Property developer swears by Cradle to Cradle

For Delta Development – a real estate developer active in both the Netherlands and Germany – reading the book Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things at the beginning of the new millennium was a bit of revelation.  Since then, the book’s ideas have guided the company’s many projects. 

There is no doubt that the book by William McDonough and Michael Braungart, which was published in 2002, has been seminal. Today, the Cradle to Cradle design concept is widely recognised, and has also made a huge difference to the way in which Delta Development operates. 

“Although the primary focus of the book is to create a framework for more sustainable product development and design, in Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things we also saw a philosophy that was equally applicable in the construction industry,” explains Edwin Meijerink, CEO of Delta Projektentwicklung & Management GmbH in Germany. 

Together with Coert Zachariasse, CEO of Delta’s Dutch division, he makes up the top management of the company.

In the years before the financial crisis, Delta Development threw itself into applying the Cradle to Cradle criteria to their construction projects, and the timing turned out to be just right.

“In the years preceding the financial crisis, the Netherlands saw a particularly large boom in construction, but the buildings were characterised by short-term design and material choices. The Cradle to Cradle principles enabled us to focus our construction projects and choose quality materials,” explains Edwin Meijerink.

Uniquely themed buildings

When applying the Cradle to Cradle principles to its projects, Delta Development starts with the five categories of criteria that are also used to evaluate products according to Cradle to Cradle. This means that projects are assessed based on the categories of material health, product circularity, clean air & climate protection, water & soil stewardship, and social fairness.

“When starting a building project, we use the categories as a kind of checklist, but we also make sure that each building is uniquely ‘themed’. So, the focus of one project may be on protecting water resources, while in another project the emphasis might be on ensuring recyclability and fulfilling the circular potential,” says Edwin Meijerink.

He cites as an example the construction of Levi Strauss & Co’s logistics centre in Dorsten, Germany. The building was designed with reutilisation in mind, and all the materials have been registered in a material passport, which ensures that they can be easily disassembled at the end of their useful life. At the same time, in designing the building, which is the workplace for 650 employees, the emphasis was on using Cradle to Cradle-certified building materials and on creating a good indoor climate.

Expert help

Cradle to Cradle describes how materials and nutrients can safely be incorporated into potentially endless cycles. So, for example, how end-of-life products can decompose in the biological cycle and thus be transformed into nutrients or plants. Or how, for example, end-of-life electronics – if designed correctly – can be disassembled so that the individual materials can be used in new products in the technical cycle. The goal is to avoid waste.

Because the Cradle to Cradle design principles were conceived for product development, they need ‘translating’ when applied to entire buildings, explains Edwin Meijerink:

“A building is different to a product, but many of the principles are still transferable. What matters to us is making wise material choices, and we get regular help from EPEA GmbH,” he says. The consultancy firm EPEA was founded in 1987 by one of the co-authors of the original book on Cradle to Cradle, Michael Braungart.

“We endeavour to use Cradle to Cradle-certified products and building materials in our projects, and we work with EPEA to validate the smartest material choices,” says Edwin Meijerink.

Documentation requirements

According to Edwin Meijerink, the reason why Delta Development embraces Cradle to Cradle to such an extent is because it enables them to develop buildings that live up to the established building certification schemes such as DGNB, LEED and BREEAM:

“This approach also enables us to get our buildings certified,” he says. However, he points out that working with Cradle to Cradle places considerable demands on their collaboration and dialogue with suppliers and with the manufacturers of the building materials.

“Our suppliers must meet strict documentation requirements. This is not much of a problem when working with European suppliers, but getting the right documentation can be a lot harder in other parts of the world,” he says.  

Facts about Delta Development

  • Delta was founded as a property development company in 1988 in the Netherlands.
  • Today, the company has activities both in Germany and the Netherlands.
  • Delta’s CEO is Coert Zachariasse, while Edwin Meijerink is CEO of the company's German division.


Edwin Meijerink, CEO of Delta Projektentwicklung & Management GmbH in Germany.