‘I really enjoy being at the vanguard, where all the innovation is happening’

Student Laurens van der Wal on the MADE master’s degree programme

By: Jurjen Slump

As a bachelor student of Architecture and the Built Environment at Delft University of Technology, Laurens van der Wal and his sister Lena founded the design agency Walden Studio, which develops sustainable design on all levels from the urban scale, to ‘tiny houses.’ For his master, he opted for the MSc MADE. Van der Wal is now in his second year, and he is enjoying the programme. “If you really want to create sustainable products, you first need to understand what the underlying problem is.”

 

 

For Van der Wal, MADE combines the best of both worlds: it is not only strongly application-
driven and targets the real problems faced by major cities, but also offers a theoretical scientific basis with a focus on sustainability. This ‘deeper knowledge’ is needed in order to have a genuine impact. “At Walden Studio, we realised that the architect is often involved too late in the creation process of truly sustainable projects”, says Van der Wal. “You need to be the party that takes the first initiative. In order to do that, you have to fully understand the problems involved.”

Reusing waste materials

The Master’s degree programme that takes place at the AMS Institute offers Van der Wal the knowledge and skills he needs. Consider, for example, the waste disposal system in Amsterdam, which fascinates Van der Wal. “In the MADE courses, you start by looking at how the system fits together at the meta-level - how to recycle more in the city - before going on to see how it works in Amsterdam. You identify all the actors involved and try to link together all the different interests that are at play”, he explains.

Living lab

Van der Wal is currently conducting research in a living lab on the subject of waste. It is part of the AMS Institute’s WASCOM project, which is investigating how toilet paper, for example, that ends up in the sewer can be reused as a raw material. Cellulose can actually be extracted from toilet paper, which can then be reused in
bio-composites and other construction materials, such as façade panels. Some of the other involved parties are biocomposite producer NPSP, Waternet and ChainCraft.

You need to be the party that takes the first initiative. In order to do that, you have to fully understand the problems involved

Vanguard

The 27-year-old student is among the first cohort of MADE students. This means that some things are new for everyone, but this is certainly not holding him back. “I actually enjoy being at the vanguard, where all the innovation is happening.” Van der Wal is still unsure what he plans to do next. But it is quite likely that Walden Studio will ultimately become a ‘sustainable project developer’, enabling his sustainable housing solutions to become part of a completely sustainable environment.