Building greener takes centre stage at Mipim

Tim Harrup

One of the presentations on the Brussels stand at Mipim on the opening day was on the very contemporary subject of ecological building. Entitled ‘Brussels Builds Greener’ it involved a short outline of certain project by their creators. During the introduction, it was stated that Brussels should be proud to showcase its creativity, and that in terms of sustainability in the real estate sector, it can even claim to be not just a European leader, but a world leader.

First to speak was the Archi 2000 architectural bureau via its CEO Jérôme Verdussen. He began by saying that sustainability for an architect has many facets, but that it is above all a conviction. He pointed out in particular one of his bureau’s realizations, Monteco. On the Rue Montoyer in the European district of Brussels, Monteco, is designed to be a project that will differentiate itself through smart technology in combination with a timber frame construction. It is indeed the first wooden structure building in Brussels and has set out to demonstrate this by making wood as visible as possible. During the construction phase too, great attention is paid to the truck delivery schedules and to the production of dust, in order not to disturb the local population more than is necessary (the ‘social’ aspect of sustainability).

Jérôme Verdussen went on to say that his firm has learned a lot about constructing in wood during its first forays into the domain, including the difficulties it brings. But he is convinced that this type of building has a bright future.

Following, AG Real Estate and Atenor outlined their project in the North District. Stéphan Sonneville expressed the view that sustainability is a way of approaching a project, ensuring that it is resilient in all the aspects of ESG (Environment, Social and Governance). He also said, when asked whether the impact of the demolition of a building should be taken into account in the carbon footprint of the replacement building, that this was a matter not of demolition, but of deconstruction and re-use of as many of the existing materials as possible.

The North District, they went on to point out, has to include economic activity and housing if it is to be part of the overall plan of the Brussels Region. And the project o redevelop the CCN (North Station buildings) was elaborated after discussions with the regional authorities. The result will be a mixed project with a certain percentage of housing. And the North District as a whole is at a major crossroads of communication. It needs to enable its various component parts to be allied, to allow for mixed use and above all to be flexible.

Another prestigious speaker was Johnny Eyers of Jaspers-Eyers architects. He concentrated on ZIN, also in the North District. This redevelopment of the former World Trade Center has very high recycling objectives too. In this case, when materials from the former building cannot be re-used for the transformation, they will be re-used in other places. And some 30% of the concrete from the WTC is being re-used. Re-use even extends to the radiator covers, which have found their place in ZIN. Also on the subject of ZIN, but during a later presentation, it was pointed out that the alternating of floors of offices and residential (apartments or hotel rooms) not only allowed certain stairwells not to be demolished, but also created a type of social mix.

There was a downside to the desire to renovate as much as possible, it was stated, however. Upcoming new construction standards in the Brussels Capital Region could put a brake on this. As an example, new ceiling height norms and acoustic insulation requirements, would make some buildings impossible to re-use. The Region is urged to take this aspect into account when legislating.