Exclusive: Belgium's first CO2-neutral business site
ION, weather forecaster Jill Peeters and minister Bart Tommelein call for as many projects as possible to be built in a climate-neutral manner
Building a large industrial site of 11,597 m2 without an impact on the climate? It seems impossible, but it's exactly what happened at Waregem Business Park, the first business site in Belgium built in a CO2-neutral manner. This was made possible thanks to, among other things, carefully chosen materials and well-thought-out methods to reduce energy consumption. Even the exhaust fumes from the trucks entering and leaving the site were offset by investing in a special climate project in Uganda. In total, no less than 16,579 tonnes of CO2 were neutralised thanks to the efforts of project developer ION, which is calling for more projects in our country to be built in this way. If we manage to achieve this, we will be able to reduce CO2 emissions by approximately 13 million tonnes annually, which is an enormous achievement. Weather forecaster and climate expert Jill Peeters and Flemish Minister of Energy Bart Tommelein support this call and see the Waregem site as a model project.
A 35% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2030: that is the target for Belgium set by Europe. An impressive challenge in which everyone has to do their bit, not least the business sector. In recent months, the real estate sector has already made a good start with the launch of the first fully climate-neutral business site in our country, Waregem Business Park, which spans an area of nearly 11,600 m2, or almost two football pitches.
The unique project is a collaboration between project developer ION and CO2Logic, which specialises in calculating, reducing and offsetting CO2 emissions. To start with, this team calculated in detail how much carbon dioxide would be emitted in total for the construction of the business park. That turned out to be exactly 16,579 tonnes, comparable to the annual emissions of 1,550 Belgian households, or more than 99 million kilometres driven by car. They then worked out how they could avoid greenhouse gas emissions on the one hand and offset them efficiently on the other.
In the end, local contractors and suppliers were asked to contribute, which led to a significant reduction in truck emissions, and ION kept a close eye on the energy consumption during the construction works. In addition, the project developer made use of numerous climate-friendly construction techniques. Examples include geothermal energy, climate ceilings, green roofs, rainwater recovery, high-quality solar-control glass and LED lighting.
"We launched this project with full conviction. To us, climate-neutral construction is a social obligation. It is the ultimate way in which we can effectively contribute in practice to the climate challenges that await us all. As a company, we really want to set an example for the entire sector."
Davy Demuynck, Managing Partner of ION
What makes the initiative even more remarkable is that it also tackled emissions that could not be reduced through climate-friendly building materials or other sustainable techniques. These ‘unavoidable’ emissions were offset through financial support for certified climate projects in Africa, which help the local population reduce their CO2 emissions. ION supported the 'Saving Trees' project in Uganda, which distributes more efficient small ovens to the local population.
"Today, no less than 3 billion people still cook on an open fire. In Uganda 93% of the population burns wood or charcoal every day to cook. Large quantities of CO2 are pumped into the air and large areas of forest are disappearing. Through the 'Saving Trees' project we have found a solution that both protects forests and improves the quality of life of the local population. These are efficient ovens, which require half the wood or charcoal a family generally uses, and emit an average of 2 tonnes less CO2 per year per family".
Antoine Geerinckx, Managing Director of CO2Logic
Calling on the industry
The project in Waregem is the first to have been built completely CO2-neutral, but ION wants to take its efforts one step further. Together with climate expert and weather forecaster Jill Peeters, the company is calling for as many construction projects as possible to be built in a CO2-neutral manner. If every real-estate project in our country were to be built in this way, this would result in savings of +/- 13 million tonnes of CO2 emissions per year.
"Today, seven out of ten Belgian companies still don't know how the extent of their impact on our climate, let alone that they want to or can do anything about it. We can and must do better. The project in Waregem shows that it is possible to tackle climate change, and that it also benefits you as an entrepreneur. We have the knowledge about sustainable entrepreneurship that we need; now we only need to have the brains and the energy to get started.”
Jill Peeters, weather forecaster and founder of Climate without Borders
Flemish Minister of Energy Bart Tommelein also supports the proposal and emphasises that climate-neutral construction can take our country a long way in the fight against global warming.
"Actually, all companies should build like this. Some companies need a push. Others, like ION, do it spontaneously. I can only applaud that. If all companies assumed their responsibility, we'd be a big step closer to meeting the climate targets.”
Bart Tommelein, Flemish Minister of Energy
ION just received the CO2 Neutral® label for the construction of the new company site in Waregem. This label was developed by CO2logic, in collaboration with the independent international certification body Vinçotte, based on internationally recognised standards.