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Modern industrial heritage. 
A catalyst to new sustainable development

“Cultural hot-spot for the neighbourhood”

Centre for material exploration, Basalt battery & Exhibition centre.
Guide : Thomas Offermans, Gilbert Koskamp, Jos de Krieger
TU Delft, M.Arch Thesis, 2021
Studio: Architectural Engineering.
Location : Coal power plant, Amsterdam, Netherlands.
Repository link: http://resolver.tudelft.nl/uuid:844bb643-3ffb-45fe-ad51-b4e3baa2a4eb

Keywords: Industrial Heritage, Circularity, Sustainable Design, Coal power plant, Material and structure harvest, Revival potential, Redevelopment time-line.

To reduce the carbon emissions and restrict global average temperature rise, coal power plants are being decommissioned in EU under the Paris Agreement. In the next few decades, defunct coal-powered plants would pop-up all over EU and the world. This raises concerns regarding the modern industrial landscapes, their possibilities and opportunities. New strategies and frameworks are required to protect and highlight our modern industrial heritage. The thesis explores the possibilities of integrating defunct coal-power plants into the city by using existing structures and materials on site to promote sustainability and circularity.


The topic is researched by understanding the basic functionality of these power plants, various facilities and the machinery housed in them, the environmental impacts, the urban contexts, heritage value assessment and various strategies of decommissioning. Inferences from the research topics would be vital in taking decisions regarding demolition/re-purpose/reuse, reflect potential reuse opportunities, and programmatic ideas which would be useful while designing a time-line phase redevelopment for these power plants to act as protagonists in achieving the sustainable development goals.


Coal Phase out:

New opportunities arise

A long-term temperature goal to restrict the increase of global average temperate was adopted by 195 parties at the 21st session of the Conference of Parties (COP21) under the Paris Agreement (Rocha et al., 2017). 

There are over 300 coal-powered plants in the EU which contribute to greenhouse emissions by burning coal. Ultimately all members part of the European Green Deal are phasing out coal and fossil-fuel-based powered plants and transitioning towards renewable sources of energy to achieve these climatic goals. This would result in non-functioning /decommissioned /empty thermal power plants popping-up all over the EU in the coming decades. Here we see a great opportunity to re-use and adapt these industrial landscapes, for their adaptability and quantity.

Rocha, M., Parra, P. Y., Sferra, F., Schaeffer, M., Roming, N., Ancygier, A., Ural, U. and Hare, B. (2017) A stress test for coal in Europe under the Paris Agreement: Climate Analytics. Available at: https://climateanalytics.org/publications/2017/stress-test-for-coal-in-the-eu/.


Functioning of a power plant:

Stepwise MFA of a power plant.

What is the general functioning flow of coal power plants? How are the spaces utilized and what is the composition of the machinery, instruments and structure? Understanding the functioning of coal-powered plant is crucial in revealing the possibilities and reusing the site or building. It provides a better understanding of the various components, building, planning and structure which is vital information for the sections to follow.

2.12_JPG_MFA coal-01
2.12_JPG_MFA coal-01

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2.1_JPG_MFA coal-01
2.1_JPG_MFA coal-01

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2.2_JPG_MFA coal-01-01
2.2_JPG_MFA coal-01-01

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Schematic diagram of coal-fired conventional steam turbine plant and waste points. (Demir, Yetiş and Unlü, 2018, p. 213; G Boncimino; W Stenzel, 2005, p. 13; Żyrkowski, Costa Neto and Santos, 2014, p. 15; McBean, 1987)

More detailed descriptions of these waste codes can be accessed from European Waste Catalogue and Hazardous Waste List (EPA, 2002).

Design Strategies:

Building :: Harvest :: Urban :: Redevelopment strategies


How does the refurbishment of vacant thermal plants using existing structures and materials on site promote sustainability and circularity in social way?

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Collage 2050

Redeveloping these power plants is inevitable, a question of a few years or a few decades. If coal-power plants get re-purposed into biomass/alternative power plants after ‘x’ number of years, the same requirement of them being redeveloped will arise. The buildings on site offer a unique development opportunity to integrate them with the growing cities.

Assuming a coal-power plant ‘x’ closes in the year 2020, it would be face with 3 viable strategies. Adopting the ‘Planned reuse’ redevelopment strategy for a power plant considering a close collaboration between the owner, state government and public organization; a stepwise elaborated strategy is illustrated in the diagram.

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Program & Basalt Battery

When Green Energy is in abundance - How do we store it?

2019 Climate agreement clearly stats that we need to transition from gas to sustainable sources of energy. Use of basalt rocks (easily available and cheap) to store energy in the form of heat.

Developed by Cees van Nimwegen.*

Source: ‘The story behind a rock-solid idea:the basalt battery’ https://www.vpro.nl/programmas/tegenlicht/lees/artikelen/2021/het-verhaal-achter-een-steengoed-idee-de-basalt-batterij.html


Reuse existing building

Recycle materials

Future reuse

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Parasitic design inside the existing silo. It is exaggerated in the materiality, by using a lighter material like wood in contrast to the existing concrete shell.

Open Ground floor.

Since the building is in connections towards the back of the site; opening up the ground plane to facilitate a porous and continuous flow of movement.


The terraces connect the various levels physically and also visually. Adding another layer to the circulation with varying heights facilitating larger openings and bring light inside the building. Aligned towards the south, south-west and west facade they bring light inside the building. They’re also aligned to have a visual connection to the rest of the site.


Laminated veneer lumber column and beam structure with CLT slabs. BauBuche and CLT structure is anchored to the existing concrete shear walls.The dramatic circulation core in contrast to the banal industrial exterior is the guiding theme inside the building.


With the inhumane scales of the site, with chimney and generation building being as high as 180M and 90M in height respectively, the design aims to scale to down to more human levels. But also having visual connections towards the facilities on site.



Sketches were an integral part of the design process from my initial sketches followed to the final design. The concept of sustainability and circularity were explored from urban scale all the way to detailing.

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View from the entance.

Fifth floor
Fifth floor

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Ground floor
Ground floor

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First floor
First floor

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Arched atrium looking towards the sky.

View of the arch-atrium looking upwards to the roof.

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View from the first floor terrace looking towards the cascading terraces.

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Winter/public terrace. Intimate meditative enclosed space creating an atmosphere between the existing and new elements - a place for interaction.

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Public terrace on third floor that connects both silos. Double and triple height spaces interlock to maintain connection with the exterior industrial complex.

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Exhibition space. The exhibition area highlights the contrasting nature between the industrial and timber elements. Different timber textures used to highlight this contrast.