Expo 2020 Dubai: Witteveen+Bos's contribution to the Netherlands Pavilion

A design for an attractive and intriguing circular building with innovative indoor climate systems, using Dutch innovations. That is what Witteveen+Bos delivered with the Netherlands Pavilion for Expo 2020 in Dubai. We were responsible for the structural design and the indoor climate system. Witteveen+Bos also worked on the building physics and the sustainable aspects of the pavilion. All construction materials employed are reusable, recyclable or biodegradable.

Our experts' knowledge incorporated all of the various areas of expertise required for integrated engineering and design. We are proud to have been recognised for our innovative work at the Big 5 Impact Awards, where we received the award for Sustainable Construction Project of the Year.

A consortium consisting of Expomobilia, V8 Architects, Kossmann.dejong and Witteveen+Bos was selected to design and construct the Netherlands Pavilion at Expo 2020 in Dubai. If you are curious and interested in having a look at our exceptional pavilion, take the 3D tour.

Uniting water, energy and food

The Netherlands Pavilion is designed as a biotope, a circular climate system that brings together innovative Dutch solutions uniting water, energy and food. The temporary circular climate system works by harvesting water from the air, energy from the sun and allowing approximately 9,300 edible plants to grow, such as tomato, basil, mint and asparagus.

Sustainable solutions

The pavilion prides itself on being fully sustainable, and was built using locally sourced materials that are reusable, recyclable, or biodegradable. Witteveen+Bos worked on the sustainable aspects of the pavilion, which are an integral part of the experience. The pavilion was designed to accommodate large numbers of people, with a high footfall expected every hour, whilst keeping in line with the technical details needed for the indoor climate system to function effectively. As the building will only be in use for six months, the pavilion was designed with circularity in mind, and this was reflected in the choice of all materials used, including the structural materials. Our team worked with a structure of steel sheet piles and steel tubes, as those materials are widely available and known for their reusability. Sheet piles are often used in temporary structures and many companies rent out these types of materials, keeping the project fully sustainable.

The box shaped steel structure consist of  two cofferdams, horizontally supported by a roof made of steel pipes. The cofferdams are made of two rows of sheetpiles. The main level of the pavilion is 4,2 m underground. The soil that was excavated to reach this level was placed inside the cofferdam structure. Hence a stable structure is formed that can bear all possible loads during its lifetime, including earthquake loads.

The soil inside the cofferdams creates a good isolation and thermic mass. This is needed to maintain a comfortable temperature inside the pavilion. Although the Expo takes place during the cooler months in Dubai, the temperatures in October and March can still reach 40 degrees Celsius.

Climate system

At the centre of the pavilion stands an 18-metre-high cone-like structure, named ‘The Food Cone’, which is covered with a variety of edible plants, whilst oyster mushrooms surround the inside of the cone. The fungi are an important part of the biotope, emitting carbon dioxide, which is absorbed by the plants on the cone’s exterior. The floor and wall panels are made from mycelium, a biodegradable fungus-based substance, to show how mushrooms can be used within building materials.

The central cone is not only the centrepiece of the pavilion, but is the heart of the indoor climate system. Cool air flows into the central cone, which then flows into the main entrance hall at the end of the pavilion show, resulting in a cool indoor climate system throughout the whole pavilion. The choice of systems used for the climate was also chosen with circularity and re-use in mind, as all the main components were rented for this period, and will be returned to the owners at the end of the Expo.

An example of these systems is the adiabatic cooling system that is designed by Witteveen+Bos to climatize the auditorium. The air is cooled by evaporating water that is sprayed into the area from small nozzles.

As the main engineers of the climate system for the Netherlands Pavilion, Witteveen+Bos are proud to have been able to integrate Dutch innovations such as the rainmaker and the translucent solar panels into the overall system design. This integration makes the design a true collaborative effort.

Plants and panels

The roof of the pavilion is comprised of solar panels, which illuminate and power the biotope. The vibrantly colourful solar panels are uniquely designed for the pavilion, and are made out of lightweight organic transparent solar cells (OPV) that are circular and made of non-toxic materials. The unique solar panels collect energy from Dubai’s sun rays to power the pavilion, whilst also allowing the tinted daylight to fall into the pavilion and filter the right spectrum of light, which the edible plants will utilize for photosynthesis. Together with solar collectors sufficient energy is gathered to supply for all climate systems of the pavilion.

The Netherlands Pavilion can be found in the Sustainable District of the Expo 2020, which runs from 1st October 2021 - 31st March 2022. The Netherlands Pavilion is a meeting point for business communities, educational and research institutions and government and social organizations.

Facts and figures

  • Client: Ministry of Foreign Affairs / Netherlands Enterprise Agency

  • Location: Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  • Year awarded: 2018

  • Completion: 2021

  • Gross floor area: 3,727 m²

  • Programme: Exhibition space, auditorium, restaurant, VIP lounge and shop

  • Architect: V8 Architects

  • Pavilion construction and main contractor: Expomobilia

  • Interactive visitor experiences: Kossmann.dejong

  • Sustainable aspects and structural design: Witteveen+Bos

Take the 3D tour

Or browse through the photos below

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More information?

Maarten Veerman

Team manager Building physics and BIM
Witteveen+Bos medewerker Daniël Dusseljee

Daniël Dusseljee

Managing Director, Witteveen+Bos EMEA DMCC