Mark Frequin

Director-General for Housing and Building, Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations in the Netherlands

The Directorate-General for Housing and Building (WB) is part of the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations in the Netherlands and aims to make it possible for all people of the Netherlands to  live with a proper roof over their heads, in a pleasant neighbourhood and in a society where everyone can participate and express their individuality. WB’s mandate covers a broad policy area, including everything from housing construction and rental to population decline and urban renewal. WB works to improve both the physical and the social living environment. The fact that its task is so broad is what makes it possible to effectively couple together the government’s spatial/economic and social agendas.

Sustainable enterprise covers a wide variety of topics. In your opinion, what should be the priorities?

‘Sustainability has many dimensions. By the way, I personally prefer the English word ‘sustainable’ to the Dutch word ‘duurzaam’, as the Dutch contains the word ‘duur’, which most of this country’s people are frankly not so keen on, because it means ‘expensive’. In my experience, the concept is also quite puzzling for many companies. The main thing is that a company’s or organisation’s management has to look into the future and take account of the shorter and longer-term positions. More than considering just the current earning capacity, the long-term aspects have to be looked at, while taking account of the limitations of energy sources and the sustainable part of natural resources.’

How might the construction industry contribute to a more sustainable society?

‘Don’t just look at the situation from the perspective of the provider, but keep in mind for whom you are building. Place the focus on the user, the tenant, the occupant. And ask yourself the question: is the solution that we, the builders, are offering, truly sustainable? Some thirty to forty per cent of the housing costs come from energy consumption. We burn some €13 billion in the fireplace, so to speak, consuming energy sources that are not renewable. We could do things in a more sustainable way. My wish for the construction industry is: accommodate people with solutions, many more smart solutions! In that respect, newbuild will not be the biggest job - the existing stock will.

It’s wonderful that more and more construction companies are considering sustainability when it comes to materials, transport, recycling and so on. It’s a complex process. I heartily applaud the fact that the various parties are seeking out each other’s help and reinforcing each other’s efforts. It’s not the destination, but the journey that matters. For instance, the government and market players are working together to remove obstacles in creating energy neutral areas, as part of the ‘Gebieden Energieneutraal’ consortium. The Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations has contributed a large sum towards wide dissemination of this new knowledge.’