Our developments are blue, green and safe
We are seeing a growing societal awareness of the need to keep our planet liveable. Heijmans has also expressed a firm ambition in this respect: from 2023, all our interventions will lead to the improvement of nature and a climate-proof Netherlands. We will achieve this thanks to our basic attitude: we work together with the natural system. This is how we create a healthy living environment: the core of Heijmans’ strategy.
We are aware of the importance of water and soil, which is why we treat them with care and move with the local natural system. We do this in both residential and non-residential building and infrastructure projects. Climate-adaptive design is tailor-made and involves retaining, storing, infiltrating and reusing water. Everywhere we work, we aim to provide a future-proof living environment that can safely cope with the extremes of the changing climate.
A hidden pearl in Rotterdam-Zuid
De Kuil is an oasis of greenery, peace and space in the dynamic centre of the busy city of Rotterdam. In the coming years, Heijmans will build sustainable houses and apartments around a special inner garden. In the garden itself, plants and misted water will soon provide cooling relief on hot days. Green roofs, 110 nesting boxes, a collection system and wadis for water storage and the use of circular and sustainable materials: everything in De Kuil is aimed at increasing biodiversity and the creation of a pleasant, climate-adaptive living environment for people, animals and plants.
We are not alone in working on the creation of a nature-inclusive, climate-adaptive society. We are building an open system for the continuous exchange of knowledge and expertise. We are working on this with a number of ambitious organisations and knowledge institutions, such as the Naturalis Biodiversity Center, NL Greenlabel, the Struikroven foundation, The Pollinators and Dutch forestry organisation Staatsbosbeheer.
The Dutch Association of Investors for Sustainable Development (VBDO) sees Heijmans as one of the frontrunners when it comes to plans and measures to boost biodiversity. This association surveyed 38 listed companies last year. On Heijmans’ approach, the researchers wrote: “Instead of focusing on nature compensation, Heijmans wants to improve nature in the places where they work. This means that in the projects they carry out, they try to build nature-inclusively. Examples include creating public green spaces in new residential areas, as well as constructing fauna passages when redesigning motorways. By employing ecologists on a permanent basis, Heijmans has not only been able to provide nature-friendly services, but also to strengthen their own business case.” For instance, ecologists have been involved right from the start in projects such as the Veenendaal-Ede-Grijsoord stretch of the A12 motorway, the National Military Museum in Soesterberg, VERTICAL in Amsterdam Sloterdijk and the Land van Dico area development in Uden, so we can leave behind more nature than we found.
Land van Dico
Where there once stood a factory, there is now a green neighbourhood. The Land van Dico neighbourhood in Uden was designed with an eye to the future; resistant to heat stress, drought and extreme rainfall, and sustainable. Heijmans worked closely with NL Greenlabel during the planning phase. This independent organisation helps public sector bodies and developers to create a measurably sustainable living environment. And you can see that everywhere in Land van Dico. Nature has been given plenty of room to grow and flourish here, both in the gardens and the public spaces. Wadis and permeable paving prevent water nuisance and the houses are energy neutral. In the Land van Dico, people and animals live together in a green, healthy environment. Heijmans sees NL Greenlabel as a full-fledged sparring partner on the sustainability front. Together, we are striving to make nature-inclusive and climate-adaptive districts the standard in the Netherlands.
Area developments often involve major interventions in infrastructure, landscape and the environment. Together, Infra and Property development can offer the entire process, from initiative to management. Working with NL Greenlabel and its system is now fully integrated into our area development processes. This results in major, measurable steps towards a sustainable and healthy living environment. In the initial phase of an area development, we establish the ambition for the project with our partners and with NL Greenlabel using a pre-screening tool. The site label is applied when this only involves business plots, care complexes, parks or squares. In the design phase, an NL Greenlabel assessor tests whether the ambition is actually included in the final design. Finally, after delivery, this check is performed again, leading to a final score for the site.
NL Greenlabel's label methodology looks at seven main themes to determine how sustainable a development is. These themes are: Design, Realisation & Management, Products & Materialisation, Energy & Climate, Soil & Water, Biodiversity, People & Environment and Assurance. A project can score points on three components for each theme, which Heijmans has to demonstrate. Adding up all these points results in a score between G and A, with Heijmans always aiming for a score of A or B for the public areas.
The Maanwijk project in Leusden was the first to achieve this score. In this special district where space, nature, technology, mobility and people all come together, all 120 homes were completed in 2022. The Vijfsluizen area development in Vlaardingen also achieved this score.
Reducing impact on the local environment
By building on an industrial scale, we reduce the impact of the building site on nature. While we used to have to completely clear areas in preparation for construction, we can now take a different approach. And we devote a lot more attention to the preservation and enrichment of the existing nature. As more houses are produced off-site in the factory, we need less equipment and fewer construction movements on the building site itself. When building timber-frame houses, we can also use electric cranes due to the major weight savings. In addition, we ensure that any land with completed houses is ready for gardening. Residents of the timber-frame Horizon houses will even be able to choose from five themed gardens with a Garden Label A, one of the NL Greenlabel labels. So when a project is completed, the neighbourhood is already green and pleasant to live in.
At Infra, too, we are seeing clients paying increasing attention to climate adaptation and nature inclusiveness. However, the level of priority and attention given to these issues varies widely, as does the degree to which clients have clearly defined their ambitions and the extent to which they are able to translate these ambitions into infrastructure projects for the relevant local authority or province. This results in a range of issues related to climate-adaptive solutions, sustainable implementation and alternatives, and solutions targeting the challenge of the energy transition. Our knowledge and experience have contributed to the successful acquisition and realisation of some amazing projects. From the redevelopment of residential areas to making business parks more sustainable.
Green-blue business parks
Heijmans has developed an integrated approach to making business parks more sustainable. Together with all the stakeholders involved, we are working towards green, climate-proof and energy-efficient business parks, where employees can enjoy working in a healthy environment. More space for nature (green) in combination with a more robust water system (blue) results in less nuisance and damage due to the impact of the changing climate, such as flooding and heat stress. This results in both cost savings and a healthier business climate. At the same time, we can realise a smarter energy supply by linking local generation, use and storage of green energy. Furthermore, a healthy working environment strengthens the bond between employees and companies, and should contribute to lower absenteeism due to illness and higher productivity at Heijmans.
The National Growth Fund awarded a grant of € 26 million to the ‘Work Landscapes of the Future’ programme. Heijmans is one of the thirty parties in the broad coalition behind this programme. This includes a major research programme with four ‘living labs’ as testing grounds and ten ambassador sites. Over the next nine years, six provinces will become partners in this programme to accelerate the greening and sustainability of business parks.
Heijmans and DuraVermeer teamed up to develop the ‘Nature Ladder’: a tool that makes it easier for our peers in the infrastructure sector to ensure greater biodiversity in their projects. All the green spaces next to our railways, waterways and motorways make up the largest nature area in the Netherlands. This is largely managed by construction firms. From this point of view, the infrastructure sector as a whole plays a major role in countering the biodiversity crisis and in making the Netherlands climate resilient. The Nature Ladder makes it possible to take concrete action to realise targets for nature-inclusive and climate-conscious construction. This helps to keep green-blue ambitions front of mind throughout the entire process, from design to realisation. Every construction company can use the Nature Ladder to see on which step a project currently stands and how they can take it one step higher.
To measure is to know
Our ambition is to leave an area better than we found it. To find out whether we have succeeded in this, we take all kinds of measurements in the various phases of an area development. A zero measurement beforehand and measurements in the design and realisation phases and, finally, in the use phase. To this end, we cooperate with various parties, such as Naturalis, the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) and Wageningen University. Because we take measurements, monitor and collect data, we stay involved in projects for longer, even after completion. This applies to Property Development, Building & Technology and Infra. This gives us an opportunity to monitor the effects of design choices made several years earlier. This gives us greater insight into opportunities to make things better, smarter and more sustainable.