“Everyone is aware of climate change. And everyone is responsible for doing their part”, feels Simon Gheysens.
In Belgium, 40 percent of CO2 emissions come from buildings. “The only way to decrease that figure is to replace old, energy-wasting buildings by new, energy-efficient buildings. That’s what we do.”
Simon Gheysens is passionate about this. “I could talk about sustainability all day. We are constantly looking for ways to make buildings as sustainable as possible, something we take extremely seriously.”
BREAAM is the most common method used to assess a building’s sustainability, rating its performance on the basis of a wide range of technical standards.
“Our competitors usually aim for very good, i.e. a rating of ≥55 percent. For us, the minimum is excellent, i.e. a rating of ≥70 percent. We’re now even commissioning our first outstanding building, with a rating exceeding 85 percent.”
The best and nothing but the best
“Requiring excellent is the obvious choice for us. Why not opt for the best possible solution that’s economically justifiable?” says Simon Gheysens. “We always aim to develop the best possible building. Location permitting, we go for an outstanding score.”
To obtain the outstanding label, a building must score highly on environmental factors such as easy access to public transport.
“Energy efficiency only accounts for 15 percent of the total BREAAM score. Sustainability is about so much more than just energy efficiency and the materials you use. Indeed, the word is very often misused.”
Stylish and iconic
For Ghelamco, sustainability begins with a building’s construction. “A building has to be sustainable over time”, Gheysens explains. “Long-term sustainability is often neglected, while for us it’s one of the most important aspects. A building is going to be there for fifty years. It has to be functional, stylish and preferably iconic.”
“Sustainability over time is usually neglected, while for us that’s one of the crucial aspects.”Simon Gheysens Chief Technology Officer Ghelamco
Just as important for sustainability is putting humans first. “Focusing on health and comfort also makes economic sense. Greater well-being, comfort and functionality ensure higher productivity and added value for our clients.”
Ghelamco wants to do a lot more than just tick boxes to obtain a certain rating. “We go for the best. That means gathering knowledge, focusing on efficiency and applying state-of-the-art technology.”
“Focusing on health and comfort also makes sense economically.”Simon Gheysens Chief Technology Officer Ghelamco
For example, to improve energy efficiency, a building’s technical facilities have to be used correctly. “That takes know-how. Which we have”, says Simon Gheysens. “In principle, a building’s facilities are ‘dumb’ systems. We add cloud-based controls, making it much easier to achieve energy savings.”
For Ghelamco, technology is a means of putting sustainability into practice. “Our buildings are designed for greater sustainability. With our technology, we can create an intermediate layer to achieve just that. And in our MeetDistricts, we go the extra mile, controlling everything intelligently, from locks to heating, air conditioning and lighting. That makes us a one-stop-shop when you’re looking for an office or workplace.”
This focus on sustainability was initially a way of convincing clients. “Now it’s one of the keys to our success”, Simon Gheysens believes. “Explaining the importance of sustainability is one thing, but gaining the trust of international players like Google, Goldman Sachs and Samsung is a different ball game. But we notice that once they’re convinced, they stay in our buildings. Thanks to our know-how and quality execution, we have loyal customers. Indeed, they even stay with us in other countries.”
At the Spectrum near Madou in Brussels, Ghelamco will be opening its fourth MeetDistrict this summer. MeetDistrict is a service solution for flexible office solutions. MeetDistrict is set to become the new standard in terms of productivity gains based on best-in-class design, technology and building management.