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How is The Edge responding to the challenges of sustainability as of 2018?

It took three and a half years to build The Edge, but the new star in the Zuidas galaxy was then awarded the highest BREEAM score ever. BREEAM is a widely recognized instrument used to determine the sustainability level of buildings. In recent years, the real estate industry has started thinking very differently about the sustainability of buildings. ‘When we started committing ourselves to sustainable construction in 2006, it was seen as a marketing hype,’ says Jan Hein Tiedema, Executive Managing Director of EDGE Technologies, OVG Real Estate’s new technology company that developed The Edge. ‘Now everyone’s doing it, so we’re just one of them.’ Ideas about what sustainability is, however, have also changed. Knowing what we know now, would The Edge have been built differently?

Jan Hein Tiedema

Energy positive

In 2015, The Edge was highly regarded particularly for its sustainable energy management – and not just because of its many solar panels. Its north-facing facade consists of glass to admit cool northern light, while its windowless south-facing facade keeps out the rays of the hot southern sun. ‘The biggest energy guzzler in today’s buildings is their air-conditioning systems,’ says Tiedema. With energy-efficient systems inside the building and heat and cold storage in the ground, this building generates even more energy than it uses: The Edge isn’t just energy neutral; it’s energy positive. Wouldn’t it have been a good idea to install batteries to store energy for times when the entire Zuidas is demanding power? ‘Maybe,’ says Tiedema. ‘We’re now feeding energy back to the net. The building we just completed  across from The Edge – EDGE Olympic – does have a battery. Back in 2015, however, this wasn’t really an issue for us yet.’

Smart sensors save energy

Tiedema really beams when he talks about all the sensors in the building: 30,000 to be precise. They detect occupancy, air flow, climate factors and light levels and send this data to a single computer that then determines the need for any changes to help save on energy consumption. They also help to maintain devices. If something is damaged, the computer will notice this before anyone realizes it. It even keeps an eye on the coffee dispensers. ‘It reminds the facility team to add the milk to the dispensers because we know that 11.00 and 12.00 are the peak times for ordering coffee,’ says Tiedema. ‘And because one dispenser is used more often than another, we switch them around. This way, all of them will have made 20,000 cups by the same day so the supplier will only have to make a single maintenance visit.’

Materials passport

This is called smart data, but things are even smarter today. A good example is a ‘materials passport’ that records the kinds of materials that go into constructing a building. This is quickly making its way into the construction industry due to the new trend of recycling materials. Tiedema: ‘The advantage of such a passport is that you’ll know thirty years later exactly what the building was made of when it’s due for demolition or renovation. You won’t have to rely on assumptions like we now do with asbestos, for example.’ The Edge doesn’t have a materials passport yet, but EDGE Technologies is now engaged in this process. Although certain materials used in building The Edge could be called recyclable, the way OVG Real Estate is now building a completely demountable wooden penthouse on the roof of the new corporate office building for Triodos in Zeist or is recycling concrete for ING was unheard of when The Edge was built. Even so, the use of material was reduced, although this happened more or less by accident. OVG introduced a new LED lighting system developed by Philips that would allow a user to adjust the light level in any room with a smartphone. The LED lamps are connected to a power source by means of computer cables similar to the ones used to charge your mobile phone. ‘These contain less copper than standard power cables. They can also communicate both ways, so this reduces cabling.’

The Edge Building on Gustav Mahlerlaan

Consider innovations early on

What Tiedema would especially like to do differently if he could rebuild The Edge today would be to consider innovations during the early design stages. The plans for the Philips lighting system, for example, weren’t completed until The Edge was being built. It took a lot of effort to introduce these changes later. ‘It was like trying to load baggage onto a train that had already left the station,’ says Tiedema. But it’s always easy to see things in hindsight. ‘At that time, Philips didn’t even have those lights on the market.’

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