Alex H.M. Vermeulen

Acting managing director Government Buildings Agency

The Government Buildings Agency (part of the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations) manages and develops the largest real estate portfolio in the Netherlands, consisting of 2,000 properties with a total of seven million square metres of floor area, of which it owns seventy per cent. The Government Buildings Agency ensures that every ministry and their affiliated organisations and services are housed in suitable, sustainable, and safe premises. The portfolio includes museums, palaces, court buildings, prisons, and offices. The Government Buildings Agency and BAM have been participating in the Board of the national Building Information Council (BIR) of the Netherlands, to jointly improve and develop BIM in the Netherlands with leading sector parties.

What makes an organisation a sustainable organisation?

‘An organisation in which sustainability has penetrated into every fibre and determines every action, always looks at the life cycle of projects and products. Using that life cycle as the starting point makes the difference.’

How do you achieve that?

‘It is a difficult task, especially in the construction industry, which tends to regard projects as one-offs which have to be completed within a period of x months. And then that’s it! We have to move away from that way of thinking. It is all about looking at projects in the long term, including those with integrated contract forms. There is still a lot of work to do in achieving this – not just for us at the Government Buildings Agency, but also for the construction industry itself. Take the new building for the Supreme Court, for example. My message is not to concentrate just on the building project itself, but on the overall package of services being provided for the Supreme Court for a period of 25 years. That means sustainability becomes an automatic factor. We are used to simply putting up buildings, but there is a bigger picture to consider.’

What is the position of the Government Buildings Agency when it comes to sustainability?

‘One hundred per cent sustainable procurement has been our policy since 2010. In 2012 we achieved CO₂-neutral energy consumption as a result of collective energy purchasing. The parliament would like to make an average saving of two per cent per year in energy; 25 per cent must be saved by 2020. That is not an easy task. Our longer-term focus is on energy-neutrality in 2019. A new challenge is to renovate 3 per cent of existing government buildings every year and to improve their energy performance – that is a challenge I relish. It sets down a marker for the future, but it does require a territorial approach. A good example is EnergieRijk, our cooperation project with the City Council of The Hague involving the provision of inexpensive, reliable, and clean energy for municipal and central government buildings in the centre of the city.’