Second life for healthcare buildings by redesign

News - 12 January 2023 - Communication BK

Professor Thijs Asselbergs is advocating architect John Habraken's Open Building (Open Bouwen). "This way of building has a positive impact on circularity, adaptability and also promotes user influence." Following the case to renovate the Amsterdam UMC, Asselbergs was interviewed on the subject by FMTHealthcare.

The chair in Architectural Engineering held by Thijs Asselbergs at TU Delft is at the intersection of architecture and building technology. It is in this mixed zone of qualities that an important transformation must take shape, also of healthcare buildings. You won't get there with flexibility alone with which you can move walls in the future, Asselbergs argues. The core of the solution lies in the ideas of Open Building, combined with modular, industrialized and adaptable production of building elements.

Thinking about construction, including healthcare buildings, is stuck in the 20th century, Asselbergs argues. "There has been a tremendous amount of development; healthcare facilities really look very different than they did a few decades ago. You won't hear me say that we have stagnated. But the basis is still the same: you build a hospital for 40 - 50 years, for a client or investor who depreciates it to zero during that time including the materials used. That is actually an approach that still dates back to the days when a hospital closed its doors after 40 years and moved into new premises somewhere else. We don't want that anymore. And that also means that you have to look at a building differently."

The AMC case study

Asselbergs cites the renewal of the Amsterdam UMC, at the AMC location, as a strong example of flexible building. With 560,000 m2, the AMC is the largest hospital in the Netherlands. If you can save that from demolition, that really makes a difference. "We drove from Delft to Amsterdam in 7 double-decker coaches with over 400 master students, 25 lecturers and 7 professors coming from all over the world to organize workshops, lectures and debates. This as an inspiration boost for a good reuse and sustainable future of the largest building in the Netherlands."

Headerfoto: Facade models created by TU Delft architecture students for renovation of the existing facade of the AMC building

More information

This is a very abridged version of the in-depth interview by FMTHealthcare. The full interview was previously published in issue 7-2022 of and can also be read here (Dutch only).

  • Professor Thijs Asselbergs is affiliated with the AE&T department of the Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment, TU Delft. View his professor page here.