Cleaning and Regreening – transforming a polluted industrial plot into a circular green hotspot

Published: 17 November 2021
Last edited: 17 November 2021
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In 2012, a group of architects decided to transform a polluted and deserted shipyard in the North of Amsterdam into a creative co-working space called `De Ceuvel`. To restore the polluted soil of De Ceuvel, phytoremediation methods were implemented. The full area is cultivated with plants that absorb or stabilize soil pollution. Through community-driven development, the site opted for a sustainable building approach by investing in a solar-powered heating and airconditioning system and compost toilets. The system at De Ceuvel is fully circular, wastewater is purified through bio-filters, and nutrients are re-used for the production of food. Old houseboats were given a second life to provide 17 sustainable ateliers for entrepreneurs and artists. A wooden deck connects the ateliers to protect the restorative ecosystem, and limit the contact of visitors with the polluted soil. After 10 years of use, the site will be returned to the Amsterdam municipality, cleaner and richer than ever before.


North Europe
West and South Europe
Scale of implementation
Buildings and facilities
Connective infrastructure, networks and corridors
Green spaces (parks, gardens, urban forests)
Urban ecosystem and build environment
Access and benefit sharing
Cities and infrastructure
Ecosystem services
Health and human wellbeing
Infrastructure maintenance
Local actors
Sustainable livelihoods
Urban planning
Waste management
Urban and Disaster Risk Management
Sustainable urban infrastructure and services
Ecosystem loss
Pollution (incl. eutrophication and litter)
Infrastructure development
Sustainable development goals
SDG 3 – Good health and well-being
SDG 7 – Affordable and clean energy
SDG 8 – Decent work and economic growth
SDG 9 – Industry, innovation and infrastructure
SDG 11 – Sustainable cities and communities
SDG 12 – Responsible consumption and production
SDG 15 – Life on land
Aichi targets
Target 1: Awareness of biodiversity increased
Target 4: Sustainable production and consumption
Target 7: Sustainable agriculture, aquaculture and forestry
Target 8: Pollution reduced
Target 14: Ecosystem services
Target 15: Ecosystem restoration and resilience
Target 19: Sharing information and knowledge


Korte Papaverweg 4, 1032 KB Amsterdam, Netherlands


De Ceuvel is a great example for cities dealing with limited space for sustainable development. Municipalities are often restricted by the financial or environmental cost of restoring polluted areas. With the implementation of phytoremediation, this project demonstrated that alternatives are available to replace costly and often unsustainable soil-purification methods (usually hiding or replacing the polluted soil).


The project has shown real potential for reducing the use of resources and building materials, waste, and emissions. De Ceuvel currently uses 75% less water compared to similar offices. Additionally, an estimation of 600 tonnes of construction material was conserved and over 200.000 tonnes of CO2 emissions will be saved during the build and 10-year use of the site.


The site has shown that community-driven urban development has the potential to transform seemingly 'useless' plots of land through creativity and innovation. De Ceuvel is visited by local residents, tourists and people interested in learning about the circular system, providing them with a green communal space. It provides a testing ground for clean technologies in former industrial areas and has set an example on how cities can transform from large-scale waste producers into sustainable circular hubs that improve their natural environment rather than harm it.

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Eline van Remortel Earthwatch Europe