Mitchell Lubiak – Property Week
Ground Breaking Schemes
Property Week took a look at some of the groundbreaking schemes in and around Amsterdam and talked to the people behind them to find out why the country has embraced circularity with such zeal.
The ‘Little Details’
On a tour of Park 20|20 – an ultra-sustainable business park on the outskirts of Amsterdam – the JLL director expresses disappointment that the black plastic bags being used in the park’s bins cannot be recycled.
… even the Water!
Park 20|20: built from 100% recycled materials
Attention to Detail
Circl also runs entirely on renewable energy and every element is either recycled or recyclable.
Circl features recycled windows and wooden floors, and even insulation made from recycled jeans. Petran van Heel, sector banker for construction and real estate at ABN AMRO, says recycled material must always take precedent over recyclable material when developing a circular building.
ABN AMRO’s Circl: runs on renewable energy
“In order to reach the Paris climate agreement goals, we cannot solely focus on energy sustainability,” says van Heel. “We also have to take into account the amount of carbon produced by making materials for buildings.”
It starts at the Very Beginning
The numbers certainly make for sobering reading. We all know that 40% of global carbon emissions are produced by the built environment, but few are aware that a significant percentage of those emissions are generated at the very beginning of a building’s life, at the development stage.
According to a 2014 paper from UKGBC, the processing of materials needed for construction can account for anywhere between 30% and 70% of a building’s lifetime emissions depending on its type.
‘Neutral’ needs ‘Circular’
In short, if a developer wants its warehouse, office or residential scheme to be truly carbon neutral, it needs to become part of the circular economy. The Dutch government was one of the first governments to acknowledge this and in 2016 it announced a target for the country’s economy to be 50% circular by 2030 and 100% circular by 2050.
Park 20|20: built from 100% recycled materials
To ensure building materials can be recycled, the Dutch construction industry needed a way of classifying the materials and products in existing buildings.
This is where Madaster – a platform that allows businesses to register all the materials in their building – comes in. The idea is that none of those materials will then be lost when the building is demolished. Instead, they will be reused. Both Park 20|20 and Circl have a ‘materials passport’ issued by Madaster.
Difficult & Expensive
Developing a building entirely from recycled and recyclable parts is not without its challenges. Only a small number of buildings in Amsterdam use Madaster’s materials passport, so finding recycled building materials can be difficult. It is also surprisingly expensive, as developers must pay VAT on recycled products that would have already had VAT paid on them when bought new.
Interior: inside the EDGE Olympic building
Clients Want Sustainability
Both occupiers and investors are pushing developers to be as sustainable as possible, but these additional costs can compromise the economic viability of schemes looking to embrace circular principles.
Second Hand Materials
ABN AMRO’s van Heel adds that it was very difficult to get a building permit for Circl because ABN AMRO was unable to say for sure what the building would look like until it had sourced all its materials. It also had to convince architects and construction companies to use secondhand materials, which do not always match desired specifications, as well as convince fire experts that materials were safe to use.
Then there are the aesthetic considerations. The materials used to build Circl feature dinks and scratches from their previous use and give the building an edgy, industrial look that may suit the trendier parts of Amsterdam, but do not necessarily work in the corporate world of Amsterdam Zuid.
“If clients walk into an office building and see unpainted, unfitting secondhand material, then they start wondering,” says van Heel.
A further challenge is that ‘circular building’ lacks a standard definition. This is a cause of frustration for many Dutch property experts. They expect the government to eventually issue guidance on the matter, but for the time being there is no way of knowing whether a building is completely circular, or even what a circular building actually is.
New Logic III: achieved 99.4% BREEAM ‘Outstanding’ rating
More Regulation Needed
JLL’s Zachariasse is particularly concerned about this. Without clear government guidelines, he fears that sustainable real estate in the Netherlands could become a self-congratulatory box-ticking exercise.
“I’m totally not interested in reverse-engineering the BREEAM rating system to get as many points as cheaply as possible,” he says. “That is the definition of greenwashing.”
Many of the Dutch real estate professionals Property Week spoke to are confident the government will act sooner rather than later, noting its strong track record of passing more progressive climate legislation than the UK and indeed many other countries.
The Dutch planning system is a good example of this. “If you follow Dutch regulations for building permits, you will automatically have a BREEAM ‘Very Good’ certification,” says Diederik de Jonge, partner at Heembouw Architecten, the architectural firm that helped to create New Logic III, a warehouse development with a BREEAM ‘Outstanding’ rating of 99.4%.
Climate-conscious regulation does not stop at the planning stage. The Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy’s energy efficiency obligation “requires organisations in the Netherlands that use 50,000kWh of electricity or 25,000 cubic metres of natural gas (or equivalent) or more per year to take energy efficiency measures with a payback period of five years or less”. In other words, if there is a more efficient energy-using product on the market that could replace any energy-using product in a given company’s real estate portfolio, that company has to make the switch if the money spent on the new product would earn the company its investment back in five years or less.
Such pressures have forced the nation’s property sector to seek out innovative approaches to development and set a new environmental standard for green building design. A good example of this is The Edge, which was named the world’s most sustainable building by BREEAM from 2014 to 2016.
Erik Ubels, chief technology officer at Edge Technologies, says the Dutch are at the forefront of sustainability in real estate because of their inventiveness. He says Edge Technologies’ portfolio is a perfect example.
EDGE beats BREEAM
In line with the principles of the circular economy, the company is redeveloping EDGE Amsterdam West, a 645,000 sq ft office scheme in the west of the city, to BREEAM ‘Outstanding’.
EDGE Amsterdam West: a 645,000 sq ft office scheme
Last year, Edge Technologies sold the development to Korean investor Hana Alternative Asset Management, but this does not mean Edge Technologies will move on from the project once the redevelopment is finished.
Controlling the Tech
Ubels says that unlike other developers, Edge Technologies makes a point of maintaining control of the technology in the developments it has built even after they are sold and will help to update and modify this technology in line with the latest breakthroughs in sustainable real estate. This hands-on post-sale approach is written into the contracts of every building it sells and Ubels says one of the reasons for doing this is to protect the company’s status as developer of some of the world’s most sustainable buildings.
‘Best in class’
Douglas van Oers, associate director at Savills in Amsterdam, believes the entire real estate market in Amsterdam shares Edge Technologies’ desire to deliver the most sustainable buildings possible.
“The Netherlands has always wanted to be best in class in a lot of things,” he says. “We are very much a best-in-class country.”
For van Oers, any real estate market looking to emulate the success of the Dutch market needs to show the same level of determination to push the boundaries.
The moral argument for sustainable real estate is self-evident and the financial argument is growing, but perhaps what is really driving the Dutch property market towards a zero-carbon, circular future is its proximity to the problem. As Ubels points out, most of the Netherlands is below sea level already. If other countries are going to embrace the circular economy in the same way the Netherlands has, they will need to feel that same sense of urgency.
Helping You Avoid the ‘Red Tape’
Our aim is to deliver highly energy efficient and environmentally sustainable Beautiful Buildings. Our view is that we can best do this when we have well informed customers who are not caught up in all the ‘Red Tape’ that we all have to endure, like the above. That’s why we’re always on the look out for ways to help you make your like a little easier and your days more productive and profitable.
We’ve spent years getting good at what we do. creating them to satisfy all types of design, so can help you, your buyers or tenants, adapting our business innovations and developments to your projects . This really means engaging with your whole team to deliver on time and within budget. It requires a systematic, solution driven approach which brings discipline to the process, sharing information and communications. Applying DfMA (Design for Manufacture & Assembly) defines the process of taking these to the next level; a welcome change in the overall approach to project management and development – and to those who just ‘talk about it’!
Partnering for Progress
All of this entails a shift in thinking to that already practiced by established ‘Off-Site’ MMC manufacturers. It can be quickly and easily incorporated into procedures and processes of building and development. Better still, you can make partnering arrangements with such manufacturers to gain all round benefits.
Greater Speed, Accuracy, Quality and Lower Costs
Greater collaborative ‘partnering’ between architects, builders and manufacturers will deliver these. The greater speed, accuracy and quality that can result from manufacturing components in a dry, controlled factory environment, together with the ability tom incorporate (yet to be invented) ‘Smart Ware’ gives home builders perhaps the only way of achieving this, together with improved on-site build quality AND controlling costs.
While resistance to the change to DfMA has been the norm, the wish of most UK Builders to deliver excellent customer service and top notch homes is now driving an increasing number to choose Off-Site for their developments. Also, as ‘OffSite Hub” note, architects and designers are moving toward DfMA, something we have been encouraging for over 20 years. The emergence of LA Developers will only speed up this process.
Easy Timber Frame
To assist them in doing so our “Easy Timber Frame “ now offers standard size modular timber frame elements for them to use as a design base, cutting down on technical design and engineering to produce win-win results. This virtually provides any housebuilder or architect with their own bespoke design factory facility.
Better all-round Savings
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