Belgian residential development site applies BREEAM Communities

Developers Ecowijk and Sogent have adopted BREEAM Communities as a framework for achieving the ambitious sustainability goals for the residential development Ecowijk Gantoise in Ghent, Belgium.

The site, which has had a rich history in sports for more than 150 years, was previously home to the football club of Ghent (KAA Gent) and still houses a hockey and tennis club La Gantoise. With the increasing popularity of the sports on site, the clubs chose to move to a more accessible site in Ghent where they could expand their activities leaving behind a well located site with great sustainable transport links to the city centre and the rest of Flanders and Belgium. The two clubs sold this 5ha site to the two developers Ecowijk and Sogent, who in turn agreed on an ambitious project brief for an eco-neighbourhood that they will develop together.

The partners both strive to create an eco-neighbourhood (a residential development built according to ecological principles); for which the principles are reflected in the BREEAM Communities methodology. Both developers wanted to create a different kind of residential development; one that will inspire the real estate community to adopt the ecological way of development and a neighbourhood that will set the bar within the local real estate market.

Defining the project brief was a first important step with the developers drawing inspiration from other eco-neighbourhoods in Europe and the renewed Global Goals of the United Nations. Ultimately the developers, together with the City of Ghent, agreed on several central ambitions:

  • A green and well-imbedded neighbourhood linked to the neighbouring community and relating to the rich sporting history of the site;
  • A neighbourhood envisioned for and by the local community through an extensive and interactive consultation process where all stakeholders can give ideas and concerns at an early stage;
  • A neighbourhood managed and operated by a new type of participative cooperation enhancing the economic potential of the eco-town and its site-wide renewable energy;
  • A neighbourhood that focuses on sustainable transport with good connections to public transport nodes, that promotes the use of bicycles, car sharing and that removes the personal car from the public area by solely providing underground parking;
  • A future proofed neighbourhood that provides facilities for children of all ages and with buildings adaptable for change in use;
  • An urban neighbourhood that combines a sustainable density with an ecologically valuable public area;
  • A sustainable neighbourhood that aims to be water and energy neutral with near energy neutrality as standard for each dwelling;

The project brief demonstrates commitment to some of the Global Goals of the United Nations, showing that even a 5ha site has the potential to contribute to worldwide sustainable development;

  • The development is ensuring access to affordable and sustainable energy through a new type of participative cooperation central to the development;
  • It is providing resilient infrastructure by investing in adaptable residential units and energy networks;
  • It is showcasing a path to inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable cities;
  • It is investing in inclusive societies through extensive participation through all stages of the development process;
  • It is enhancing future urban planning processes for sustainable development by working together intensively and partnering with local authorities and representatives.

Ecowijk and Sogent, the developers for the site, have adopted the BREEAM Communities framework, recognising that it will “…safeguard and enhance their sustainable and ecological ambitions through the different stages of development.”

The use of BREEAM Communities was announced by one of the developers saying:

“BREEAM Communities is put forward as a development tool, instead of an assessment tool, to master and manage the broad scale of topics related to sustainable development without limiting creativity.”

Ghent-based property consultant and BREEAM assessor Bopro said:

“Our clients integrated our assessment team and the BREEAM Communities methodology early on, recognising the potential of the scheme as a management tool to master the challenging ambitions. A special effort was made for the extensive consultation of all stakeholders, which in turn motivated the City of Ghent to recognise the project and its development process as an exemplary project for new residential developments.”

BREEAM Communities is a site-wide sustainability assessment method, providing a framework through which the economic, environmental and social sustainability of the plans for large scale developments can be improved, measured and certified. The framework looks at sustainability holistically, helping developers, local authorities and design teams to plan and build high quality communities that are vibrant, safe and environmentally friendly.

The BREEAM Communities framework will be applied to Ecowijk Gantoise using the BREEAM Communities International Bespoke process. This process involves adapting the assessment criteria to reflect the local context in which it is being applied and demonstrates the developers’ commitment to sustainability.

BREEAM assessor Bopro added:

“The BREEAM Communities scheme has shown to be a valuable tool in defining the project brief and will safeguard the set out ambitions by assessing the implementation through the different stages of the development.”

For more information on BREEAM Communities go to: www.breeam.com/masterplanning