Heembouw sets the standard with nature-inclusive distribution center

Imagine any distribution center. You probably think of a gray colossus where trucks drive up and down and goods are received and issued. Here and there you will find some lonely plants, otherwise nature has left the area. Most of us therefore consider that these places need more flora and fauna for the well-being of people and animals. With Virgo’s nature-inclusive distribution center in Aalsmeer, Heembouw proves that this philosophy is not a utopia: more biodiversity, more value.

Jomfruen is one of the first nature-inclusive distribution centers in the Netherlands, which means that the wheel was invented by Heembouw: there is little experience or comparative material that has been shared about the greening of this property type. We hear from then project manager Gerben Boonen and architect Diederik de Jonge (Heembouw) how the company took uncharted paths and took up the gauntlet for the design and construction of the special building, which has since been completed.

Necessary change

The 23,000 square meter green building on N201, developed by Stellar Development BV, is one of the few nature-inclusive logistics centers in the Netherlands, according to Boonen: “Currently, we still see that many distribution centers are often built as square boxes. At the same time, we know that biodiversity is declining and that there are already places where nature has been damaged to such an extent that flora and fauna will not return. That must change, of course, and with Jomfruen we show that the value of nature-inclusive construction and biodiversity is diverse.”

For example, nature-inclusive construction has a positive effect on people’s well-being and contributes to increasing biodiversity and the ability to adapt to the climate. This means an inspiring and pleasant environment for the tenant to work in and a future-proof and stable construction for the building owner.
De Jonge: “People who work in such a building are just as happy about a roof terrace and orchard as they are about nature. Above all, we note that nature-inclusive construction provides a positive answer for the tenant to the question ‘Which nitrogen does the environment supply and what can such a distribution center mean for the environment?’ Companies identify with a nature-inclusive plan and want to be part of it. It is our flywheel and it confirms that we have to move forward with this. We want to create places where people want to be and are convinced that nature-inclusive design and construction make an important contribution to this. Therefore, this theme is embedded in our strategic plan.”

Design differently

Nature-inclusive design and construction requires a different way of designing. Usually, nature and green spaces are the last factor in many developments, De Jonge knows from experience: “We took a different approach to the Virgin and were the first to focus on these elements. The starting point was to first create a design for the landscape of which the building must be a part.

That’s why we sat down at an early stage with a landscape architect, Joost Emmerik, to let him think along the basic study. It is immediately a different approach because it usually happens late in the process, for example because it is necessary because of the BREEAM score. A landscape architect looks at the landscape and the terrain to be designed differently, so we were able to incorporate that into the design at an early stage.”

Increased biodiversity

In addition to the landscape, the building and the environment were also an important foundation for the design: “We investigated the characteristics of the environment and gained experience and knowledge of the native flora and fauna present,” continues De Jonge. “Our goal was to feed them and further increase biodiversity. One of the elements that ensures this is the facade. An eye-catcher, and not just because of the special copper colour. A variety of plants also provide a green skin and around the building are all kinds of fruit trees that serve as a food source. Nest boxes have also been added, each with unique features to meet the needs of the different animal species. They are not glued to the facade as separate elements, but are integrated. Then there is the roof garden with more than 1,900 square meters of greenery. All these properties together ensure that the center contributes positively to biodiversity.”

Heembouw sets the standard with nature-inclusive distribution center

The maiden has a first time with the green roof garden of more than 1,900 square meters, which offers several advantages. This gives the birds a place and food, and it is possible for the employees to relax and enjoy the greenery during a break or during a meeting.

Experience, well-being and future value

This makes Jomfruen an asset for Green Park Aalsmeer, the business park where it is located. The development was developed at risk, adds Boonen: “With confidence that the distribution center would be rented out in a short time. In the investor and investment world, we see that sustainability, circularity and nature inclusiveness are becoming increasingly important, and you feel that this type of development appeals to the market. Investor Union Investment Real Estate GmbH saw this value and bought Virgo Aalsmeer.”

According to him, something needs to change before nature-inclusive developments like these become commonplace. “People’s mindset needs to change,” says Boonen. “It is an additional investment, but the development pays off in different ways. Not only in relation to climate adaptation and increased biodiversity, but also in relation to perception, well-being and future value. Experience and well-being are difficult to put a price on, but in general it can be said that employees who feel comfortable in the working environment and who can, for example, stand on a green roof terrace during their break, go to work with more pleasure. The same applies to meetings that you hold, for example, with customers and relationships in such an environment.”

With regard to future value, Boonen mentions water retention as part of climate adaptation: “We retain water on site, something that reflects current events. [droogte, red.] more attention, but not enough. It is still valued to a limited extent in, for example, BREEAM, but also by governments. It could be different.”

On to a sequel

Now that the construction is finished and now adorns the business park, Boonen and De Jonge look back on a successful development which they hope will have many successors. “This building facilitates the increase of biodiversity and nature inclusiveness,” concludes De Jonge. “Now is the time to scale up, and I feel that the market is waiting for tighter laws and regulations that apply to everyone. In order to further stimulate this kind of development, we must jointly set a bar for biodiversity and nature inclusivity.” Boonen agrees: “Rules surrounding this design force us to strive for a certain standard. At the moment, development is often still economically driven. That is why I am happy that this development shows that the commitment to nature-inclusive design and construction is paying off.”

Also discover the roof garden with the explanation of De Jonge in this video:

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