Let me tell you about my own energy transition. We have a house that was built in 1900. It had small windows and we wanted more daylight. The façade needed to be renovated which created a good opportunity to make the house more sustainable and meant the timing was right for my transition. 

Using a combination of heat pumps, photovoltaic cells, and lots of insulation, I have cut my energy bills at home to € 35 per month (an energy reduction of 85% with a payback of 10-15 years at 2019 prices). Bearing in mind that gas extraction cannot continue forever, I am also now 100% electric! 

I provide this example for three reasons: 

  1. First, just like Royal HaskoningDHV, I believe that we need to lead by example when we encourage organisations to embrace the energy transition. 
  2. Second, it supports my opinion that up to 95% of what is needed for a successful energy transition is here already.
  3. The third reason links to the reaction from my heat pump installer. I didn’t want to interfere with the original flooring of the house, so I planned to put the heating pipes in the walls instead. My installer was reluctant to do so, having never done this before. However, if we’re going to change the world, we need to do things we haven’t done before – just like my heat pump mechanic successfully did. 

If we always do the same things, we’ll continue to get the same result and we know that is no longer sustainable.

If we’re going to change the world, we need to do things in a new way 

There is no dispute that we have most of what we need to make the transition. At the same time, we need to do things we haven’t done before. We can achieve great things by looking at things differently. 

For example, in my work I take practices adopted in the car industry or within tunnels and infrastructure and apply them in buildings. The solutions are tried and tested but applied in a new context. Digital technologies too are bringing interesting new opportunities, as I will explain later.

Now let’s turn to your energy transition. We know the climate is changing, energy prices are running sky high and that if we want to live comfortably on earth, we need to prevent further change. That’s why governments across the world signed up to the Paris Climate Agreement and that is why we are all working towards a CO2-neutral economy by 2050. 

It’s a big undertaking and we plan to achieve it in less than 30 years. That means we need to take significant steps now. Where do you start?
 

Don’t just look at efficiency, consider circularity

To make buildings more sustainable, heat pumps, insulation and energy efficiency are all smart solutions that will reduce energy consumption and your CO2 footprint. However, we can and we must do more, which is why I also advocate circularity. 

The opportunities that circularity brings are great but often missed. In the Netherlands, the government wants all building materials to be reusable by 2050. Furthermore, by refurbishing an old building or combining materials from such buildings, you make the construction process and the result circular. 

Our new Royal HaskoningDHV office, De Stek, in Groningen serves as a good example. It had been a vocational school with energy label G. After refurbishment for its new life as an office, De Stek was awarded energy label A++++ and exceeds the required energy efficiency benchmark for Paris Proof. 

Think strategically

Approaching the energy transition demands long-term thinking to align plans with your strategic perspective. For example, if space for your hospital, offices or production facilities is expected to decrease over time, you will not need to retrofit your entire portfolio. However, you do need to ensure any new construction or refurbishments are as sustainable and long-lasting as possible. Include solar panels, add insulation - do everything you can to make a leap forward.

The roadmap

Now you are ready to make a plan. When you do so, you will face various choices and will have to combine long-term thinking up to 2050 with the need for effective action now. Start by answering the following questions:

  1. What must and can we do differently?
  2. What or who do we want to bring with us (pairing opportunities)?
  3. What are the costs?
  4. When is the best time to implement which sustainability measures?

I mentioned earlier how digital innovations are making a difference. Royal HaskoningDHV has a useful tool enabling you to see which measures are realistic, cost effective and future proof across your entire building portfolio. 

The tool is called Fastlane. With insights into the short and long-term effects of sustainability measures of each building in your portfolio, you can create a roadmap to follow from milestone to milestone. This can be supplemented on-the-go with more detailed plans and further insights and developments. 

You can read how FastLane was used by Amsterdam university here. For industrial and building clients, our teams apply FAST (Flexible, Appropriate, Structured, Transparent) models which give technical and economic insights on different technologies matching your energy demand profile. Based on future pricing curves and sensitivity analyses, they enable you to make the right choice of technology and infrastructure at the right time for you. 

Take control with the support of our digital tools and new technologies 

There are other ways in which digital tools are supporting companies in the energy transition. For example, a digital model which simulates the energy consumption of an existing building can predict the impact of replacing existing building services with more energy efficient ones. 

At Maastricht Hospital in the Netherlands, we calculated that a heat pump providing heat and cold at the required levels would save 1.5 million cubic metres of natural gas every year. Such a heat pump running 8,000 hours a year did not exist at the time, but we found a company which was ready to build one. And sure enough, the hospital has achieved this astonishing saving in natural gas every year. 

Another solution we helped develop combines technical, financial and contractual aspects to integrate heat recovery into what is the largest shared data centre in Finland. The result benefits all stakeholders and delivers residual heat to the residents of Helsinki. 

I’ve described just a few of the ways in which a combination of software tooling, know-how and the ability to think differently is enabling our clients to introduce solutions they never imagined would be possible. If you’d like to find out more – or want more guidance on how you can take these steps yourself - download our recent white paper on how to embrace sustainability or get in touch.

Lead with sustainability to benefit your people, your organisation and our planet.  

Kickstart your sustainability journey | Royal HaskoningDHV    Kickstart your sustainability journey | Royal HaskoningDHV

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