Belgian company aims to build UK’s first triple-certified sustainable building

Belgian company aims to build UK’s first triple-certified sustainable building
'The Arc' is expected to be finished by late 2022/early 2021. Photo from Ghelamco development company.

Belgium international real estate and development company Ghelamco are aiming to build the UK’s first fully-electric building with three major green certifications.

Called ‘The Arc,’ the building is being constructed in London as a mixed-use of apartments and office spaces. Its triple certifications include BREEAM, WELL Gold and DGNB, and when finished in late 2022 it will be 30% more efficient than regulations require.

“BREEAM is very much about energy efficiency, while WELL is more about mental wellbeing, which is difficult to quantify – we’re measuring happiness,” Marie-Julie Gheysens, Head of UK, International Business Development at Ghelamco, told The Brussels Times.

A WELL certification officially recognises buildings which positively impact the health, engagement and productivity of all who live and work there.

“DGNB is one of the most advanced. I find the UK is a little bit behind on this sort of sustainability and this is a chance to set an example. But the three of them together is what really sets this building apart.”

A family-owned company

Founded in 1985, Ghelamco is owned and managed by the Gheysens family, originally from West Flanders, with a focus on sustainable building.

Earlier this year they announced the sale of The Warsaw HUB complex to Google Poland, which was the largest single transaction in the office market in Central and Eastern Europe.

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With holdings mainly in Belgium and Poland, The Arc is their first UK project. Father Paul Gheysens and daughter Marie-Julie presented the initiative to Princess Astrid of Belgium and a delegation of federal ministers during the Belgian economic mission to the UK on Monday.

“Creating a mixed-use community that serves all needs, from living to working to breathing, calls for all boxes to be checked,” said Marie-Julie Gheysens. “And technology nowadays gives us the opportunity to create accountability to that purpose, from using sustainable building materials to utilising green energy.”

Sustainable building is more than ‘a lifestyle trend’

A report on sustainability in construction called ‘Sustainability Futures,’ commissioned by Ghelamco, spoke highly of the Belgian development company and its efforts to create eco-friendly buildings.

“Building and construction are responsible for 39% of all carbon emissions in the world and it is vital for developers to look inwards and assess the environmental considerations across every aspect of their business,” said Chris Sanderson, Co-founder of The Future Laboratory.

Noted in the report was that Ghelamco doesn’t plan to sell the building – they’ll remain managers, which means their sustainability plans are long-term.

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“This isn't a lifestyle trend, this is a shift in the way that we think about the future of our planet,” Anderson said, referring to the rise of sustainable building in countries around the world, from Ecuador to Belgium. “We’re facing a ‘code red’ with humanity.”

With the WELL certification in particular, Ghelamco’s ‘The Arc’ hopes to achieve more than just the standard green goals of today’s building companies, at a time when Sanderson points out “words like sustainability are often co-opted, abused or misused.”

“Teamwork, the spreading of ideas… that can be a beacon for innovation. We invest a lot into technologies for our projects up front in order to create spaces that facilitate community,” said Marie-Julie Gheysens.

“We do a lot by intuition, by feeling, at the end of the day. Because we’re a family company, those values are entrenched in everything we do.”

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