by Pelle Berkhout
Strategy and business development

May 18, 2022

Pelle profile

The Netherlands is facing challenges in expanding its housing stock in a future-proof manner - strategically, qualitatively, and sustainably. Except Integrated Sustainability, in collaboration with the municipality of Middelburg, has researched and designed an expansion plan for the village of Sint Laurens in Zeeland. This expansion improves the sustainability performance of the entire town in terms of groundwater, energy, ecosystems, and biodiversity. Other core factors are sustainable food production and an inclusive community. We utilized the Orchid City sustainable city framework to achieve this.

A regenerative Sint Laurens

Sint Laurens has challenges in terms of water management, facilities, and soil shrinkage. The municipality also wants to make strides with its sustainability ambitions. In Sint Laurens' expansion district 'De Kreekrug bloeit', residents will live amongst a regenerative landscape, offering a range of features to enhance recreation, food production, and access to fresh water. Additionally, it provides a place for an inclusive and active community, exchange, and education and ensures residents have access to all they need for a sustainable life.

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The Sint Laurens masterplan sketch utilizes the Orchid City concept for neighborhood development.

Outline of the master plan

In the Sint Laurens masterplan, three housing clusters are interwoven across the landscape. The neighborhood opens up at two points on the Noordweg, a winding connecting road, beside which are community facilities and vegetable gardens. Housing is embedded amongst food production and waterways. The aforementioned biogas plant and greenhouses are located in the ecological zone where new aquatic habitats are created.

A sustainable program through Orchid City

The Orchid City model calculated a diverse program with neighborhood amenities and various housing typologies for an inclusive community. There is also room for the sustainable production of energy, vegetables, fruits, and nuts for all residents of Sint Laurens.

The landscape nearby the creek ridge is set aside for agriculture. The east is shaped with an ecological sound buffer next to the N57. The northern cluster houses an organic waste point and bioreactor. Towards the south, residential clusters are integrated with food production, recreation, and helophyte filters.

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This flow chart shows the resource flows of a sustainable Sint Laurens. This cross-section also reveals the creek ridge that the village is built upon and the underground "freshwater lens" that ensures self-sufficiency.

Metabolic System

When assessing from a systemic perspective, material flows are closed by applying existing technologies in a productive landscape. The freshwater storage in the creek ridge is absolutely crucial. This nature function enables local agriculture, providing food and compost.

PVT panels and a biomass reactor provide the village with renewable energy and heat. Compost and wastewater close the flows through reuse with bioreactors and helophyte filters and actively improve soil quality.

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This image shows levels of soil salinity surrounding Saint Laurens. The area is fit for agriculture but requires specific water management design in the masterplan.

Freshwater lens in a saline landscape

Due to the high salinity of the groundwater, freshwater is scarce in the province of Middelburg. However, Sint Laurens is built atop an ancient creek ridge - raised land formed in the center of an large creek bed.

Unlike areas nearby, Sint Laurens is able to access water through a "freshwater lens" - a pocket of freshwater that sits atop saline groundwater. This vital resource is what makes the integration of orchards, food forests, and arable farming possible.

The development plan proposes a productive landscape that connects material flows and minimizes the village's footprint. Without this freshwater availability near to Sint Laurens, it would be much more challenging to adopt localized regenerative food production.

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This map gives insight into groundwater sources in Middelburg, a Dutch municipality in the coastal province of Zeeland.

Enhancing freshwater retention

The ability of the village to act like a sponge must be improved to make the best use of the freshwater storage and availability. Utilizing this framework, Sint Laurens collects rainwater in wadis and rainwater buffers to be directly used in irrigation. This process ensure a climate-adaptive village and sufficient freshwater availability for local food production.

The east side of the village is polluted soils, this limits the possibility for open field agriculture in the but provides a ridge for traffic sound deadening and allows space for biological greenhouses and helophyte filters. The nearby wetlands of willows and reeds filters organic material, nutrients, and heavy metals from the brackish water.

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Sint Laurens is linked via cycle networks and shared transport options to other villages within the region.

Mobility hub

Cycling networks and shared mobility schemes are additional means of reducing Sint Laurens' footprint. A mobility hub for the switch to sustainable transportation strategically places Sint Laurens between Middelburg and the outlying villages in the north of the region.

  • The project combines existing technologies to connect material flows to ensure circularity. There is no need for expensive innovations, and therefore, the implementation threshold remains low.

Next steps and recommendations

The current model for urban development is still linearly designed. Agricultural companies, utilities, municipalities, and water boards are responsible for separated material flows. To achieve a more circular system and connect material flows, these stakeholders need to engage and work more with one another.

On the road to a sustainable Sint Laurens, it is essential in the short term to create support among current residents, financiers, provincial and local authorities, and parties responsible for material flows. The next step, over the medium term, is creating an even stronger community.

Pelle profile
by Pelle Berkhout
Strategy and business development

May 18, 2022

Project team

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