Enjoys: Lush forests, XKCD, complex challenges
Areas of expertise:
Professional Titles & Liaisons:
Location: Utrecht, the Netherlands
Tom is the founder and director of Except, and the visionary force behind its development. Starting Except at the age of 19 in 1999, he had the ambition to find more effective solutions for pressing societal challenges. He works from the belief that in order to create the positive change we need, we should consider environmental, societal, economical and technical aspects at the same time. To do this, he researched new approaches to generate change, including systems understanding, new forms of design and leadership through multi-disciplinary cooperation. Using this, he works to implement resilient, fundamental, and long term measures to improve our society, businesses, cities, and industry. Since then Tom has worked on over 500 projects worldwide to implement this knowledge. He has been increasingly recognized as a leader in sustainability thinking, the circular economy and systemic innovation. In 2014 he was elected number 38 of most influential sustainability professionals in the Netherlands by Trouw, and ranked number 21 on the Dutch Sustainable Real Estate awards.
Tom develops the Symbiosis in Development (SiD) methodology that lies at the core of Except’s operations. SiD combines systems thinking, complexity analysis, iterative design thinking and co-creation in multi-disciplinary teams. With SiD Tom leads transdisciplinary teams to develop pioneering solutions that breach the frontier of what's possible for organizations, cities, and industries. These include solutions for the circular economy, natural capital, smart urban redevelopment, bio-based economy, and resilience research and development.
As director and designer, he's driven Except's bio-based architectural and urban designs, such as the Merredin Algae plant, Shanghai vertical agriculture tower systems and the urban redevelopment of large and small cities around the world, including their energy systems, ecosystems, resource metabolisms, economy and the heakth and happiness of their people. He spearheads developments ranging from software for supply chain optimization, to sustainable agriculture systems such as Polydome. In addition, Tom is the founder of several sustainable communities of practice such as the Utrecht Community (UCo, 2016) and the Rotterdam Collective (RoCo, 2010), both collectives for socially engaged entrepreneurs. He advises national and regional governments as well as multi national corporations on sustainability strategy.
After his Master in Industrial Design Engineering from Delft, Tom studied Architecture in Australia at the University of Western Australia, and obtained his Masters in Architecture & Urban Planning from Yale University. Tom has worked and lectured in Australia, Canada, China, the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, and the United States. He teaches as a guest-lecturer in various universities and publishes articles regularly.
The land we grow our food on, water that flows through it, animals and plants living in this environment, and the oceans - the birthplace of life. This, and more, is our natural capital; the value represented by our ecosystems, species, and everything in between that we rely on to persist on this planet. All of our natural systems are declining fast, and this threatens our future. It puts at risk the continuation of any business with a complex supply chain, and jeopardizes the resource availability of any nation.
The Natural Capital (NC) movement attempts to halt and reverse this trend by embedding the value of natural systems into economic systems. This article talks about how Natural Capital works, what the pitfalls and opportunities of such a system are, and how we can accelerate implementation in government and business.
This article was published in Cobouw, Monday October 21st 2013. Only available in Dutch.
Overal in Nederland kraken wijken en steden in hun voegen; ongeschikt voor de hedendaagse samenleving en niet in staat om zichzelf aan te passen. Een patroon dat al langer zichtbaar is in economieën als Frankrijk, India en Brazilië. Probleemwijken, leegstaande kantoren door faillissementen en arme populaties nemen toe. Er is maar één conclusie: het oude vastgoedmodel is failliet. Rondom de wereld stijgt de vraag naar veerkrachtige en bloeiende wijken, maar hoe ontwikkel je die?
In recent years, global environmental policy has become almost a single-issue arena: most companies and policy makers are seemingly fixated on climate change. Though the fate of our climate is undeniably an extremely important issue, in the context of achieving a sustainable future as a whole, it is just one piece of the puzzle, which cannot even be addressed without adopting a broader perspective.
Our world is littered with the physical remnants of past ideologies calcified in the form of buildings, plazas, and streets. One of the most ubiquitous of these is the result of the conversion of the early Modernist utopian vision into cheap, rapid-to-build housing estates carrying the promise of a “modern” life for everyone. The postwar reconstruction effort saw these housing estates efficiently stamped out all over the Western world.
Nuclear energy has recently seen national policies and public opinion turn in its favor. Governments around the world, including Italy and Sweden, are lifting bans on new plant construction. Not alone in the developing world, India and China are pursuing ambitious expansions of their nuclear power programs.
According to a 2010 International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report, 20 countries without nuclear power plants are expected to have nuclear power on line by 2030 (1). Headlines such as “Nuclear’s Great Expectations” (2), “Power up! The rise of the nuclear option” (3) and “Going Nuclear” (4) attest to a paradigmatic shift from looking at nuclear (fission) energy as a 20th century problem towards seeing it as a 21st century solution. In the Netherlands plans to construct two new nuclear power plants are in an advanced stage, seemingly undeterred by the Fukishima events.
This article documents research on increasing Solar Updraft Tower efficiency by introducing multiple uses, agriculture, urban applications and co-generation of solar energy.
Urban transportation issues can be alleviated by encouraging and enabling a higher degree of pedestrianization and bicycle use. This survey looks at a number of small scale pedestrianization tools for daily urban life, providing access for elderly, handicapped and those traveling with goods. These details, often missed in large scale transport plans, are essential to make walkable cities and allow the reduction of automobile use.
Traffic is a major concern in all urban areas. This article outlines effective tools to reconsider how people move through cities, and find effective solutions to reduce traffic.
This exciting office-jungle in a glass cocoon is an energy-neutral plug-in retrofit for empty industrial real-estate. It integrates all facilities and luxuries an exciting co-operative office environment can wish for today.
The Crystal Forest is a modular system that can be built and removed quickly on virtually any location, is entirely self-contained, and offers a feasible business case for a wide variety of real estate challenges, including adaptive re-use of industrial hertiage.
Natural Capital plays a title role in our economy. To help you clarify the relationship between your economic activities and Natural Capital, Except and NXTE developed the Natural Capital Quick Scan. The scan delivers instant insight and suggests dozens of ways to mitigate risks and pick up on opportunities.
The Utrecht Community (UCo) is a national center for sustainable entrepreneurship in the city of Utrecht. UCo brings together 150 pioneering sustainable entrepreneurs and SMB's, and facilitates them in an exemplary sustainable and inspiring builing. UCo is a place to develop, discover, and accelerate together, 5 minutes biking from central station. The building is the first energy neutral, healthy and circular listed monument in the Netherlands. Except developed UCo independently, and opened its doors in 2017.
We’re working with Schiphol Real Estate and more than 70 stakeholders and experts on boosting sustainability and performance of the Schiphol Central Business District.
We work on several projects to develop an integrated sustainable and self sufficient area, that is a healthy and inspiring place to work.
We worked with the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) on a new data management program to allow them to grow to thousands of sustainable fisheries around the world, sustainably.
The MSC is a growing organization in an increasingly data-driven world, seeking to improve, expand and streamlining its data-facilities to handle the growth of their certification program. Together we developed a vision and concept using systemic analysis, a co-creation session on-site with 13 MSc employees and 6 partners and stakeholders. The concept demonstrates an innovative data hub as precondition for growth and healthy future operations.
For the Beije family we developed a high performance energy and water neutral villa renovation concept. It sits at the edge of the forest in Elst, part of the Veluwe national park area. The 400m2 villa is mostly reconstructed by the hands of the family themselves, utilizing natural and local materials, among which a straw roof. The villa's design makes optimal use of the existing structure and surroundings. It results in a sleek and subtle, comfortable and high-performance modern living experience in a superb setting, and a future-proof long term investment for the family.
IKEA Media Production engaged Except to showcase the sustainability achievements and ambitions of its 200-million-copy catalogue. Together we created a storytelling infographic for the IKEA customer-facing staff, and a data-packed dashboard for internal stakeholders such as store co-workers, catalogue responsibles, PR, social media, communication, sustainability and marketing managers and teams. The tools have been introduced to thousands of employees, permeating learning and awareness.
Will Estonia be the first proud owner of a Polydome sustainable agriculture system in the world? During the second half of 2015 we researched the feasibility of a Polydome in the Arkna Eco Park. Our study and supporting business plan were funded by Horizon 2020.
Curious about the results? Read on, and we're finishing the final report, scheduled to be be downloadable from this page January 2016.
On 17th April 2015, IUCN organized the Leaders for Nature forum in Eindhoven. Except supported IUCN in a year long trajectory to prepare and guide the Forum in a new format. This included concept development, stakeholder involvement and preparation of the challenges.
The preparations resulted in 10 challenges brought in by the network of Leaders for Nature. Over 150 participants from business, NGOs and government joined the forum. Guided by Except, teams worked on the most pressing natural capital challenges.
In cooperation with the Dutch Foreign Office we organized the trade mission to Detroit of May 2015 for over 25 organizations. The program established new permanent business partnerships of Dutch agri- and horticulture, and innovation companies with their American business, governmental and community development counterparts. Detroit, a former powerhouse of the automotive industry, has suffered from deindustrialization, a decline in population, an increase in crime, and general decay. Yet, Detroit is a city full of resources and opportunities.
The event launched Detroit Urban Regen which aims to revitalize the city using smart agricultural solutions and creating a new biobased industry. 22 written pledges of commitment where secured, adding to the existing 15 international partners for Detroit Urban Regen.
This project presents an alternative bicycle route between the center of Amsterdam and the north, currently only connected by overcrowded ferries that cross the IJ channel. This info is only available in Dutch for now, sorry.
De pont naar Noord zit al jaren bomvol. Dure plannen voor fietsbruggen, nieuwe tunnels en zelfs kabelbanen worden gemaakt. Maar, er ligt al een tunnel onder het IJ. De IJtunnel is uitstekend om te vormen tot een fiets-voertuig tunnel. Een simpele, betaalbare oplossing die veel voordelen voor de stad oplevert. De IJfietstunnel.
This project arose from the joint desire of WWF and Lafarge to contribute original research to move the construction sector towards a sustainable future. We examined 11 exemplary urban districts and neighborhoods around the world from inception to inhabited, using a systemic and holistic perspective. We extracted the success and failure factors, and uncovered new strategies that accelerate sustainable development both on a project and building sector level.
The result is available in a comprehensively illustrated book, downloadable from this page, or read it online at ISSUU.
How can public transportation contribute to resilient and sustainable cities and communities?
With a team of Public Transportation stakeholders and experts in the city region of Rotterdam we developed a vision on how this can be done. The vision came into being through several intense collaborative sessions, and is used to engage new stakeholders and move the agenda forward towards the most sustainable public transport system in the world.
Download the vision booklet below (sorry, only in Dutch).
Symoto is an online software application that enables the development, simulation and monitoring of large scale material and energy cycles, such as urban metabolism, industrial symbiosis and the circular economy.
Symoto enables organizations to save vast amounts of time modeling and simulating systems, perform in-depth dynamic analysis and boost stakeholder communication.
We developed a roadmap of the Dutch meat process sector, production and processing companies and their suppliers, together with DNV. The road map shows opportunities for optimal use of all energy and material flows in the product chain of chicken, pork and beef, and maps their sources. The maps bring insight to all stakeholders involved, and enables decisions on improving entire sections of the production chain at once.
The Hortus Celestia is a vertical farm tower, designed for Naaldwijk, the Netherlands. The tower rises 28 stories high above the greenhouse-filled landscape, offering 14 farming floors with embedded expo centers.
The tower functions as a demonstration center for innovative Dutch greenhouse industry partners, and attracts international visitors from around the globe.
Together with MODINT and DNV we mapped the Dutch carpet sector and developed a road map to a circular carpet industry in 2030. We used system mapping and visualization techniques to bring at-a-glance insight to the stakeholder meetings. With this insight we plotted interventions to transition the industry towards a circular and bio-based industry within two decades.
This research project investigates how the city dweller influences the food system. It investigates new disruptive developments, and proposes actionable steps forward to improve consumer connectivity to the food system. This improves the relation between actual demand for healthy and honest food, and the food system at large.
The research booklet is downloadable for free (in Dutch).
The Opportunity Map Wastewater Processing is a visualisation of the twelve most important sustainable opportunities within wastewater processing. Users will see and discover sustainable opportunities in their municipality or region and find examples to help them.
The result is an opportunity map that was presented at the Hier Opgewekt congres to the state minister Wilma Mansveld. It was made for the Roadmap Wastewater management towards 2030 with: The Association of Regional Water Authorities, Vereniging van Nederlandse Gemeenten and Det Norske Veritas (DNV).
For Eneco Wind we visualized the local impacts of wind turbine development in a visual infographic. The graphic is used by Eneco Wind in conversations with local stakeholders, and helps to guide the conversation to address all topics and impacts. Using the graphic to guide the conversation, all parties become well informed before deciding on wind turbine development.
By providing honest and complete information Eneco Wind aims to increase support for wind energy from local stakeholders.
Miya's Sushi in New Haven, CT, has been our favorite restaurant for years, and for good reason. Miya's is a home away from home that produces award winning fusion sushi that places heaven on your tongue, while being the forefront of social and environmental sustainability.
To aid in this, we produced a menu with graphic maps of the unique fish selection of Miya's for internal and external use.
SWIG is a social cardgame with a sustainable wastewater processing theme. Players get to know each other, learn from each other, and discover as a group to invest in the opportunities that make wastewater processing more sustainable.
We developed the game mechanics in close collaboration with Det Norske Veritas (DNV) as part of their Wastewater Chain Roadmap (Routekaart Afvalwaterketen). The game is played with much enthousiasm in DNV's workshops today.
The IKEA catalogue with more than 200 million copies is the largest annual print run in the world. IKEA Media Production has worked diligently to improve the catalogue’s sustainability performance. To find new ways to boost its performance, IKEA Media Production engaged Except. Together we applied a new systems-thinking approach and found powerful ways to raise performance.
With implementation partners Trade Extensions and Deloitte we created new visual big data tools in less than a year. Together we realized a sustainability-driven learning supply chain that is now helping transform the biggest paper and print suppliers worldwide.
Except worked with Yale University to develop a customized online carbon calculator for the Yale Community Carbon Fund. The calculator allows anyone to calculate their footprint and directly support projects that offset this carbon.
The calculator is an intuitive and easy to use website for calculating greenhouse gas emissions from Yale events and operations:
You are currently looking at it: a beautiful and functional website for our happy organization.
Developed by our software architects, web designers and communication specialists, it became exactly what we wanted: snappy, cool, informative and with a back-end that helps us streamline internal communication.
What is an energy neutral home? What are the benefits? The costs? What are the choices? What does it look like? And what kind of people live there?
Except and TNO have made an inspiration book to introduce interested house owners and construction professionals to energy neutral building and renovation. A book filled with examples, inspiration, interviews, tips and technical details: a book filled with energy!
Overschie is a neighborhood in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, with unique properties:
Social housing organization Woonstad and the city council of Overschie want to make this neighborhood more sustainable, but where do they start? To answer this question we did a quickscan of the neighborhood to find its opportunities and made a custom inspiration book filled with possibilities to work towards a sustainable city district. Read below for more info, and of course, download the book!
Greenprint features over 150 pages of innovations in our homes, cities and daily life. From eco-houses and neighborhoods to streetlamps activated by moonlight, social innovations, urban agriculture and much more. Greenprint shows how sustainability can change your world from the smallest to the biggest scale.
The Portal to Venlo offers the greenhouse industry in the east of the Netherlands a model to develop a sustainable industry. The project re-imagines an existing greenhouse industry area, currently fragmented, inefficient, dangerous for bicycle tourists that cross the area and in general rather unappealing.
The Merredin Spirulina plant, developed in the year 2000, is one of the first projects in which we applied systems thinking and our holistic, systemic approach to innovation, using ecology as a main component.
The result is a highly unusual but stunningly effective business case for a sustainable, ecological industry to revive a desert town in Australia.
This project is a testament to the strength of holistic, systemic approaches. For this reason, we documented the project extensively on this page, indluing the conception process, business case and design of the plant. For more detail, feel free to contact us.
On the steep slope of one of the edges of Toronto’s ravine system we created a place for contemplation, introspection and shared spiritual expression. A place with no prescribed belief, where people of all walks of life can experience what is sacred to them in their own way.
The project introduces a unique ecological approach to its site, significantly contributing to the ecosystem of Toronto’s ravine system.
The San Francisco Transbay Center redevelopment project realizes the world’s largest rooftop park in the center of one of the world’s most exciting cities.
The concept, developed by Except together with Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects, restructures the existing transport hub in the city center. It features innovations such as water purification, air filtration, ecosystem services, improved biodiversity, and adds an exhilarating new green space in the center of the city. Biodiversity, health, and sustainability are key in this example of progressive urban renewal.
The project was started in 2006, we won the competition in 2007, construction started in 2010. It was renamed the 'Salesforce Park' in 2017, and set to be completed in 2018. You can follow the construction progress here.
What key projects are necessary to make the Netherlands CO2 neutral in 2040? That was the central and massive question put before Except and Posad by the Dutch ministry.
By applying network and system-analysis a surprising single answer was found: a more transparent, decentralized and accessible data-system is needed to make this happen.
The Rotterdam Collective (Ro-Co) is a real world laboratory of a radically new business model for sustainable development. It’s been operational and successful in working towards its goals since December 2009, in the center of Rotterdam.
Ro-Co currently hosts more than 25 entrepreneurs in a collective building, who are focused on environmentally and socially innovative projects. Except initiated and developed the collective from scratch with game studio Sparpweed, and continues to be involved in the operation and management of Ro-Co
We are currently investigating possibilities for similar projects in other cities in the US and the Netherlands.
BKCity is a magnificent listed monument of more than 30.000m2 functioning as the faculty of Architecture of the TU Delft. Except created a phased plan to make this historic educational building energy and carbon neutral within ten years.
The plan converts the building into a didactic tool that puts sustainability at the heart of education for generations of architects, introducing a unique in-building ecosystem that provides an inspiring environment, functional qualities and cost savings.
Dandelion is a next generation (web 3.0) software application that binds scientific, social and economic data from all over the world in an immersive visual environment. It's like google on steroids, allowing you to visually fly through three dimensional realms of information, putting it at your fingertips and making it useful.
It enables a boost in productivity for knowledge management, research and social connectivity for anyone involved with research and development.
Dandelion is developed in partnership with the Dutch government and Storrm CS consultants.
The Dutch online Natural Capital Atlas offers hundreds of maps that portray ecosystem services in the Netherlands. The Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment, initiator of the Atlas, wants to further develop the website with users. We guided a consultation process with municipalities and companies to identify their needs, and wishes. Results are a crystal clear list of directly implementable recommendations for accessibility, categorization, expanded data needs, interactivity and functionality.
Download the report (in Dutch) with our findings at the bottom of the page.
We developed a sustainabile conversion and development plan for the post-war social housing area Schiebroek-Zuid in Rotterdam. The project provides a flexible and exemplary roadmap for converting the neighborhood into a self-sufficient and sustainable area. It applies innovative energy solutions, urban farming, social and economic programs, secondary currencies, and adaptive redevelopment strategies.
This project was commissioned by housing corporation Vestia and agricultural research network InnovatieNetwerk.
This urban redevelopment project of the Fort Point district in Boston, MA proposes a unique strategy to reduce city-wide traffic congestion, increase livability and property values and contributes significantly to the resilience of the city as a whole.
In Rakvere, Estonia, we developed the masterplan for the 671 Ha self-reliant Arkna Eco-Park. The park is built on a historical site tracing back to 1527, and becomes a primary tourist destination in the country, including a Polydome sustainable agriculture system.
We worked with Arkna Eco-Park to build a complete masterplan template for years to come, including its marketing strategy, identity, logos and brochures, closed loop metabolism, food system, event program, and design guidelines.
Designed in 2001, this house was beyond its time in providing an affordable, sustainable habitat that could be aggregated in various patterns in a new suburb of Kalgoorlie, Western Australia.
Drawing on traditional moorish and middle-eastern architectural types, the house features a wind tower that helps to extract hot air from the house in a natural way. The orientation towards the sun, passive solar principles, use of geothermal and solar energy provide all the cooling, heating and electricity for the house, make it a very sustainable design before its time, while remaining affordable, and with unique architectural qualities. The house does not have a specific site, and is largely pre-fabricated construction.
This project explores opportunities for sustainable development in the planning, policy and urban design of a large urban district in Dordrecht, the Netherlands.
This masterplan transforms downtown Shanghai into a fully sustainable community, in energy, food, water, and jobs, designed for Expo 2013. The plan strategically interweaves sustainable innovation with exciting urban design, and making it run with urban agriculture, sustainable technologies and vertical farms. The result is a valuable and beautiful urban community, an emergent circular economy, and a future-proof investment.
The Shanghai urban master plan demonstrates the Urban Renaissance approach on a specific site adjacent to Nanjing road, incorportating a historic Lilong housing district.
The Daadkracht project is the design of a four story mixed-use building in the heart of the old city of Rome, offering three spectacular apartments, shops, and a restaurant. Part of the design is a city park bordering the Tevere river, a church and various other historical buildings.
The project presented a unique opportunity to design the first new non-cultural edifice in Rome after Mussolini. To honour this event, an extensive study into the history of Rome, both its ancient past, turn of the century socio-cultural and political developments and modern developments were used as a driving force behind the design of this building.
For Inter-IKEA we boosted the sustainability performance of IKEA's catalogue by optimizing the entire supply chain with one small but smart big data tool. The tool includes data dashboards for purchasers, suppliers and retailers, affecting the entire life cycle of the catalogue.
The big-data supply chain tools resulted in massive sustainability gains in energy, waste, water and more, right from the first year. Because of the catalogue print volume, this project positively affects the world's entire print industry.
Growth Planning introduces an entirely new approach to area planning and urban design. Rather than defining specific programmatic requirements, Growth Planning instead applies socio-economic impulses to the area within certain performance edge conditions. It revolutionzes the task of city design by requiring the urban fabric to organically respond to social and economic stimuli, and allows for increased value, quality, and development over time.
Born out of the necessity to start thinking differently about our built environment due to economic, social and environmental constraints, Except has worked on refining this new form of planning since 2005.
Except designed a new type of museum used for teaching with four distinct collections of artefacts, musical instuments, and prints, located in the center of the Wesleyan University Campus.
The museum has been designed for longevity, with a possible life span of over hundreds of years. Its main quality is its ability to change function over time while remaining a high quality environment for a variety of purposes. It’s flexible, exciting and features solid passive energy systems that continue to work through the ages.
The RGD manages and maintains all the real estate for the Dutch government. In such a large portfolio, a large number of buildings are suboptimally used. We developed a scan to analyze a specific object, identify potential beneficial uses and plot out a redevelopment plan.
To demonstrate that a sustainable office interior can be exciting, affordable, and very practical we decided to make our own work space an example of just that.
The Except office in Rotterdam is located in a restored office building, which had previously stood empty for over a decade. Our renovation process brought together new ideas about collaboration, innovative material use, and exciting design.
Polydome is a revolutionary approach to greenhouse agriculture that offers the possibility of commercial scale, net-zero-impact food production. The Polydome system strategically interweaves a wide variety of crops and animals, taking advantage of every inch of the greenhouse while eliminating the need for synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.
With its high yields (60 – 90 kg per square meter), and diverse outputs (over 50 crops, two mushroom varieties, chickens, eggs, fish, and honey), even a small Polydome system can provide a richly varied food supply for a large population.
Download the full Polydome book for free below.