Link, Combine and Share - Improving flow efficiency

Essay on sustainabilty
Joost van Rooijen - After Vinex 2010


Everything ranging from buildings, industries and cities are a coming together of flows like materials, energy, people and water. These flows are at the centre of the issue of sustainability and the way these flows are designed are of great impact on whether or not something is sustainable or not. By fully optimizing and organizing these flows in an efficient way, a higher level of sustainability can be reached.

In order to know how these flows can be optimized it is first required to view the current situation of these flows. Most of the flows like energy, waste and water are currently centrally organized. This means that all individual buildings and industries are connected to a large system where there is only one or two main points feeding the system like a power plant or sanitation centre. All buildings are directly linked to these central installations and have no influence or connection to each other. In a way this is a good thing since the buildings do not rely on each other and are therefore more flexible. However when looking at the in-and output of flows there is also a lot of potential within this connection between the flows of different buildings. To be more precise, the potential within this connection lies within the difference between the in- and output of different buildings and their functions.


So to optimize the flows and cycles, buildings and industries will have to form a link and interact with each other. By creating links between buildings, bigger networks of exchange can be made. These links can be made and operate on a lot of different scales ranging from continental to building scale.

One of the exchange links can be with the flow of materials and waste. On the industrial level there is a lot of potential for this type of exchange. Different industries have different waste materials and often the waste from one bigger industry is a resource for production in another industry. So instead of viewing this waste as actual waste, it is much for efficient to use the waste to its full potential in other industries. This method of waste exchange can save a lot of materials and energy.

In the case of energy flows like heat energy there is also a lot of potential to be found in creating links between buildings and industry to optimize the energy flows. Creating energy flow links can not only reduce the energy demand from buildings but also to make the generated energy more efficient.

Each building and function has an own specific heat and energy demand which can differ depending on the time and use of the building. Just like the material flow, each building has its own in- and output which is different from other buildings. In some cases the energy output from one building can be used as an input in another. For example when a building is cooled, like an office, heat is generated which then can be used to warm up another building which required heating instead of cooling, like housing units. (REAP)

In order to make the generated energy more efficient one would have to look at a larger scale. On a regional scale one can look at the link from energy plant to the users. This energy supply towards buildings is currently a centralized system. Energy goes directly from a power plant towards the building. By creating an energy chain with the power plant, industry, offices and housing units the generated energy can reach higher levels of efficiency. (low-exergy)

The generation of the energy itself can also be optimized by creating links and systems between energy generators on a continental scale. The generation of green energy mostly relies on the elements like sun, wind and water. Even though these elements are to be found everywhere they are not always present and there are places where one element is stronger than the other and where more energy can be gained. Generating energy on the places most suited for a specific type of energy and then exchanging that energy can greatly optimize the energy flow. (Roadmap2050)

However these links have to be made in a physical way. A form of transport is needed for all flows to be able to connect to buildings. And since transport also requires energy and increasing the footprint of the connected buildings, it is important to reduce the distance between the linked subjects. However in some cases, like the plan for roadmap2050, this is not possible since the subjects are place bound. Here the loss of transport is overcome by the amount of energy gained by creating the links. The combining of functions is more feasible on a smaller scale. Industries can be combined and linked together within an industrial park and different functions can be combined and joined within hybrid buildings. When combined, the exchange distance is greatly reduced and therefore takes much less energy and materials making the exchange more efficient. Merely placing these linked buildings alongside each other will not be sufficient. The combination and links will have to be designed and planned in a proper way.


In addition to combining, when combining these elements are combined into clusters they provide the opportunity for the individual users to share and use the same facilities. When different functions are combined within a building, then these functions are able to share for example (sustainable) installations.
The higher investment costs on sustainable measures will have less of an impact on the individual and become therefore more feasible. Some functions might have some overlapping required spaces like meetings places, canteens etc. Sharing the infrastructure with multiple users can also improve the efficiency of the surrounding space. (Klavertje Vier)


Creating links between different elements, combining functions and sharing resources also have a downside compared to the current system of centralized networks with individual units. Creating these links require much more planning and a closer working together of people. As a result, people and organizations are less independent and more reliable on each other. However new and improved ways of communication will allow this shift from the individual structure to network structure. When people are working together and cooperating with each other to improve their own well-being and those of others, a more feeling of community will arise.
There are 3 ways of organizing these combinations of buildings:
- Integration; Integration is where the different buildings are closest related and interact the most. This method will be the most efficient one in terms of the flows and sharing. Buildings will have to work and cooperate as one and is therefore the most difficult method regarding organization.
- Segmentation; The method closest to the current situation is segmentation. Here the individual buildings are still separated and are not socially interacting.
- Co-existence; The way in between integration and segmentation is co-existence. With this method each building is still an individual however the presence of other individuals is of positive impact.
However the reliability might still be an issue since less can be done about it. Therefore some of the links should act as an addition instead as a main starting point. Some things can’t be foreseen and flexibility is still an important issue. Having a backup system might be necessary in some cases.

Combining living environments with greenhouses

Almost every function can be linked to another function to combine for example resources and share systems. However in most cases each function has another function which is the most useful and appropriate to create a link with.
To find the best suitable link for a function it is necessary to look at the needs and wastes of the subject. To narrow down and focus the research we will look at the case of housing and living environments.

Housing and living environments can be combined with a wide variety of functions. Most of the combinations like offices, shops and leisure functions ensure a decrease in distance between people and for example their work, so less transport is needed. In some cases there can also be a heat exchange between the housing and added functions. However since these functions are mostly occupied by the same people a lot of the needs and wastes from these functions are the same as from the housing.

Creating a link between housing and greenhouses can provide many advantages. This link enables the greenhouse and dwellings to close cycles on a small scale. Closed greenhouses with new systems and technologies are able to store the excess heat captured in the summer by the greenhouses and reused in the winter to heat the greenhouse and the houses. Nutrients from human waste can be collected and reused to fertilize the crops of the greenhouses. (Zonneterp)

The quality of a living environment often depends on the amount of greenery within the scene. When combining housing with greenhouses it is possible to turn the house inwards and look out over the interior of the greenhouse, providing a unique and green view. The high amounts of glass still provide a lot of light to enter the building through the greenhouse.
Being surrounded by the production process of food will also have an educational effect on the people. It will raise an awareness of where food comes from and how it is produced resulting in knowledge and respect for the process and less food consuming and waste.

Greenhouses require a lot of surface. Combining these greenhouses with dwellings will mostly result in a low-medium density area and is therefore most suited for suburban areas. By designing different housing typologies and combining these with the greenhouses it is possible to increase the density as done in the City Fruitful plan.

This combination of dwelling and greenhouses can also be done on a smaller scale.
Adding a sunroom (non food producing greenhouse) to a building can provide most of the same advantages as a food producing greenhouse. Besides the use of passive heating in the winter the excess summer heat can be collected and reused in the winter for heating the building.
The sunroom also provides an extra usable inside space with the openness, light and green qualities of an outside space. Sunrooms can be used on different scales ranging from individual houses. (Kaswoningen in Eva Lanxmeer). To even further combine the greenhouse and living environments it is possible to control the climate within the greenhouses so it becomes a living environment in itself. This living environment is filled with green which has a positive effect on the human well being. (Villa Flora).


Roadmap 2050


Greenport Venlo

Urban Affairs, Rotterdam and VHP

Low Exergy Planning (Regional)


REAP method


City Fruitfull
Kas Oosterhuis and Kuiper Compagnons

Eva Lanxmeer - Kaswonen
KWSA Architecten

Villa Floravilla_flora.jpg

- Zonneterp
InnovatieNetwerk Groene Ruimte en Agrocluster


- FiwihexDSC03776.jpg

- Smart skin

- Breathing windowbreathingwindow.pdf_-_Adobe_Acrobat_Pro.jpg

- Closed greenhouseGesloten_kas.jpg

Evacuated solar tubespr_thermomax_solar_collector-vbc-big.jpg


- Roadmap2050
ECF (European Climate Foundation)

- Greenport Venlo - Klaverjte vier