Luxembourg: Actor configurations in green building projects

May 27, 2015 Bérénice Preller

In Luxembourg, the GreenRegio team has explored specific green building projects focused on the identification of diversified and sometimes unexpected actor-constellations involved in their realisation. This focus directly relates back to outcomes of the local expert-workshop, held in Luxembourg on January 29, 2014, which highlighted the complexity of the actors involved in sustainable building.

Due to its relatively recent formation, the green building landscape in Luxembourg is not yet clearly institutionalised, and encompasses many different players from the public, private and non-governmental sector, seeking to establish the green building agenda. The local workshop participants felt this situation translates back into a complex and sometimes disjointed actor landscape, and a lack of communication about opportunities and achievements, which could prove harmful for citizens, economic actors and the achievement of sustainability policy objectives all together. Hence, initiatives like the recent creation of a national council for sustainable construction, similar in its position to a green building council, are intended to improve strategic integration within the field.

Within that context, the GreenRegio team has focused on retracing and understanding who has been involved and how in the realisation of three ‘lighthouse’ green building projects, as identified by the workshops participants in January 2014. The objective is to make sense of actor configurations in green building projects in Luxembourg, by detecting potential patterns but also local specificities.

One analysed case study is the Solarwind office building in Windhof, an industrial park close to the Belgian border, which was finalised in 2012. Learning processes were a key motivation for its investors, from which two, a developer and an engineering company, are strongly involved within the construction sector. In addition to the use of different energy saving/producing technologies intended to provide CO2-neutrality and a constant monitoring of the buildings energetic needs once in use, the project also offered opportunities to test compatibility between three different international certification schemes (French HQE, German DGNB and British BREEAM), as it is triple certified. It further investigated the feasibility of circular economy concepts, through applying a cradle-to-cradle approach, in particular with regards to furniture. The project triggered further collaboration on sustainability related topics, notably resource management and consumption, with neighbouring firms on the industrial estate and which has been formalised within the Ecopark Windhof. The building was subsequently included as case study in a European cooperation project (INTERREG) examining circular economy concepts in industrial parks in North-West Europe. This illustrates how, for its current tenants and landlords, the building proves to be a showcase in terms of know-how in sustainable building and/or (corporate) commitments towards sustainability objectives.

The second case study reviewed, the Neobuild Innovation Centre, is also conceived around learning and demonstration objectives. Finalised in 2014 and located on the premises of the national training centre for the building sector (IFSB), the project has adopted a living and test-lab approach with regards to innovative building technologies. Its modularity allows for the parallel use of a wide mix of products seeking to increase energy efficiency and reduce resource consumption in general and for continuous changes, including de/re-constructions in the framework of training modules. Different types of insulation are, for instance, used in adjacent segments of a wall, or different cooling and heating techniques in different rooms. Consequently, the building is also highly connected to test and monitor the efficiency but also usability and everyday comfort of the different components implemented. These particularities have contributed to increase the number of actors involved with the project’s realisation, according to the different technologies and expertise implemented. Co-financed by the main business association of Luxembourg’s building sector, and an innovation grant from the Luxembourgish Ministry of Economy, the building currently hosts an innovation hub promoting R&D in the field of sustainable construction. Parts of its demonstration objectives have already been addressed during its construction phase, as the project purposively sought to involve local firms and retailers, in order to showcase local know-how and give these firms the opportunity to experiment with new materials, components, and processes.

The Hollerich Village neighbourhood development, is currently still in its planning phase. The brownfield development is focusing on housing provision, upscaling the perspective from the single building level towards the neighbourhood in achieving improvements towards sustainability in the built environment. A key characteristic resides within the involvement of less traditional actors of the building sector, most notably international and local environmental NGOs. While this is arguably linked to the fact that construction, where more traditional actors would step in, has not started yet, it relates also to the investor’s wish to address social and economic aspects of sustainability along the traditionally more salient ecological aspects. A central partner is thus Bioregional, a British NGO which has been involved into the realisation of the internationally famous BedZed project, and which provides the sustainability concept (relying on the carbon footprint metaphor) that underlies the project. Similar to the two case studies above, demonstration objectives are high at stake, as illustrated by the recruitment of a consultancy commissioned with the communication aspects of the project.

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