Creating shared value in a cross-sectoral partnership
Our eco-engineering solutions are based on the Building with Nature philosophy. Building with Nature is an innovation program in which knowledge and design guidelines for maritime infrastructure have been developed since 2008, both responding to the requirements of society and creating new opportunities for nature. That requires a fundamentally different approach to projects. The work is done in interdisciplinary project teams who adopt the natural system as a basic design principle and who look to create added value for all stakeholders involved from the outset. The
Building with Nature pilot project in Indonesia presented in this report is a good example.
The program is being executed by the Ecoshape consortium, in which Boskalis was one of the initiators. The consortium includes business, government and research institutes. The NGO Wetlands International joined in 2014. Phase 1 of the Building with Nature innovation program was implemented in the 2008-2012 period, with Boskalis investing a total of EUR 2.5 million. The program entered the second phase in 2013 as part of the Dutch government’s Top Sector policy. We are also investing in this phase. In the run-up year 2013, we invested EUR 250,000 and we are investing an annual sum of EUR 500,000 from 2014 until 2017. In our CSR reports in recent years, we have described successful projects such as the Sand Motor and the large-scale coral relocation operation in Jamaica, which are based on the Building with Nature principles.
The successful application of eco-engineering is only possible if our clients are also prepared to embrace the concept and take on projects. To date, it has been mainly our clients in the high-end segment of the market who have been open to this. We actively promote the concept with all our clients.
It is our ambition, depending on the commitment of our clients, to execute one project every year based on the eco-engineering approach and the Building with Nature philosophy. The Boskalis Eco-Engineering Task Force coordinates, discusses, collects and shares knowledge and successful cases, and encourages awareness-raising in the company’s Dredging & Inland Infra and Offshore Energy divisions. As a result, opportunities for projects and initiatives are identified at an early stage, and support within the company is established at the same time. The Task Force is chaired by a member of the Board of Management and, in addition to our own engineering consultancy Hydronamic, the business unit directors also participate in the Task Force. In 2014, the Task Force met twice and various initiatives were launched, including the introduction of a company newsletter, which will be published several times annually starting in February 2015.
Eco-engineering and offshore
In line with the initiatives for our dredging activities, we have engaged in the initial exploration of eco-engineering opportunities for the offshore industry. We want to explore eco-engineering solutions for trenching and covering pipelines, and whether we can contribute to the natural habitat of fish and other underwater life through our working methods. We also want to look at whether we can use nature-friendly scour protection for the foundations of offshore platforms. We know that fish populations around wind farms or offshore platforms are richer than elsewhere because of the ban on fishing in the immediate vicinity. To provide an extra impulse for biodiversity and to ensure the rapid recovery of underwater life after installation work, we are looking at a new technology that allows us to structure the protective layer of the foundations – the ‘gravity-based structures’ – in such a way that sheltered places are created for fish. This concept is a spin-off from our
Boskalis Innovation Challenge (see page 41 of this report). The renewable energy market has strict requirements for limiting noise pollution below the water during the construction of offshore wind farms. Together with our partners, we are using methods to limit noise, such as bubble screens around the operations or special noise-reduction cases around piles.
Eco-engineering opens up new opportunities
Theo Baartmans, a member of the Boskalis Board of Management, believes that eco-engineering opens up new opportunities for Boskalis, our clients, the natural environment and all stakeholders. Boskalis also thinks that the pride and motivation of our employees are important. ‘A group of trainees recently completed their two-year course with a short pitch, and I was privileged to be a member of the jury. The trainees gave examples of things that had been decisive for them in the last two years, things that they were proud of. Well, technology barely got a mention; they mainly picked up on the soft elements. The fact that Boskalis pays attention to ecology and creates possibilities for it, that’s what they were proud of. And a recent, inspiring, brainstorming session with a table packed with Boskalis business unit managers was quick to see the opportunities. So this is certainly a hot issue, and the great thing is: everybody can have their own reasons for embracing the topic.’
Ko de Blaeij, Middle East area manager, is also aware of the opportunities afforded by eco-engineering. Of course we are not always able to influence a client’s considerations. Even when a sustainable solution isn’t adopted by a client, you still generate awareness and you still have a sound concept. You can always try to introduce that approach on other projects. So I always say, before a tender is issued: let’s look at whether we have a creative take on the stated requirements, and whether we can come up with a solution that will benefit the area. This type of solution is often cheaper as well. You do need to get started early in the process; you need to spark the client’s curiosity. And then if he ends up deciding not to go for that solution, at least we already have that knowledge to apply on a subsequent project.’
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