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Growing greener buildings? BouwBoeren harvests acres of construction materials

BouwBoeren, or 'construction farmers', contracts farmers to grow fibrous crops, which BouwBoeren harvests and processes on-site. Founded by brothers Luc and Wout de Wit — one a property developer, the other a biobased architect — Netherlands-based BouwBoeren emerged from their quest for sustainable, locally-made construction materials.

BouwBoeren tested its concept this year at six locations, where farmers grew miscanthus, cup plant, industrial hemp and sorghum. High in tough, fibrous compounds like cellulose and lignin, these plants thrive on marginal land, avoiding competition with food cropland. They store impressive amounts of carbon, and their low maintenance and minimal fertilizer needs make them appealing to farmers.

A sister company, BioBased Factory, processes the harvested crops on-site using a modular mini-factory housed in two shipping containers. This results in a base material that local manufacturers can transform into composite board, insulation and other products. Another partner, BioBased Housing Solutions, is developing affordable, scalable home plans utilizing up to 90% local and renewable materials. BouwBoeren harvested its first construction crops in October 2023 and plans to expand in 2024.

Trend Bite

Every five days, the world adds built environment equivalent to the size of Paris. Since embodied carbon emissions of buildings account for 11% of all global emissions, the need for lower-impact alternatives is clear. It's driving innovative business models that rethink entire production chains, like reframing farmland as a renewable 'mine' of raw materials for constructing homes. Could your brand partner with frontrunners like BouwBoeren to accelerate the shift from extractive to circular and renewable?

Innovation of the day