Innovator, Entrepreneur & Architect

Thomas Rau: Material Matters – Sustainability, Renewable Energy, Resource Scarcity and the Circular Economy.

Thomas Rau is an innovator, entrepreneur, architect and one of the recognized thought leaders of the Circular Economy. He is the founder and CEO of Turntoo and RAU Architects, two of the first companies in the Netherlands to specialize in the circular economy. For many years, Thomas Rau has contributed to the international discussion on sustainability. In 2013, Thomas Rau was named Dutch Architect of the Year and received the Arc13 Oeuvre Award for his contribution to architectural discourse that extends far beyond the traditional boundaries of the field.

Thomas Rau Lecture Topics

  • Circular Economy: The Architecture of a New Economic System
  • The Material Passport – From Product to Service
  • Material Matters: How we can put an end to the waste of resources
  • Re-Thinking is required: Service instead of ownership
  • Change of perspective – From sustainability to survivability

Material Matters

Together with Sabine Oberhuber, Thomas Rau has published the book Material Matters, in which he describes his vision of a sustainable economic system. In the Netherlands, the book is a bestseller with more than 20,000 copies sold. In September 2018 Material Matters was published by Econ Verlag in Germany and in November 2018 it was published by Editioni Ambiente in Italy.

Lectures by Thomas Rau

Thomas Rau is not only an architect, but also a visionary, inspirer and innovator. Recognizing connections, breaking through boundaries and hierarchies are his specialties. With many national and international publications, lectures, television and radio interviews, he reaches and inspires audiences from various industries and disciplines. Thomas Rau is an internationally sought-after speaker. He speaks at public meetings and congresses, but also at internal events of companies, ministries and NGOs. His topics are economics, sustainability, circular economy, climate and environment, innovation.

Thomas Rau has developed the first pioneering model projects of the circular economy and implemented them in cooperation with leading companies. For example, together with Philips, he developed the business model of light as a service, in which the customer is no longer the owner but the user and waste is a thing of the past. Together with Bosch (2012), Turntoo has developed a program whereby social housing tenants can purchase the power of an energy-saving refrigerator or washing machine on a service basis. Through the product as a service model, the producer remains responsible for the entire product cycle, resulting in a large potential saving in the field of energy and materials, and ultimately avoiding waste and securing materials for the future.

According to Thomas Rau, every existing building is a material mine and every new building should be designed as a material depot. The concept of real estate should be abandoned, as every building should be designed and built in a modular and re-mountable way, as a mobilie, so to speak, and a material stock for the future.

Thomas Rau Architects – Circular Economy

RAU Architects, that he founded in 1992, is known for its pioneering role in the field of innovative, sustainable, energy positive and circular buildings. With more than 140 realized buildings, RAU has set standards in the field of energy-producing and sustainable buildings. In doing so, Thomas Rau does not leave it at the status quo, but is constantly looking for the next step.

He realized the first circular building designed as a material depot and raw material stock for the future in Brummen (2013) and the first circular energy positive building for Alliander in Duiven (2015). Designed by RAU, Alliander’s headquarters is the first renovation project to be awarded the Breeam Outstanding certificate.

The most comprehensive implementation of a circular building to date, is currently taking place at the new headquarters building for Triodos Bank Nederland in Zeist (NL). In 2019, the bank will open a building designed by RAU Architects for the third time. The wooden supporting structure of the building can be completely dismantled and rebuilt elsewhere. All materials used were selected according to strict criteria for recyclability and specified in a material passport. The value of these materials is also constantly monitored. It is not real estate, but a mobilia, i.e. a building as a material bank with a future: in a sense, a bank within a bank.


Turntoo was founded in 2010 as an architectural firm whose mission is to design the architecture of a new economic system. Turntoo cooperates with numerous organizations, in the development and realization of circular models and tools.

With a team of specialists, Turntoo accompanies organizations at home and abroad in the development and implementation of circular business models and strategies that guarantee the preservation of raw materials. For example, Turntoo specialists accompanied producers in the development of circular products and business models, designed a circular purchasing strategy for the Dutch government or accompanied municipalities in the development of frameworks for circular territorial development.


The Madaster – an office for the registration of materials. To guarantee material preservation, Rau developed the Material Passport for buildings and in 2017 initiated “Madaster”, the cadaster for material, a public online platform for documenting material in the built environment. The initiative won the Digital Top 50 Award for Social Impact in June 2018, awarded by Google and McKinsey, among others.

In 2015 he was invited to summarize his vision for Dutch television in the documentary series VPRO Tegenlicht,. The documentary was one of the most watched and popular episodes of the season.

Important awards

Thomas Rau is the Dutch Architect of the Year 2013 and in the same year received the ARC13 Oeuvre Award for his more than 20 years of commitment to a sustainable society. In 2016, he was nominated for the World Economic Forum’s Fortune Circular Leadership Award. In 2016, Rau was ranked #2 on the Top 100 list, the most influential Dutch people in the field of sustainable development, published annually by the national daily newspaper Trouw. Thomas Rau is ranked #1 in the ABN AMRO 2018 Sustainable Top 50.