Made with humans in mind

Close your eyes and think of an office building. Did you imagine an ugly cube with terrible lighting? Probably, because this describes workplaces the world over – drab, dull and depressing. But the Dutch do things differently and it’s no surprise that the country responsible for inventing everything from the firehose to Bluetooth is creating sustainable buildings people enjoy being in. 

Park 20|20 is just such a place. Located in Hoofddorp, the business park is five minutes from Amsterdam Airport Schiphol and close to the A4 ring road, a train station and bus stops, making it easy to reach for commuters coming by car or public transport. In true Amsterdam style, it also features ample parking space for bicycles.

Considering Park 20|20’s solid sustainability credentials, it might seem at first that it is on a solo journey to protect the planet. But look around Amsterdam and you’ll find that it’s part of a thriving community of sustainable buildings. Across the water in Noord, De Ceuvel has turned discarded houseboats into offices, cleans the soil with plants and recycles warm air with heat exchangers. Down in Zuid, the Goede Doelen Loterijen building uses rain in its plumbing system and is warmed by biodegradable Myco Foam, which is made from fungus and agricultural waste. And these are only a couple examples of what the city offers.

Though Park 20|20 is filled with similarly advanced features and has a futuristic look, Rob van den Broek, director at the Delta Development Group (which helped design the park), says “at its core, it’s all about people. People who work here, people who visit the park. They have to be in a healthy environment.” This isn’t just marketing speak, either. Every aspect of it has been designed to benefit the professionals who come there every day.

Park2020 aerial shot

Bringing nature indoors

The buildings at Park 20|20 are incredibly bright. Huge windows allow the sun to stream inside and the open, airy construction makes the complex feel gigantic – and at nearly 90,000 square metres, it is. There’s also so much plant life in the buildings that at times they almost seem alive.  

Unsurprisingly, this lushness is one of Van den Broek’s favourite features. “We have a lot of green walls with all kinds of plants. It’s important that you choose the right ones, as you can also create clean air… and it’s good for the acoustics. It’s functional, but on the other side, it’s something people like to see. It’s a pleasant environment. People feel like they’re coming home.” In fact, Park 20|20 is one of many Amsterdam buildings that creatively uses plant life. For instance, the academic building of Amsterdam University College and Johan Cruijff ArenA each have grass-covered roofs that soak up water and provide insulation. 

Park 2020 interior

Another welcome sight at Park 20|20 is the interior. There is a decided lack of cramped cubicles and beige conference rooms. Instead, employees collaborate in open offices or head to the gardens, which are full of workstations. When they need to concentrate, the focus offices provide quiet and privacy. If clients are dropping by, they can schedule a few hours in one of the meeting rooms or rent extra office space on a temporary basis.

Materials made for multiple lifetimes

Nothing lasts forever, and some day, the sun will set on Park 20|20. But when it does, Van den Broek is pleased to know this won’t result in more landfill waste. Since Park 20|20 was built according to the cradle-to-cradle philosophy (and bills itself as the world’s first full-service cradle-to-cradle-optimised working environment), it’s designed for disassembly. Everything used to construct it will be re-used some day, making it truly circular.

“Cradle-to-cradle is more or less the whole lifecycle of a building,” Van den Broek explains. “It’s not ‘we are creating a building and at the end of the lifespan, we demolish it.’ We construct the building and at the end of its lifetime we’ll have raw materials to make new things.”

This is just one of the park’s many sustainable features. All of its buildings are connected to a grey water purification system and photovoltaic cells on the rooftops harness solar power. When employees are hungry, they can head to the café to enjoy organic food from the onsite greenhouse and vegetable gardens – just like at De Ceuvel, which also grows produce for its own restaurant.

Park2020 bluewater interior

Spending money to save money

With its cutting-edge features and innovative design, it’s easy to assume that leasing space at Park 20|20 will be expensive. But though it does cost a bit more than the average office park, Van den Broek explains that setting up there can save tenants money in the long run. 

“When you look at only the cost for the building, like rent, service costs, electricity and water, then it can be a little bit higher,” Van den Broek says. But when you also look at the progress in productivity of the employees, there is where you earn the money. When your employees are 5% less sick for example, or they have a healthy working environment which means they are 2, 3, 4 or 5% more productive, that’s where companies save money. So, when you look at the total cost, it’s much cheaper to go to an office in Park 20|20.”

Park2020 green roof

So far, new tenants have been receptive to this thinking. Several companies have located their European headquarters in Park 20|20 and there’s a constant stream of visitors  considering setting up shop there. If it doesn’t quite meet their requirements, they can still find a home in one of the many buildings in Amsterdam that strives to exist in harmony with nature and make working life better.

Read more business news from around Amsterdam.