by Tom Bosschaert

July 27, 2016

Tom Bosschaert

This catalytic and multi-tenant office design has a core ambition - to create a fully integrated and self-sufficient business precinct, helping create a healthy, inspirational, and productive workplace. Partnering with Schiphol Real Estate - and 70+ different stakeholders and experts - we are boosting the sustainability and performance of the Schiphol CBD. With a footprint of over 20,000m², this space is unprecedented in sustainable and future-proof design and construction.


The challenges at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol

Given Amsterdam Airport Schiphol's rapid and large-scale development, this project aims to ensure that the business precinct is as environmentally and socially sustainable as possible. This project develops a concept for a multi-tenant and healthy office building at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport, ensuring it enhances its integration with the surrounding neighborhood and value for decades to come.


A Catalytic Building creating systemic change

The Schiphol Catalyst Office concept consists of a core structure comprised of offices, business spaces, parking facilities, and public spaces organized within the same area, with the lower layers dedicated to parking and water storage facilities.

The upper level is a lush elevated landscape and ecosystem, crucial to the metabolism of the structure and helping the facility achieve its ambitious sustainability goals. This mini-biosphere is contained in a transparent enclosure, helping to deal with Schiphol's restrictions on birdlife, health, and safety measures, and allowing control over the elements.

There are multiple stilted office module pavilions within the park to keep the environment as open as possible. They are flexible enough to allow for cyclical renovation and relocation and permit a wide range of designs for each company's unique needs and expression.

The entire structure works as a catalyst for circularity within the Schiphol business precinct, going beyond the usual solar panels and greywater systems, and creating multiple closed-loop resource flow loops in the local area.

In other words, the concept will remove the need to import all its resources and optimize its systems to tap into waste flows from the neighboring buildings. Where possible, This is what makes it a genuinely catalytic structure.


An adaptive and inspirational future-proof office

This project delivers a concept for a new type of building - a shining example of genuinely catalytic design. Core to this is an adaptive, versatile, open-plan, mixed-use office space. This allows tenants - be they, individuals or teams - to easily express their identity, modify their desired working environment, and to be able to alter it to suit any changes in needs over time.

This office is nothing like the workspaces you're familiar with and, instead, is an array of desks, storage, and partitions surrounded by extensive internal ecosystems.

This typology isn't just good for its inhabitants, significantly boosting health and performance. It also helps transform the surrounding area into productive systems of closed resource loops, circular water, self-sufficient food and waste systems, and energy-positive networks.

Over 70 stakeholders were involved during the design phases across a series of co-creation programs, resulting in self-sufficiency in terms of:

  • Energy and waste systems
  • Water collection and reuse
  • Partial food production
  • Resiliency to market demands
  • Cultural development

Flexibility as a critical driver of resilience

Within the office spaces are specially designed building blocks that can be configured by the tenants however they wish. This ensures unique expression and constant redevelopment. The resulting lightweight and modular building blocks are set on columns, keeping the park on the ground level completely open.

A glass canopy protects the movable and flexible structures from environmental impacts from rain and wind. The glass canopy also enables a biodiverse indoor parkland, complete with mature trees that would otherwise not be allowed, given the proximity to an airport.

Most importantly, this innovative building and business design strategy offer flexibility for future changes and adaptation to different companies or markets. In conjunction with Schiphol Group, we investigated the possibility of accommodating an eventual increase in demand for office and parking space at the center, accommodating an expansive 20,000 m2 multifunctional floor space. There is inherent value to this in both the short and long term.

circular schematic catalyst.jpg

Performance beyond the building

The Schiphol Catalyst Office is a prime opportunity to enhance the quality of the user experience and the district's overall sustainability and long-term value. Simultaneously, it preserves the green qualities of this rare plot of open space - rarely found in such a business district.

Modeling showed that interconnecting the initial 10,000 m2 building's energy, water, and waste systems and introducing new functions, spaces, infrastructure, and resource efficiency programs boosted the circularity and sustainability of the 50,000 m2 neighborhood.

  • The goals for the Catalyst building represent the most ground-breaking sustainability performance indicators for an office building to date, anywhere in the world. The Catalyst project proves it can be realistically achieved - it's a great day for Schiphol and sustainable cities everywhere.

    Tom Bosschaert

    Catalyst Program Director

circular flows catalyst.jpg

A business model rooted in people and health

During the research phase, the relationship between different measures to increase the building's user's health and comfort proved to have positive effects on employee performance, as well as financial benefits. The resulting concept design showed the ability to boost employee performance by over 10% and, considering, Since employee costs are a significant cost for tenants, this factor alone was able to ensure a return on investment for the development of the building as a whole.

Using Symbiosis in Development (SiD) for systemic sustainability

Using the tried and tested Symbiosis in Development (SiD) integrated systems thinking framework, we co-developed a set of actionable and measurable performance goals for the building that far exceeds existing sustainable building benchmarks, such as BREEAM and WELL.

We developed several overarching goals for the project:

  • Schiphol CBD to become the national center for globally-focused companies
  • Achieving world-class sustainability performance
  • Crafting an outstanding experience for residents and travelers
  • Creating a healthy, vibrant, and comfortable working environment
  • Contributing to the sustainability of the broader community.

To ensure these goals are measurable, they were organized into several key categories: energy, materials, ecosystems & biodiversity, culture, economy & logistics, and health & well-being.


To learn more about Catalytic Buildings and SiD please see the links below.

July 27, 2016

Client & Partners

Project team

  • Tom Bosschaert


  • Antonia Sore


  • Luca Gennari

    Environmental Engineering Consultant

  • Albertien Perdok

    Ecosystem Designer

  • Arjan Luiten

    Sustainable Spatial Designer & Architect

  • Bart Stoffels

    Urban planner, process manager

  • Elsa Semin

    Sustainable Cities Intern

  • Libera Amenta

    Urban Planner, Metabolism & Circularity

  • Marta Suanzes


  • Michiel van der Vight

    Senior Associate

  • Mirjam Schmüll

    Urban strategist, process manager

  • Bart Verhagen

    Quality Control
    Rotterdams Ontwikkelcollectief

  • Cecile van Oppen

    Business Modeling

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