An Alkmaar bank branch is the prime sustainable business case

One of the two goals of the Green Quest last year was to make a mid-sized ABN AMRO bank branch in Alkmaar energy and carbon neutral. Now, though, those horizons have been expanded: if all Dutch offices were to copy this business case, fifty per cent of the Dutch ‘Energy Agreement for Sustainable Growth’, would be met.

Last year ABN AMRO was advised by the Green Quest, the Netherlands’ leading experts in sustainability. The bank had two goals: to obtain BREEAM Excellent certification for its head office at Gustav Mahlerlaan in Amsterdam and to make its Alkmaar branch carbon and energy neutral. We wanted to create a successful business case that other ABN AMRO branches and clients could copy. And we were successful! The Gustav Mahlerlaan building was awarded BREEAM Excellent certification in September, and the Alkmaar branch followed in November.

Carbon and energy neutral

Both offices now rank among the only four office buildings in the province of North Holland with the highest level BREEAM sustainability certificate for existing buildings. The Alkmaar branch is even fully carbon and energy neutral. This means that carbon emissions are kept at zero by limiting and compensating emissions, and the office has become self-sufficient energy-wise by saving and generating energy. What is the business case? What measures can office owners or renters duplicate?

The Alkmaar business case

The market will sit on its hands unless it sees a solid business case. Office owners will only invest in sustainability if the return time is realistic. The successful transformation of the Alkmaar branch demonstrates that such a business case is possible.

  • Size of the office: 5,000 sq.m
  • Goal: To make the building carbon and energy neutral
  • Total costs: 533,264 euros (which is more expensive than traditional replacement) 
  • Average life cycle of installations: 15 years 
  • Annual energy savings and maintenance: 44,646 euros
  • Annual revenues and subsidy: 27,725 euros 
  • Return time of investment: 7.4 years 
  • Net savings after 15 years: more than 500,000 euros (after deducting investment)

The lessons of Alkmaar

Below are the three main measures – all of which pay off quickly – that every office owner in the Netherlands can implement:

  • Choose all-electric – and only all-electric
    An air-to-water heat pump can cool and heat a building and is fully electric. In principle, the gas tap can be switched off. Electricity consumption grows, but this is easier to compensate than gas. 
  • Saving and generating are a golden combination
    Savings measures alone reduced energy consumption in the Alkmaar branch by around 60 per cent. The branch’s energy needs – constituting the remaining 40 per cent – were met by 500 solar panels, making the branch energy neutral. In the long run, the panels will even yield additional energy. 
  • A foundation of proven technology with a few top innovations
    A smart balance between innovation (big impact) and proven measures (affordable) is a key success factor. In Alkmaar the emphasis was on proven innovations. This was supplemented by specially designed innovations, such as the use of phase-change material  in the ceiling. This material stores heat when it is warm (which has a cooling effect) and releases heat when it is cold.

Alkmaar's impact

One of the goals stated in the Dutch Energy Agreement for Sustainable Growth  is to reduce energy consumption in the total developed environment by 62 petajoules. If the lessons learned in Alkmaar were to be rolled out nationwide – including outside of ABN AMRO – 50 per cent (30.6 petajoules) of that goal would be met. And this doesn’t even include residential buildings. This is what ABN AMRO will do to make impact. 

  • ABN AMRO is using Alkmaar as a blueprint for making more of its own offices sustainable.

  • All Dutch real estate owners have the ‘right to copy’: all findings will be released and ABN AMRO relationship managers will share them with the market. 

  • ABN AMRO Real Estate is harnessing its expertise to achieve its  real estate ambition for 2017, namely to ensure that 30 per cent of its portfolio obtains an energy A label (up from 1 per cent now),  to transform 300,000 square metres of vacant space and to finance 30 landmarks.

Annemarie Rakhorst, one of the pioneers in sustainable building, says the next step for ABN AMRO is to bring this knowledge to the housing market. She was quoted in the Dutch financial daily Het Financieele Dagblad as saying ‘Individuals often have a hard time making their homes energy-producing. ABN AMRO should share this knowledge.’