Amsterdam – a challenging, creative environment

Green buildings are becoming an increasingly common sight in Amsterdam. It’s not surprising, given how they can save tenants money and help companies achieve their sustainability goals while providing an appealing place to work. One of the most interesting such structures in the capital is the Kraanspoor, a three-story building located in a former industrial area.

A few months after Discovery Networks Benelux moved there, the Kraanspoor (which comes from the Dutch for ‘craneway’) became the first European real estate project to be presented with the Green Award by the MIPIM real estate fair. That award proved only the first in a lengthy series, and for the media conglomerate, this achievement came as little surprise.

As chief executive Jochem de Jong explains, “When we chose Amsterdam as a base, we had a clear idea of what we were looking for: an office in a challenging, creative environment with a city feel, that reflected our ambitions concerning sustainability.”

An icon of sustainable architecture

The building’s design is an architectural tour de force, and the glass and steel office seems to float above the old concrete foundations of the pier. Architect Trude Hooykaas and her firm OTH have succeeded in combining the industrial character of the plot’s dockland heritage with contemporary demands for comfort and good looks. But there are other reasons why the building has become an icon for the redevelopment of the former NDSM shipyard in Amsterdam Noord.

Like rapidly growing numbers of architects, developers, builders and end users in and around the city, Hooykaas (along with financiers and developers ING Real Estate) believes building design and construction must take all aspects of sustainability into account.

That doesn’t just mean using natural materials that can be reused later. It also means considering how to reduce the negative impact of building in an environmentally sensitive area – and even how the result can strengthen the natural balance.  

A building that harnesses the power of sun and water

This approach resulted in the Kraanspoor’s innovative use of water from the IJ for heating and cooling. For ventilation, there are holes in the floor, and rainwater is gathered and reused as well. Thanks to solar collectors, extra energy is captured and stored. The insulation also meets the highest environmental standards.

Though these innovations – and those mentioned are just a few of the ones that have been used – are good for the planet, they have other tangible benefits as well. For instance, the energy bill for the Kraanspoor is a fraction of that of a similar office complex.

Neutralising environmental impact

The international attention the building has received, and the positive impact it makes, affect the people who work there every day. At Discovery Networks Benelux, corporate social responsibility was already cherished as a core competency, and the fact that the Amsterdam office is now in a green environment only encourages employee awareness.

Moreover, the eco-friendly surroundings have inspired the company to go further. “In co-operation with a local provider, we have a programme to compensate for carbon dioxide emissions caused by our businesspeople travelling by car and plane,” says De Jong. “And we are continually looking for other ways to neutralise our environmental impact.”

Making sustainability an Amsterdam export product

The Amsterdam Metropolitan Area is rapidly developing into an international centre for sustainable architecture. More and more local real estate companies and their clients are becoming convinced of the need for environmentally friendly design, development and construction. That means showing respect for the natural environment and using as many recyclable materials and features as possible.

There’s also a growing conviction that the commercial value of such buildings, with their lower (or zero) energy costs, will prove to be higher in the long run. Going green is now becoming economically feasible.

This gradual awareness has ensured that sustainable architecture is an increasingly important export product for Amsterdam’s real estate sector, and more and more foreign companies are moving here to take advantage of local expertise.

Read more testimonials from the creative sector here.