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The edge of tomorrow

Deloitte Netherlands’ showplace hailed as the world's greenest office building

The Edge, Deloitte Netherlands’ Amsterdam location, is a model of sustainability. It’s also one of the smartest office buildings in existence, making it a popular place for professionals—and would-be employees.

The Edge is billed as the world’s most sustainable office building and has the certification to prove it. But, it’s more than that. The place is, well, fun. And interesting. And inviting. So much so that professionals are actually applying for employment with Deloitte Netherlands because they want to work in the building.

That it has become a recruiting tool is a satisfying side effect of a project designed to both redefine efficiency and change the way people work. “We wanted to ensure that our building not only had the right sustainability credentials, but was also a real innovative and inspiring place for our employees,” says Deloitte Netherlands CEO Peter Bommel. “The opportunity to collaborate with a host of experts ensured that the finished building was sensitive to its surroundings and created a technologically productive and happy working environment.”

The decision to erect public buildings is not considered casually in the Netherlands. “In Holland, there is a lot of empty office space,” explains Tim Sluiter, property manager, Information Technology (IT) & Workplace Services, Deloitte Netherlands. “But, old buildings are less energy efficient and the physical space usually doesn’t fit the office design of the future. We wanted to demonstrate a new building would be a model of sustainability.”

Deloitte Netherlands approached OVG Real Estate, a Dutch commercial real estate developer and investor, to make its vision a reality. “In our experience, Deloitte Netherlands strives for the best and the building we developed for them reflects this,” says Coen van Oostrom, OVG’s founder and CEO. “We brought together a team of experts and challenged them to identify innovations to make The Edge one of the most efficient commercial properties in the world.”

The benchmark for efficiency

The Edge produces more electricity than it consumes, an achievement made possible by an array of solar panels—some of which are placed on neighboring buildings—and below-ground thermal energy storage. Its Ethernet-powered LED lighting system is 80 percent more efficient than conventional illumination. Rainwater is collected from the roof and balconies and used to flush the building’s toilets and water its gardens. Even the contours of the structure and its orientation to the sun play a role in its resourcefulness.

Upon its completion in late 2014, The Edge was awarded the highest BREEAM accreditation score ever for an office building—98.36 percent—by the Building Research Establishment (BRE), the global assessor of sustainable buildings.

The innovative, connected lighting panels do more than sip minute amounts of voltage; they contain about 28,000 sensors that detect motion, light, temperature, humidity, and even carbon dioxide levels. It’s these sensors, providing real-time data, which make The Edge possibly the smartest and most occupant-friendly office space in use today.

The sensors allow facility managers to assess how and when certain parts of the building are being used. “In our building, IT and facilities management are a combined function,” Sluiter explains. In the short term, collected information can be used to determine where cleaning is and is not necessary on a given evening. Long term, emerging patterns showing light use of certain locales on certain days can lead to rooms or even entire floors being closed off to save energy.

Connected and customized

Sensors also make The Edge an interesting and enjoyable place to work. For example, software updates to a smartphone app, developed by Deloitte Netherlands, will soon make it possible for coffee machines to recognize individuals when they approach and dispense the blends and add-ins they desire.

The app already assigns daily workspaces that best fit users’ preferences, and allows them to control the brightness of the lighting above their work surfaces and adjust the climate of their particular areas. It can direct people throughout the building, reading a meeting location from one’s online calendar, for example, and suggesting the route to get there. Employees can even use the app to track their progress in the on-site gym—where some of the fitness equipment actually feeds generated wattage into the building’s power grid.

The building is close to public transportation, a high-speed rail link, and a cycle route network. More than 500 bicycle parking spaces encourage tenants to pedal their way to work. Those who must drive arrive at a high-tech garage that identifies their vehicles, points them to available parking spots, and uses sensor-equipped LED lights that brighten and dim as drivers arrive and leave.

Sluiter stresses that personal data cannot be accessed by managers or anyone else. Privacy laws ensure nobody can track a person’s whereabouts, monitor how many meetings they’ve missed, or see what times they’re using the garage. “This building offers the technology to do certain things that would make tenants’ lives even easier, and most of them would gladly accept the functionality,” he says. “But, at the same time, it’s extremely important to protect people’s privacy and conform to the law.”

Those minimal barriers certainly aren’t hindering The Edge’s reputation. “Our aim was to make The Edge the best place to work,” says Erik Ubels, director of IT & Workplace Services, Deloitte Netherlands. “Our meeting areas are filling up because every client and employee wants to experience this building. It’s not too small yet, but the economy is growing and the building is getting crowded. It’s possible we made it too popular.”

Sustainability gains across the network

The Edge is unquestionably the “greenest” of the DTTL and Deloitte member firm offices around the world, but other Deloitte spaces have received either BREEAM or LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environment Design) certifications. The Deloitte University facility in the US is LEED certified, as is office space occupied by DTTL and the US member firm at 30 Rockefeller Center in New York. Many other member firm office spaces in the US and abroad, including Hong Kong, Istanbul, and Sao Paulo, are LEED certified. The Zurich office has earned a LEED Platinum award, and several Deloitte UK office spaces have received BREEAM certification.

Travel and the office needs of a global network of businesses are the primary drivers of Deloitte’s overall environmental impact. The environmental impacts of transportation, particularly air travel, are a complex challenge that will need to be met with global collaboration and welcomed dialogue. While Deloitte’s absolute greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions increased 2 percent from FY2014, Deloitte’s headcount also grew by 7 percent. Therefore, GHG emissions intensity per fulltime equivalent (metric tons CO2e/FTE) dropped by 6 percent. Similarly, GHG emissions intensity by revenue (kg CO2e/thousand US$ of revenue) decreased 1 percent from last year.

“Another one of our goals is to reduce the amount of virgin paper resources we consume,” says David Pearson, Deloitte Global Chief Sustainability Officer. “In FY2015, Deloitte did that by reducing the paper we used by 11 percent and by selecting more recycled-content paper, which increased the percentage of recycled-input materials used by more than 30 percent from FY2014.”

Over the last five years, Deloitte’s headcount has increased globally by 24 percent. During the same period, our environmental efficiency measures have improved as indicated by a 14 percent decrease in GHG emissions intensity per FTE, a 22 percent decrease in emissions per dollar of revenue, and a 25 percent decrease in overall paper usage. “We hope to build on this momentum,” Pearson says.

Take a look inside The Edge in this video produced by Bloomberg Business.

the edge of tomorrow
The Edge, Deloitte Netherland’s Amsterdam building, is rated as the most sustainable office building in the world.
the edge of tomorrow
Professionals working at The Edge can control the lighting and climate of their personal work areas using a smartphone app developed by Deloitte Netherlands.
the edge of tomorrow
The Edge’s majestic atrium not only offers plenty of places to meet, but it also provides natural ventilation, allowing stale air to rise and exit through the roof.

Photo credit: Ronald Tilleman

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