Jan Willem van de Groep

Programme Director at Platform31

The innovation programme ‘Energiesprong’ is operated on behalf of the Dutch Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations, and runs until the end of 2014. The programme is aimed at creating the right conditions to speed up energy transition in the built environment. Encouraging supply and demand for buildings (and if necessary for areas) that generate as much energy as they consume is the core of the programme. The focus is on homes, offices, shops, and care institution buildings. Energiesprong promotes innovations by experimenting with leaders, where it supports tangible projects. It becomes scalable through removal of identified problems during these experiments. This comes about via so-called ‘deals’, where the transformation of a system is the point of focus. At the same time, different actors (construction, government, buyers, financers) need to switch systems. An example of this is ‘Stroomversnelling’.

What should be the priorities when it comes to sustainable enterprise?

‘I get that question quite often. Eighty per cent of sustainability has to do with energy, in my view. If it were up to me, that should take priority in the years ahead, without the other aspects of sustainability being neglected, such as the responsible use of raw materials. The future is the circular economy, that will only be complete when the energy issue is solved.’

‘Energy also touches on other aspects of sustainability. Thirty per cent of the energy consumption of buildings is embedded energy, i.e. energy required for construction. There is still a great deal of progress to be made in that respect, partly in relation to the sustainable use of materials. In some cases, for example wood might be a better choice than concrete. Now, we are focusing mainly on reducing the 70 % of energy consumption in the life cycle of the building that is required for heating, ventilation, HVAC, and domestic use. We are making great progress in that regard, and fortunately also together with BAM, who are acting as a real leader.’

How might the construction industry contribute to more sustainable products?

‘Builders must approach their task in an industrial manner. This will involve fundamental different principles for design, engineering, dimensioning, and building. We have to stop adapting outmoded technology. The old methods will not work any more. The ‘Stroomversnelling’ initiative is based entirely on that philosophy. In residential construction, for example, we are seeing more and more conceptual thinking. As a result, builders have the opportunity to buy better and better materials at lower prices and with guaranteed performance levels. The government and the building sector are encouraging and urging each other to do a better job. There is reason for optimism, given the excellent collaboration between the parties in ‘Stroomversnelling.’