ABN AMRO has been improving its sustainability record for years, and it will continue doing so. Our efforts have been acknowledged through several BREEAM Awards – prestigious hallmarks that certify our impressive sustainability performance. Our head office on Gustav Mahlerlaan was even awarded the highest possible in-Use certificate. That’s quite an achievement for a building covering more than 125,000 square metres.
Needless to say, we didn’t achieve this overnight. We seized the opportunity to make our buildings greener when things needed replacing. At the same time, we developed a policy to reduce our environmental footprint. These initiatives have yielded substantial savings: we have cut our electricity consumption by twelve per cent and our water consumption by fifteen per cent. This is a major step forward, especially bearing in mind that more people now work at head office.
Range of measures
The BREEAM certificates were awarded for a range of measures we introduced, such as:
- Cooling provided by responsibly drawing water from the nearby Nieuwe Meer lake.
- Facade of building coated with UV-resistant plastic to cut down heat penetration from the sun.
- Use of wind power sources.
- Use of solar energy.
- The head office building generates 25% of its energy needs, the remaining requirement being met by biogas and Dutch wind turbines.
- The number of employees in the building increased by 13 percent, to 6,600+ employees, between 2013 and 2015; in the same period our energy consumption decreased by 18%.
- Advanced management and monitoring of waste.
- Registering and monitoring energy consumption and air quality.
We also made great strides in the area of sustainable cooling systems. We have been using water from Meern Lake since 2006 to cool our head office on Gustav Mahlerlaan. Our example has been followed by several buildings in Amsterdam’s Zuidas business district, enabling us to jointly cut back our annual carbon emissions by 3,000 tonnes.
Inside the building, we also choose to work with environmentally friendly materials, such as sustainably recycled carpeting. Our carpets fully meet the cradle-to-cradle principle: all raw materials used can be re-used without losing value. Rather than being used for inferior purposes following recycling (downcycling), our carpeting is re-used to make more effective products (upcycling). But we’re not there yet. As long as we still make use of these carpets, we can benefit from yet another sustainable feature: they reflect light, so we need less lighting and consume less energy.
Circular coffee cups
Of course we had to do something about our coffee cups, so we invested in cups made from bagasse: a waste product following from sugar-cane production. These cups are completely biodegradable and therefore very eco-friendly. The ink used to print on them is water-based, in line with the cradle-to-cradle principle. Used coffee cups are collected and sent to a company that turns them into compost, which in turn produces biogas: a complete circular production chain.
Careful with waste
We collect plastic, coffee cups and paper separately. We also separate our waste flows: old cartridges, lamps and electrical equipment is thrown away in separate bins. This cuts waste and enables the extraction of more raw materials from used goods for the production of new goods. This way, most importantly, we continuously reduce our environmental footprint.
We set great store by biodiversity in our building. In some of the meeting rooms, we let moss grow on the walls – about a centimetre a year. It feeds on moisture in the air, and uses this to regulate indoor humidity. And it is a low-maintenance solution. An added advantage is that moss absorbs sound, so our staff don’t need to worry that they are talking too loudly.
ABN AMRO also keeps bees. We have some 40,000 bees in each hive, carefully tended to by our in-house bee-keeper. Many bees have been dying in recent years due to the use of pesticides, even though they are an important motor of our ecosystem. We provide a healthy habitat for our bees, thus ensuring that bees continue to exist in urban areas. Moreover, the proceeds of the honey go to a foundation for the rescue and shelter of wild animals, Stichting AAP.
We also contribute to the successful expansion of the falcon population. Back in 2009, only very few of these birds were still around. We mounted a special breeding box on the nineteenth floor of ABN AMRO’s head office, which has since been used as a nest by an annually returning pair of falcons. Every year, they lay three to four eggs in the box. Interesting detail: the falcons feature in a Dutch wildlife documentary, De Wilde Stad, which will be shown in the EYE film museum starting in June 2017.
|BREEAM is short for Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method. This internationally recognised certificate is the most significant rating for sustainable property in Western Europe. Only buildings that excel in environmental and energy management are eligible for certification.|