Nationale-Nederlanden: an inspiring example of circularity

Frank van der Pasch
Commercial manager Interiors
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This article was published in May 2023 in magazine Pi. The text is written by Eva Vroom and automatically translated into English. Photography by Lucas van der Wee.

Nationale-Nederlanden wanted a thorough renovation for its offices in The Hague and Rotterdam, resulting in a sustainable, healthy and flexible interior. It had to fit the dynamic way of working of the company, with an emphasis on agile working and lots of opportunity for interaction. For the realization of this circular office interior, a construction team was put together that included Fokkema & Partners as architect and Gielissen as interior builder. Dirk Zwaan, architect at Fokkema: "At the beginning of the project, we first made a roadmap with Nationale-Nederlanden: the design for the offices had to be 100% circular, zero waste and WELL certified." These choices stemmed from an approach, with the employees at the center. Peter Jansen, workspace portfolio manager at Nationale-Nederlanden: "Themes such as circularity and WELL are important to us. We had been working for some time on new systems for more quality and functionality in the work environment, and now we really wanted to get serious about it. We decided to properly record the whole process as well."

The new interior had to match Nationale-Nederlanden's dynamic way of working.

Environmental impact

Nationale-Nederlanden wanted to use existing materials in the renovation. Because the aim was to achieve the lowest possible MKI (environmental cost indicator), engineering firm LPB|Sight was involved in the project. The MKI makes the environmental impact of a project verifiable and measurable for the client; the environmental impact of the project is compared to a conventional project (where new materials are used). Lotte de Jong, sustainability strategist at Gielissen: "All materials had to be calculated. It was very carefully examined per plot which materials were present in Nationale-Nederlanden's buildings." Workshops were also held with user groups on the layout of the offices. One of the outcomes was that Nationale-Nederlanden needed many more enclosed spaces, and thus system walls. As a result of the pandemic, the design had to be adjusted in between. Because more people started working from home, Nationale-Nederlanden wanted to use the offices differently, with fewer workstations and more spaces for interaction, such as co-work spaces and an event space. The floor area therefore went from 50,000 m² to 37,000 m². That was still a huge amount of square meters, which yielded a rich harvest of ceiling tiles, partitions, customization, loose furniture and carpeting.

As part of WELL certification, indoor planting is an important part of the interior.

Co-creation process

Interior builder Gielissen specially set up an industrial hall for the circular project, says De Jong: "We have a very efficient machine park, fully automated. Then came this project, where we were harvesting materials: instead of using standard sheet material, we had to work with furniture that still had the screws in it. "What are we going to do with this?" was initially asked. We looked, how could we still organize this process as linearly as possible." Gielissen himself also has a harvest list and a harvest hall with material from previous projects. "We are now at harvest list 2.0, a solid system that everyone works with." Such a project requires a totally different way of working, Zwaan emphasizes, "It is a co-creation process, where we brought the implementing parties together earlier in the form of workshop sessions." De Jong: "Because you also sit around the table from the beginning with, for example, wall builders and carpet suppliers, cross-pollination occurs and you achieve more together."

Eyed glass building blocks recur in the custom furniture for a pantry.

Harvest roadmaps

All parties involved had to take reuse into account; this also meant a new way of working for the subcontractors. Zwaan: "Nationale-Nederlanden brought in Floris Schiferli of Superuse Studios because they have a lot of experience with harvesting materials from buildings. For example, they showed a video about circular construction to the subcontractors; it is important to get everyone on board. Everything has to be very carefully dismantled and taken out of the building, you are going to work with residual streams both from the buildings and from external sources. All parties walked through the buildings, making harvest maps. If all involved do that carefully, you can shop materials from each other. There has been a lot of internal harvesting, as well as external harvesting via such sites as For example, the Trespa panels we used to clad the core of the buildings came from a Rotterdam demolition site." To turn these cores into something special, Nationale-Nederlanden selected two artists, Tobias Lengkeek and Said Kinos, through a pitch. Their winning designs were milled into the Trespa panels. "By upgrading reused materials in this way, you add an extra layer to the interior," says Lengkeek.

The green tiles on the pantry furniture are made from construction waste; they were developed by ShardsTiles: a German startup of art school graduates.


An impressive amount of the loose furniture in the interior comes from Nationale-Nederlanden offices, supplemented by second life furniture and a small percentage of new fully circular furniture. The existing installations in the offices have been modified, and fitted with motion detectors and CO2 sensors. Zwaan and De Jong cite some examples of materials harvested in the offices, and the challenges this posed. "With the carpet, we puzzled for a while. The gray jobs could go back to Tarkett, which supplied new cradle-to-cradle carpet. There was also carpet with bright colors; we had that carefully harvested and put it back in a new way." To create more connection in the building, voids were created. The concrete removed in the process was reused for the railings around the voids, and for benches along the facades. Zwaan: "We also did this in collaboration with Superuse. By reusing the concrete in the project, you save transportation costs." The new stairs have steps made from harvested mooring poles from the Port of Rotterdam, harvested glass building blocks return in the form of a pantry. A batch of shirts with the Nationale Nederlanden logo got a second life as beautiful acoustic panels. De Jong: "We even made an ICT help desk out of old keyboards."

Co-workspace with acoustic panels made from a batch of shirts with the Nationale-Nederlanden logo.

Slat structure

A striking element in the interior is the open slatted structure that covers the walls. "Because we work with harvested materials, you often have to deal with deviating sizes," explains Zwaan, "this slatted structure provides unity. I originally wanted a Japanese wood connection for the structure, but that turned out to be unfavorable because of sawing losses. Gielissen then developed a bracket made of recycled aluminum as a connection. This resulted in 0% waste, because we used the contour plates of the brackets for the glass system walls to prevent prying eyes. Originally we had thought up expanded metal for this, but this is more fun because it is reused and you can see that there are small irregularities here and there in the aluminum. With that you make the circularity visible, you also want to tell the story to the employees." For the same reason, in some places in the offices there are texts about the origin of a material, for example, "I used to be a locker door.

A structure of pine slats brings unity to the interior. Gielissen developed a bracket made of recycled aluminum for the connection, making the structure dismountable and thus reusable.


Of course, new materials were used in addition to those harvested, but they had to be circular and reusable. A great example can be found in the Event Space. Jansen: "For the Event Space and the four Co-Work Spaces, Silo creative agency was involved in the project. We had named a number of themes for these spaces such as sustainability, vitality and creativity that had to be explicitly reflected in the interior." Fokkema used biophilic design principles for the Event Space, creating an organic volume in this space. Gielissen covered this, to Silo's design, with countless scales of biobased material. Another example of the way sustainable materials were sought, are the green tiles used to cover a pantry unit. De Jong: "In Fokkema's design, these tiles were not flat, but three-dimensional. We started searching and ended up at ShardsTiles: a German startup of art school graduates who had made a tile from construction waste. They developed a custom tile for this project, a process that took a year and a half. So in the end, we were able to help this startup become a real company."

To make circularity visible, some places in the offices feature texts about the origin of a material.


Working with harvested materials and the strict requirements for new materials meant that all cooperating parties had to be both creative and flexible. As a result, the renovated offices have become an inspiring showcase: for circularity but certainly also for collaboration and inventiveness. Says Zwaan, "If you are going to harvest materials, you have to be flexible and make use of what is there, even if that means adapting your design." Flexibility is also one of the key criteria Jansen identifies for the success of this challenging project: "You have to bring in parties who can really deal with the uncertainty that comes with such a process. Gielissen even adapted its entire business process to it! You don't work with an elaborate technical pve from the beginning, things can still change during the project. But although it all went differently than usual, all parties who worked on the project were enthusiastic. We just did it, and fulfilled all our ambitions."

Client — Nationale-Nederlanden
Architect — Fokkema & Partners Architecten
Interiorbuilder — Gielissen Interiors | Exhibitions | Events
Circulair advisor —  Superuse Studios|Oogstkaart
Spatial identity—  Event Space & Co-workspaces Silo Creative Agency
MKI/ circulair consultant — LBP|Sight
Loose furniture — Vepa
System walls — Spaces4You
Project management / construction management  — Stevens van Dijck
WELL consultant — bba binnenmilieu
Installation consultant — Royal HaskoningDHV
Installer — Veolia
Contractor — JP van Eesteren

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