Sustainability: not a roadblock for companies, but an engine for sustainable growth
Encon was founded 18 years ago as an engineering consultancy to support companies in implementing sustainable solutions in the field of clean energy, mobility and circular economy. They examine at a company’s enquiry down to the last detail, which often allows them to propose creative combinations of sustainable solutions. We spoke with CEO Robin Bruninx about the pioneering role his company wants to play in the sustainability transition.
Since April 2019, Encon has been operating in the Encon Infinity building in Bilzen. “It is a laboratory where we experiment with all possible innovations in the field of sustainability,” explains CEO Robin Bruninx. “This way, we continuously learn in practice and become experience experts in the methods and techniques used.” Encon also believes very strongly in the ‘lead by example’ principle.
Belgium’s largest private charging station park
Infinity is first and foremost committed to the highest energy efficiency: in the office they use the latest techniques in the field of energy saving. For example, the air conditioning system is designed to aim for high annual thermal efficiency for heating and cooling through a BEO (borehole energy storage) field with heat pumps. With twelve charging stations with a total capacity of 300 kW, the Infinity building also has one of the largest private charging station parks in Belgium. As a result, Encon now only orders electric cars.
4,622 MWh of electricity
Infinity also generates energy: the wind turbine and the three solar trackers together produce 4,622 MWh of electricity. The sustainability is also certified with the highest degree of sustainability (score Outstanding) by BREEAM and LEED (score Gold).
Infinity is not only built to last, it is also designed to be a pleasant environment for the people who work in it. The Human Centric Lighting system tracks human biorhythms to provide the ideal light colour for every moment of the day. From each office there is an unobstructed view of the greenery outside and the offices are acoustically optimised so that employees can concentrate. In addition, the office building has a well-appointed gym with sports classes for employees, as well as a bread roll and ironing service.
In this way, Infinity is not only literally a place where people work every day for a better world, it is also a source of inspiration with an educational function.
Large but sustainable investment
A project of this scale naturally requires a considerable investment: 5.2 million euros to be precise. The bank demanded that Encon itself coughed up 1.2 million euros of the investment. As Robin explains, “By attaching a rating to the sustainability of the building and demonstrating that the market lead was worth 20 per cent more than the construction costs, we were still able to convince the bank to proceed with full financing.”
Certified with the highest degree of sustainability by BREEAM
Sustainability certification is an independent and externally coordinated assessment system that makes the sustainability of buildings visible. Based on various parameters, buildings are assessed and this assessment is translated into a certificate. Such a certificate gives the owner of the building the guarantee that the building has been built on the basis of the most recent sustainable innovations. It can therefore be an important asset when marketing real estate. For example, BREEAM is one of the most widely used and largest sustainability programmes in the world. Buildings are rated based on a list of 90 parameters within 9 categories.
“Encon is an accredited sustainability expert and assessor,” explains Robin. “In addition to project management, we can also self-assess buildings for the most common schemes. We additionally provide guidance in obtaining the certificate and also support the execution of various sub-studies for the certification.”
In coronavirus times
For Encon it is clear: investing in sustainability is the solution to many problems facing our society and business world.
In future, the company wants to go even further than the vertical integration of sustainability projects in organisations. It wants to focus on coaching businesses in setting up a sustainability strategy and integrating that strategy in the brand or business strategy, so that sustainability is no longer a separate entity, but very much engrained within the entire organisation.
The motor for sustainable growth
“For us, the European Green Deal is a positive confirmation of the trail we have been blazing for over 18 years”, states Robin. “So we are very encouraged that the business community responded to the EU Green Deal by proactively asking for even more far-reaching measures. It means that more and more business leaders are convinced of our vision: sustainability is not a stumbling block for companies, but the engine for sustainable growth.”
Growth in prosperity and well-being
“We can’t stop at energy conservation or the move to more sustainable technological solutions – that’s just one part within the transition from shareholder capitalism to a new economic model. In a stakeholder capitalism, there is room for growth: in prosperity, but also in well-being. It is a long-term vision in which growth is based on a company’s impact on all the different aspects of its environment”, concludes Robin.