BREEAM-NL building certification helps Utrecht University build a sustainable real estate portfolio

Eleven Utrecht University buildings at Utrecht Science Park have been evaluated for their sustainable performance in nine sustainability categories, and have been certified in accordance with the BREEAM-NL In-Use method. This method considers the characteristics of the building itself, its management and the use of the building. Fiona van ’t Hullenaar, Director of Real Estate & Campus. Eddie Verzendaal, Director of the Facilities Service Centre and Laurens de Lange, BREEAM projectmanager, received the BREEAM-NL In-Use certificate from BREEAM-NL assessor Daniël van der Flier (Sustainability Certification).

BREEAM-NL In-Use is the comprehensive certification method for making existing utility buildings more sustainable. The certification provides insight into each building’s sustainability characteristics, where it currently performs well, and where there is still room for improvement.

We take the sustainability of our real estate seriously

Fiona van ‘t Hullenaar: “It is vital for us to pay attention to this certification, because we’ve taken some excellent steps towards improved sustainability over the past few years. Things like connecting the buildings to a thermal energy storage ring system. That allows us to efficiently heat and cool several buildings simultaneously, while significantly reducing our CO2 emissions. The BREEAM certification reflects the impact of the sustainability measures we’ve taken so far.” Utrecht University is the first university in the Netherlands to choose for a so-called ‘portfolio approach’, in which several buildings are assessed at the same time. This quickly gives the university a clear idea of where it can have an even greater impact. “The fact that we’ve chosen to certify 11 buildings shows how seriously we are about making our real estate more sustainable. We’re going to do whatever it takes to make it happen.”

Accelerating our efforts

The university still faces some major challenges in the area of making our existing real estate more sustainable, however. 42% of the university’s CO2 emissions are caused by its built environment. Eddie Verzendaal, Director of the Facilities Service Centre: “BREEAM-NL shows that we’re on the right track, and that we’ve made great strides so far. From separating waste into residual flows, electric mobility and serving less meat in our catering offerings. But it also shows where there’s still room for improvement. To achieve our sustainability ambition of being entirely CO2-neutral by 2030, we’ll have to accelerate our efforts in implementing sustainable measures.”

Groepsfoto met onder meer Fiona van ’t Hullenaar, Eddie Verzendaal, Laurens de Lange en Daniël van der Flier met BREEAM-certificaat voor het Koningsbergergebouw

Every building and maintenance project presents opportunities to be more sustainable

The BREEAM project team that identified the 11 buildings’ sustainability aspects together with the BREEAM-NL assessor in 2020 will now join with all of the stakeholders to introduce improvements in the existing work processes. Project Leader Laurens de Lange: “For example, we’ll use more circular and bio-based materials, and we’ll conduct thermographic surveys to improve the weak points in the facade insulation.” According to Laurens de Lange, every building and maintenance project presents opportunities to be more sustainable. “But the goal isn’t to earn the highest possible BREEAM score for each building. We’ll appraise each of the areas of improvement and consider the feasibility aspects. The main question is always: does it actually contribute to making the building more sustainable and Utrecht Science Park more future-proof?”

Re-assessment in three years

In three years, Utrecht University will once again assess the buildings and have them certified using the BREEAM-NL In-Use method to determine how much more sustainable it has made its existing real estate. In the meantime, the BREEAM project team will focus on certifying five other buildings at Utrecht Science Park. Laurens de Lange: “That will bring the total to 16 buildings, with 228,121 m2 gross floor space. We will also work on a sustainability strategy to make our buildings in Utrecht’s city centre more sustainable.”