The purpose of the RoCo office space is to build and demonstrate that a sustainable office interior can be both exciting and affordable, yet still practical. The RoCo Except office space in Rotterdam is in an older style office building which had been abandoned and unused for over a decade before we took it over. Our renovation process brought amalgamated a host of new ideas around collaboration, innovative design, and material use.

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RoCo's environment is a blend of open workspaces that encourage interdisciplinary cooperation and knowledge-sharing.

recycle, reuse, repurpose

The recovered foam in our couch cushions to the conference table made entirely from waste wood (formerly the ceiling) and everything in between - the office has something exciting to see at every turn. We were inspired to carry out this project after looking around the city and finding a bounty of discarded materials that, despite being thrown away, had plenty of life left and potential for remanufacturing into beautiful and helpful objects.

The RoCo office uses post-consumer and industrial waste materials for all of its desks, couches, shelves, flower pots, benches, and many other random and valuable fittings. Its appearance and functionality are flexible and can provide a range of different workspaces regardless of the task or whether it's with a large project team and individual working spaces.

Aside from cost and environmental benefits, this approach reflects key pillars in Except's philosophy: diversity, adaptability, innovation, and of course, sustainability.

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The office is spacious, offers many places for teamwork and collaboration, and has plenty of hovels that embrace solo work and contemplation.

Materials and process involved

The design and initial interior fit-out of RoCo building were far from straightforward and not easy to explain in such a brief space. However, it's worth noting a handful of techniques and the justification for them:

The humble shipping pallet
A central element in RoCo's design is the use of discarded shipping pallets throughout the office. Pallets are strong, easy to handle, and robust to work with, yet somehow, too many of them find their way into landfills.

We have carefully designed and reworked the timber frames into large working desks, couches, ottomans, light fixtures, and flooring/deck spaces of various sorts. Their raw industrial appeal is somewhat contrasted by a warm and attractive working surface that is surprisingly effective in daily use.

The what and where of lighting
The office space now has a warm, welcoming, and exciting appeal, as opposed to its former stark and white environment. This is in part due to the careful use of a variety of quality and contemporary LED lighting.

The products used are important but just as necessary is the design and layout of the lighting system - ensuring only necessary lighting of displays, worksites, and desk spaces. This not only helps to reduce costs in setup but also to create the desired mood, reduce energy use, carbon footprints, and minimize ongoing maintenance.

Pots, plants and indoor gardens

Perhaps the most popular aspect of the design is the lush greenery and plant life, rarely seen in such abundance inside an office space. The diverse array of plants not only keeps the air fresh and cool but provides a greenhouse-like atmosphere to the studio.

Users have described that it's helpful to have a workspace that feels like its halfway between the indoor and outdoor world and creates a certain level of calmness. Many of the plants are actually edible, with various legumes, a citrus tree, and herbs lining the windows, and often added to lunches.

Sustainable surfaces
The office space at RoCo has a polished and linseed oil-treated concrete floor, giving the space a unique and very urban, almost industrial feeling. The seed oil, serving primarily as moisture sealant, offers an alternative to the use of more toxic and chemical-based materials such as floor paints or carpeting.

Regarding the treatment of walls, all paint used was ecological and non-toxic. The bright colors chosen show the possibilities and spectrum that modern ecologically-safe paints can have and that it's possible to be responsible yet still adventurous.

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Appliances and fittings
The RoCo office opted to move away from desktops and mainly uses laptops, thanks to better processes overall reduction to environmental impacts during the production process. The kitchen is home to a fully-functional worm composting unit and allows tenants to convert any organic waste and most paper into usable soil substrates for the office plants.

All of these features (and more) ensure RoCo is not only eco-friendly and efficient but a great place to work and welcome guests.

June 1, 2010

Project team

  • Tom Bosschaert

    Director

  • Eva Gladek

    Industrial Ecologist

  • Olivier Cornelissen


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