construction site, but also extra material savings. For example, the construction of the test module showed that 2 light fixtures were sufficient to meet the required light quality. The 3 fixtures that were originally allocated were therefore replaced by just 2 fixtures per module. The rest of the tender was conducted in a traditional way without any focus on circular business models.