Paul de Ruiter
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Paul de Ruiter unveils design for Unilever’s new Global Foods Innovation Centre

June 26, 2017 New Project

AMSTERDAM - Unilever is building its new Global Foods Innovation Centre on Wageningen University campus. The centre has been conceived as a state-of-the-art facility for the innovative production of healthy and sustainable food. Paul de Ruiter Architects and Dura Vermeer, both of whose individual practices is defined by innovation and sustainability, were tasked with realising the design and construction brief, and engineering consultancy firm Arcadis were given responsibility for the project’s management. The facility is designed to meet the highest standards of environmental performance set out by the BREEAM assessment body and comply with the principles of the circular economy. Its operation is scheduled to commence in mid-2019.

In integrating various functions within a single building, the facility promises to be an inspiring working environment for its occupants. Central to the design is the facilitation of knowledge exchange regarding sustainable ingredients and nutritional innovation, both of which reflect Unilever’s commitment to addressing consumers’ growing regard for the environment and nutrition.

Transparent design and strategic location

The lavish use of glass walls and open plan space, which allow unrestricted sight lines and unobstructed views across the facility, and the building’s strategic location on the university campus both provide for optimum interaction between Unilever and the various parties in the city’s food ecosystem with whom it will be working. Researchers and students from Wageningen University & Research (WUR), startups and knowledge centres as well as members of the public will be able to get together at the facility and collaborate on innovations in the food industry in a sustainable manner.

The Global Foods Innovation Centre will measure 18,000m2 and comprise a Pilot Plant, a Food & Customer Experience area, and two floors of offices and laboratories. The Pilot Plant will be a mini-factory for the small-scale production of new products. This mini-factory will link directly to the Food & Customer Experience area, where test kitchens will be home to daily experimentation with innovative ingredients for the development of new products. Employees, experts in the field, students and consumers will be able to sample the new products and share their views in the mini-factory or in the concept store. Beneath the entire footprint of the facility will be an underground car park dedicated to employees of both Unilever and Wageningen University.

Sustainable and inspiring

The facility aims to meet the highest standards of environmental performance according to BREEAM assessment criteria, and comply with the principles of the circular economy. The various innovations incorporated in the design and the intelligent layout of the facility both encourage movement and interaction, thereby contributing to the health and well-being of all occupants.

Commenting on the project, Unilever’s vice president of R&D, John Verbakel, said: ”Dura Vermeer and Paul de Ruiter Architects are both leaders in the Dutch building industry. We chose them because their proposals were by far the most innovative that we saw, and the most successful in incorporating all of our sustainability stipulations and at meeting our desire to offer our employees the most innovative and inspiring workplace possible.”

Paul de Ruiter, of Paul de Ruiter Architects, said: “Sustainability, aesthetic considerations and human concerns such as health and happiness are the cornerstones of our working practice, an approach we share with Unilever. This Global Foods Innovation Centre is a perfect illustration of what sustainable architecture actually means in practice.”

Dura Vermeer director David Snelleman said: “We were thrilled when we heard that Unilever were planning to move their R&D to Wageningen and were interested in unique and sustainable approaches to construction. We fostered a close bond with them from day one by enthusing our team as much as we did theirs. Because only then do you have license to avail your client of your expertise and work with them as partners. All of which makes your teams more creative, yields more fitting solutions and allows you to make even better plans.”

And Gert Kroon, general manager of Arcadis, said: “Arcadis specialises in complex projects. The situation and integration of several functions in one building, particularly when the homes for these functions include open-plan workspaces and laboratories, where health and safety is a key concern, makes this an interesting challenge. Thanks to our experience in this area, we have the capacity to assist Unilever in making a success of this project from the earliest stages of construction to the operation of the facility.”

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