What about... Hooghkamer

A green compass

How sustainable are our area developments? With his company NL Greenlabel, gardener, television presenter and green pioneer Lodewijk Hoekstra checks Heijmans’ plans for natural values and sustainability. So that we can build a truly healthy living environment. Residential area Hooghkamer takes the lead. 

September 3, 2018

“Developers still have a lot to learn”, Lodewijk Hoekstra explains. “Vegetation is a side issue and, at the moment, mostly serves as decoration. Usually, it is limited to the placement of a couple of trees and clean-cut grass strips. It looks beautiful in the Summer, but once leaves start to fall and the sun disappears, it becomes a dreary sight where no one wants to live. Turn it around! Use sustainability and biodiversity as starting points for project development. Find the balance between green and grey. Work with local materials that blend into nature and have a seasonal mind. Let nature run its course.”

Today we are taking a walk through the new-build neighbourhood Hooghkamer in Voorkamer with colleague and project manager Steven Kamerling. As part of the combination Terra Ontwikkeling CV, a collaboration between NIBC and Heijmans Vastgoed, Heijmans is building 283 new homes in the neighbourhood.

The client put biodiversity down as a real deal breaker in this project. “Vegetation had a conventional layout in the original plan”, Steven explains. “With our help, the biodiversity in this neighbourhood will have increased by the time of delivery. Together with NL Greenlabel, Heijmans will be adding nature to Voorhout. A traditional green monoculture layout will be in the past.”

Added value

As early as during the design of the third phase of the new-build neighbourhood, Heijmans and construction company Van de Hulst decided to call in NL Greenlabel. Thanks to this collaboration, Heijmans can develop its plans in an even more sustainable manner. Residents benefit as well. Lodewijk: “We organise workshops for Hooghkamer home owners, during which we teach them to landscape their gardens in a conscious and responsible manner. This way Heijmans and NL Greenlabel try to intertwine the public and private outer space. “Our aim is to create a neighbourhood where the development of the community and nature go hand in hand and strengthen one another. With nature adding value to the neighbourhood.

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Lodewijk steaks to resident Fred Dreef in de Hooghkamer neighbourhood.

Greenlabel

For many years already, Lodewijk has been committed to making companies in the green sector, such as gardeners, growers and suppliers, more sustainable. He entices consumers to live a healthy lifestyle through his platform 247Green.nl and is ambassador of the Stichting Natuurwijs, Trees for All and De Vlinderstichting.

In 2012 he founded NL Greenlabel with his partner Nico Wissing. “NL Greenlabel is an integral certification which provides municipalities, housing corporations, as well as builders, insight into the level of sustainability of their plans for residential neighbourhoods, areas and gardening products.

Nature inclusive development

By having NL Greenlabel assess new Heijmans projects, Heijmans aims to show clients and residents how they are creating futureproof areas. By taking measures in projects that enhance biodiversity, Heijmans is playing a part in creating a healthy residential and living environment. Through this collaboration, both parties are giving an extra boost to nature inclusive development.

Lodewijk: “We help by checking the level of sustainability of all materials that are applied in the infrastructure and public space of residential areas. As a result, clients and builders get a better insight into water resistance, climate adaption, heat stress reduction and in general: health.”

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NL Greenlabel consists of a hard core of ten specialists and eight scientists, who, together with two hundred partners – ranging from growers to engineers – cover every ‘green’ aspect of area development. Steven: “Together with scientists and engineering agencies we came up with the sustainability passports and labels for areas, plants and related products.”

Monoculture

“We assess a plan or area development from a green perspective”, Lodewijk explains. Together with his team, he examines the whole chain: “Is this a native plant? How sustainable is the packaging? Which fertilisers and pesticides have been used? In what way has the public space been designed and landscaped and what is needed to maintain it? How does this building project affect the soil and water? NL Greenlabel identifies opportunities to take on a more sustainable approach and acts as a bridge between various stakeholders, such as builders, ecologists and public authorities. Our methodology serves as a green compass.”

Lodewijk does have a reservation. “Nature inclusive construction will not be enough to get you there, because animals such as bats and birds need food. Therefore, we must design gardens and green spaces in residential areas in such a manner that food remains available.”

Include nature in your business model

Maintenance-free gardens

“Presently, a garden is an extension of the living room, with things such as a heater in it. Then why would you want to sit outside? I would say, get a blanket. We are increasingly moving away from nature. Gardening professionals and gardening stores are partly to blame for this, by promoting luxury and low-maintenance gardens. Actually, gardens should be green and a bit messy. Put an end to this tidiness syndrome! It is okay if leaves and twigs are lying on the ground. Let nature run its course. There is no such thing as maintenance-free gardens. And in the end tiles will turn green because of algae and moss.”

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Seasonal

Lodewijk is teaching people that sustainable gardening is not complicated. “Many people are uninformed. You cannot blame them, because you can buy olive trees, lavender and such throughout the year. However, these trees and plants have often undergone dubious treatments. If a bumblebee lands on them, it will die. They contain rancid substances, such as growth regulators to keep the plant compact and pesticides to deliver a disease-free plant. It is scandalous!”

Steven:” And do not buy an olive tree if you do not have the room to put it inside in the Winter. Plants and flowers are by definition seasonal and will not bloom at all times. That is something we must accept. And with that in mind, we should not only design gardens, but also residential areas.

Nature-friendly bank

Lodewijk walks over to the bank and grabs a lump of clay. He smells it and breaks it into two parts. “In Voorhout we are working with native soil. This way the local eco system remains intact. The banks have a sustainable layout. This sloping waterfront is ideal for water plants, which, in turn, attract fish, insects, birds and mammals.”

Measures that benefit everyone: for instance, a part of the private gardens will consist of two levels. The waterfront will be slightly lower, so there will be no need for sheet piling. Lodewijk: “Residents will be able to enjoy a nature bank with local vegetation and a beach. We have enhanced the biodiversity and the client is saving on costs, as there will be no need for expansive sheet piles. This is an example of how the design of both public space and gardens come together.”

Framework agreement

Following a successful collaboration, Heijmans decided to apply this approach to more projects, as making sustainability measurable is becoming increasingly important. Thus, NL Greenlabel and Heijmans signed a framework agreement.

“NL Greenlabel is helping Heijmans to create that value nowand to safeguard their ambitions. Our Gebiedslabel (area label) shows that Hooghkamer is futureproof. This puts us on the threshold of a transition”, Lodewijk concludes. “In ten years, we will all be driving extremely frugal cars and there will be no more use for gas. And nobody will develop a project or area without viewing nature as an integral part of it all.”