Energy neutrality is the big trend in new residential and office buildings. In the Netherlands, near energy-neutral construction even became a statutory requirement this year, with the implementation of the BENG requirement – short for ‘Almost Energy-Neutral Building’ (in Dutch: Bijna EnergieNeutraal Gebouw). This replaces the old EPC (energy performance coefficient) with a set of three energy performance indicators to calculate building energy performance:
Maximum energy need of a building in kWh per m2 of usable area per year
Maximum fossil energy consumption in kWh per m2 of usable area per year
Minimum share of renewable energy expressed as a percentage of the total energy consumption

We caught up with Savills Building & Project Consultancy Director Marc van Niekerken (pictured on the right) and Associate Director Carlo Widev, both active in Savills sustainable leaders group, to talk more about BENG.
New calculation method
“BENG took effect from the first of this year, and all new-build projects that are still in development and haven’t applied for building permits yet will have to factor in the new BENG (NTA-8800) calculation method”, Van Niekerken explains. This new method dictates that all new buildings have to be nearly energy neutral.” “When existing buildings’ energy labels expire, they will also be re-assessed based on this new method, but without having to fully comply with the BENG-standards for new buildings, which has been devised by the government and is different to the rules applied in years past. Basically, Widev says, “there are two components: one is that all building permits issued as from this year have to be BENG-compliant, the other is that all existing buildings will be assessed on the BENG regulations once their current energy label expires. If you have a building with a ‘D’ energy label that needs to be updated, for example, it will have to be rated using the new NTA-8800 calculation method. This can work out favourably, or you might discover the building is less energy efficient than you thought.”
Sustainable upgrade
“The property owners we work with are market leaders who are very focused on sustainability and often have ‘A’ labels for their buildings already”, Widev continues. “Under the new calculation method, the old label could potentially change into an ‘A++’ energy label, or the other way around, into a ‘B’ energy label, depending on the characteristics of the building.” Van Niekerken: “Starting from 2023, buildings labelled ‘C’ or lower based on the new rating system will not be allowed to lease office space. I think we’ll see this primarily in urban areas at secondary office locations. And for listed buildings, the rules are different, of course. Here in Rotterdam, we did a sustainable upgrade and modernization at Blaak House. This is an old listed building that had a good energy rating already, as it’s connected to district heating. Nevertheless, we managed to upgrade the label with measures like better insulation. In recent months we have also been involved in sustainability improvements to the World Port Center in Kop van Zuid, with a BREEAM Excellent ambition that for instance includes use of water from the Nieuwe Maas to cool the building!”
Positive challenge
“Buildings that are being designed now score high on sustainability already, especially in terms of the design of façades and roofs, due to the strict BENG 1 requirements”, Van Niekerken points out. “But BENG is also about how a building can generate energy to supply what it consumes, following the BENG 2 and 3 requirements. Right now, that mostly means solar panels, but we expect things to advance in the coming years. High-rise office roofs tend not to be large enough to accommodate the number of solar panels needed to comply with the minimum share of renewable energy needed for the building.” Widev concludes: “The consultancy world and real estate consultants will have to get to grips with the new regulations. It takes time to prepare effectively and it also creates a ton of paperwork. But in terms of the quality of buildings, I think this method is an improvement and a move towards being Paris-proof.”