ABN AMRO branch offices go GREENE and Paris-proof

It’s a transformation which promises to make the bank’s branch offices more appealing and much more sustainable. In the coming years, many of ABN AMRO’s branch offices will be adopting the new GREENE building concept. Christa Beaufort and Choi Mi Chung talk about how this project is helping the bank and its clients make their environments more sustainable.

The Eindhoven office was the first to switch to the new building concept at the beginning of June. GREENE is a sustainable, circular building concept for client environments which emphasises personal contact and digital convenience, bringing together all ABN AMRO’s expertise under one roof.

“We’re updating our branch offices in terms of sustainability, circularity and efficiency,” says Christa Beaufort, who works as Strategy, Innovation & Organisation Manager at ABN AMRO Facility Management. “That’s why we’re bringing business lines working from separate locations together at a single office as part of one distinct corporate identity.”

Upcycling

For Eindhoven, GREENE meant undergoing a complete transformation. The surface area of the lobby was reduced to make it more inviting. All the consulting rooms were moved to a loft space. The branch feels livelier now because people can make better use of the various facilities in the open-plan meeting area.

The interior features circular materials and upcycled furniture. Adorning the walls are fiberised textiles, PET bottles and shelves made from used pallets – all perfect examples of upcycling, says Product Development Manager Choi Mi Chung, who oversees the interior aspect of the GREENE building concept. “We’ve transformed all these ‘disposables’ into beautiful wall panels,” she says. Circularity was another top priority during the renovation process. Concrete waste, for instance, was collected and then pulverised for use as a base for new cement.

Social entrepreneurship

Some forty entrepreneurs have participated in GREENE. Choi says, “Most were chosen because durability and circularity are in their DNA. Five of them have even defined social entrepreneurship as a core value and work with people with difficulties entering the labour market to manufacture their products.”

More and more branches will be undergoing similar transformations in the years to come. From 2019 to 2023, dozens of branch offices will be making the switch to the GREENE concept. Plus all ABN AMRO office space must have earned at least an energy label A by 2023.

Paris-proof

ABN AMRO’s ambitions go far beyond circular methods and impressive energy labels, though. By 2030, all the bank’s office space also has to be Paris-proof, meaning that it must meet the requirements set out in the Paris Climate Accord. “Obviously, an energy label A is fantastic,” Christa says. “But the label doesn’t actually say anything about actual energy consumption. It’s still not environmentally friendly if the front door is open all day or if the heating is always on.”

Dutch office buildings consume an average of 150 kWh per square metre, but the Paris accord sets a limit of 50 kWh per square metre. ABN AMRO aims to make this reduction for all its own offices by 2030. “It’s an ambitious goal, but one we can achieve,” Christa stresses. “After all, we’ve based our forecasts on solid calculations. This is about so much more than installing panels or insulation. We’ve taken everything on board – from lighting and climate control to intelligent building.” “Refuse, reduce, reuse” is the mantra, which basically means saying no to things we don’t need, using less and recycling.

Sharing knowledge

By implementing GREENE and Paris-proofing its offices, ABN AMRO is using the knowledge and experience it gained with Circl, the bank’s circular building in Amsterdam’s Zuidas district. The most important lesson learned is that sustainable transformations should be both scalable and copiable – not just for other bank branches, but for clients and other companies, too. Choi explains, “We want to share our knowledge and insight because the whole of the Netherlands has to become more sustainable, and we can all learn from one another.” That’s why the “right to copy” is universal, she emphasises.

The GREENE building concept is going to be a great way to start conversations about sustainability with clients, Choi predicts: “We’re not just talking the talk here at the bank – we’re leading the way. Our GREENE offices will give people the chance to experience first-hand how circularity can be put into practice.”

Setting goals is important. But ABN AMRO is realistic, too. Christa says, “Circl gave us a chance to do a lot of experimentation. That’s why we know that some sustainable solutions simply don’t exist yet. Sometimes there just isn’t a workable, affordable, scalable solution available on the market.” In cases like these, Choi says, ABN AMRO should be a driver of innovation: “We’re firmly committed to playing this role when it comes to our suppliers and clients. We talk to suppliers about the sustainability of the materials they use. Sometimes we do meet with scepticism, as was initially the case recently with one of our cling film suppliers. Now they’ve made a complete U-turn and are supplying recycled film. And that’s really exciting to see.”

“Sustainability and circular enterprise are opportunities,” Christa concludes. “If you’re an entrepreneur or even a private individual, it pays to take that step now. And ABN AMRO is here to support you in that process.”

Check out the new Eindhoven office here.