ABN AMRO offices to be Paris-proof in ten years

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ABN AMRO has set itself the goal of meeting the objectives set out in the Paris climate accord by 2030 - twenty years earlier than the agreed target date. To be successful, the bank must half its energy consumption in just ten years' time. "The best thing about what we're doing is we're proving it can actually be done."

With its electricity usage totalling 34 million kWh and carbon emissions amounting to 15,400 tonnes a year, ABN AMRO has taken many steps in recent years to make its office space more sustainable. But in order to achieve the ambitious Paris-proof goal, the bank will have to go even further. One option is to piggyback on to scheduled maintenance and work, as we’ll be doing at the bank’s Gustav Mahlerlaan and Foppingadreef offices in Amsterdam. Both locations are set to undergo a major technological overhaul.

The road map to becoming Paris-proof

Dubbed the Technology Refresh Programme, the project already included plans to remove some 200,000 square metres of flooring, as well as much of the ceilings, in the next six years. “If you’re planning to renovate building services anyway, you might as well go ahead and combine that with your sustainability goals,” says Boudewijn van Putten, Data Centre & Technology Manager with ABN AMRO Facility Management. “That’s really how we keep things manageable.”

By piggybacking on to regularly scheduled maintenance, renovation and refurbishment projects, ABN AMRO aims to make all its office premises and its branch network Paris-proof in just ten years’ time. In a nutshell, this means that average energy consumption per square metre needs to be reduced to 50 kWh per square metre per year. For comparison’s sake, the energy used at the two Amsterdam locations in 2018 totalled 120 and 98 kWh per square metre per year respectively – well below the 150 kWh consumed by the average office building in the Netherlands. A road map is now being drawn up for each of the bank’s premises in order to make the transition. The Gustav Mahlerlaan and Foppingadreef buildings will need to be in compliance with the Paris Agreement by as early as 2025, thereby saving 11.9 million kWh (or 52 per cent) annually relative to 2018. 

With its Paris-proof objective, the bank aims to achieve substantial reductions throughout its branch network from 2020 to 2030, reducing its energy consumption from 34 million to 22 million kWh per year, its carbon emissions from 15,400 to 9,000 tonnes per year and its natural gas consumption from 1.1 million cubic metres to completely gas-free office space.

Reusing the ceilings

Contrary to popular belief, sustainability certainly doesn’t always mean investing in the most expensive cutting-edge technologies. At ABN AMRO’s head office in Amsterdam, for instance, 100,000 square metres of 20-year-old metal climate ceilings are being reused after a thorough clean and upgrade.

The project also involves an investment in LED lighting, the purchase of energy-efficient equipment, the installation of ventilation shafts and revolving doors, fitting external wall insulation and eliminating standby power consumption. It’s important to be realistic, though, says Christa Beaufort, Strategy, Innovation & Organisation Manager with ABN AMRO Facility Management. “Sometimes our options are limited, especially when we’re dealing with historic buildings. A consumption rate of 50 kWh per square metre just isn’t feasible everywhere. That said, we may actually be able to go further with new buildings. That’s why we always look at the big picture and base our calculations on averages.”

Learning and inspiring

Christa also manages the bank’s Lead by Example programme, which aims to make the bank’s business operations more sustainable and thus get staff, clients and business associates excited about sustainability. “The best thing about what we’re doing is we’re proving it can actually be done. And that it’s all based on a real business case,” says Christa. “So much is possible when you look further and seek solutions together. It’s my hope that we can inspire other stakeholders with our work.”

Based on reactions from contracting parties, Boudewijn says ABN AMRO’s aims are making a big impression. “We often have to explain things,” he says, “and that’s a good sign, since it means we think differently at ABN AMRO. Plus it’s fantastic when you actually succeed in bringing these plans to fruition with third parties. That’s how we all keep learning and inspiring one another.”

A complicated jigsaw

It’s precisely for this reason that ABN AMRO has implemented a right-to-copy policy, meaning that other stakeholders are free to adopt the bank’s ideas and innovations at no cost. “We want to share everything we discover with others,” says Christa. “After all, it’s not just ABN AMRO but the whole world that has to be Paris-proof.”

Boudewijn says he doesn’t think entrepreneurs should dread making the transition. “Obviously, sometimes it feels like you’re doing a complicated jigsaw. But if you piggyback on to your scheduled maintenance and renovation and include sustainability at those times, you’re usually looking at no more than an additional 10 to 15 per cent on top of the original investment. Plus with all the energy savings you make afterwards, you quickly recover those costs anyway. Even more importantly, though, your business is fit for the future.”

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