De Ceuvel

Abandoned shipwharf turned sustainable oasis

The vision

A cleantech playground

De Ceuvel is a testing site for clean technology in the built environment. An award-winning, sustainable planned workplace for creative and social enterprises on a former shipyard on the Johan van Hasselt kanaal off the river IJ in Amsterdam North. In 2012, the land was secured for a 10-year lease from the Municipality of Amsterdam after a group of architects won a tender to turn the site into a regenerative urban oasis
In order to realise this project, quite a few legal loopholes and exemptions had to be either found or created. There was one legal exepmtion that was crucial to the success of the project, and that is the option for Dutch citizens to form a “collectief particulier ondernemerschap”, or CPO. A CPO is a form of social organisation that allows the residents to collectively act as the client for their housing development project. United in the CPO, the future inhabitants gained full ownership of the land, as well as full responsibility over the design and construction of the buildings. By teaming up with a construction manager, architect and contractor of their choice, the future residents not only cut costs by an estimated 10-20%, they also gain a large degree of control over important design decisions in order to meet their demands and desires.
Nearly all materials used in construction have a very low environmental impact. For instance, car tyres are filled with dirt and used as giant bricks to construct the main load-bearing walls. Outer walls are made using strawbales inside a wooden frame. The green roofs are another prominent feature that help insulate the building while providing rainwater absorption and other ecological benefits.
Local offices for artists and sustainable startups
What did it take?

Blood, sweat and volunteers

De Ceuvel was built, piece by piece, by a large group of passionate entrepreneurs and volunteers, using mostly recycled objects such as used houseboats. 
Did you know that De Ceuvel will only exist for 10 years? 
years start to finish
months to build
0 s
of volunteers
euro invested
What we like

Low tech, high circularity

The clean technologies at De Ceuvel aren’t necessarily that difficult to realise. A low-tech, do-it-yourself philosophy underpins the design of De Ceuvel’s components, making it easy to be adopted by others.
> Aquaponic greenhouse: Herbs, fish and vegetables for the cafe are grown simultaneously in a closed-loop aquaopnic system.
> Heliophyte filters: This type of reed is known for its excellent filtration properties, breaking down polluting chemicals present in the soil.
> Circular cafe: Built using old wood from the former jetty’s. Vegetarian dishes and locally crafted beer are served to an audience of green-minded urbanites.
Recycled houseboats:  Hoisted on land, cut open, and insulated before being welded together again. Equipped with heat pumps and solar panels.
Unique aspects

Eat, work, shit, repeat recycle

Through experimentation, De Ceuvel aims to become as self-sufficient as possible by processing its waste in innovative ways. Around the houseboats phyto-remediating plants work around to clock to clean the soil. Food waste is used to produce biogas for cooking. Human faeces are composted, while phosphates are extracted from urine to be used as fertiliser. All this results in a net positive impact on the environment..

Herbs & Vegetables

A hydroponic system in the greenhouse is filled with different kinds of herbs and vegetables. Water filled with nutrients from the fish tank is watered over the plants, allowing them to grow fast without chemicals.

Fish & Phosphates

In a room below the greenhouse sits a giant water container filled with catfish. The excrements of these catfish are nutrients for the plants to grow. In return, the water is filtered so that the fish can swim in clean water.
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Biogas from biomass

Food and plant waste from the boats and restaurants is valuable biomass that can be turned into biogas through a process called biodigestion. This biogas is then used again by the local restaurant for cooking. The circle is round again.
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Inside the boats

Amsterdam's first circular office park

The former industrial plot is home to a thriving community of entrepreneurs and artists. What was once a shipyard has now been transformed into one of the most unique urban experiments in Europe. The plot now hosts several creative workspaces, a cultural venue, a sustainable café, spaces to rent, and a floating bed & breakfast.
How is SmartHoods involved?

Inspired to circularise

Although SmartHoods has had no direct involvement in the construction of De Ceuvel, we frequently visited the site in the past to help out. We helped to build the aquaponics system, and learned how to make better use of waste streams such as human excrements and wastewater.  In addition, we modelled its energy system extensively to see what works and what can be improved. 

Techno-economic Analysis of 2 Energy System Scenario's

Curious to find out more?

Feel free to visit

Address: Korte Papaverweg 2 – 6
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