Netherlands in the LEED

Netherlands in the LEED

Gerrit-Jan Teunissen champions the inclusion of LEED v4 in public policy in his northwestern European country.


By Alexandra DeLuca

“It’s part of my personality,” explains Gerrit-Jan Teunissen. “If someone tells me something is not possible, I always try to find out why and what I can do to change that.”

For Teunissen, a Dutch energy and sustainability consultant with TRAJECT, this modus operandi has meant dogged work surrounding the advancement and acceptance of the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification in the Netherlands—as well as throughout the rest of Europe. In 2014, Teunissen successfully petitioned the government of the Netherlands to recognize LEED as a rating system eligible for green building tax incentives, marking the first time this version of LEED v4 was referenced in public policy in any country.

However, before he was taking on national governments and expanding tax code subsets, Teunissen became involved in operations and maintenance at the headquarters of ABN AMRO, a large Dutch banking corporation. He was asked to consult on green building energy conservation and savings possibilities: “They were challenging themselves to be a more progressive and environmentally friendly corporation,” he says. “This was nearly 10 years ago, and someone mentioned LEED. I started investigating it and what our role could be [in] integrating LEED into their building maintenance.”

Gerrit-Jan Teunissen, Dutch energy and sustainability consultant with TRAJECT, was awarded the Astounding Advocate award by USGBC at Convergence 2016.

Teunissen traveled to the United States for LEED AP training and a workshop—and then attempted to pass the exam straightaway. “Quite a bit naïve,” he laughs, of failing both the Building Design and Construction (BD+C) and Building Operations and Maintenance (O+M) exams. “We went back to the Netherlands with quite long faces.”

Unsurprisingly, he was undeterred: “We examined the reasons why we failed the exam,” he says. “We found out that it’s not only about knowing the details of the system but also a large part is understanding process knowledge and how to integrate sustainability into construction and operational processes.”

He supplemented with some web training around integration of sustainability in projects and soon went to London for the exams, passed both, and became the first LEED AP BD+C and LEED AP O+M in the Netherlands.

At the same time, the parties involved in the ABN AMRO project told him to stop with the LEED certification in favor of the UK-based Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) of certifying green buildings. “I was frustrated,” says Teunissen, but in time he was pursuing both LEED and BREEAM concurrently. “It was a unique position to investigate the differences in the system and share knowledge.” It was also the catalyst for Teunissen to begin lobbying the government for the same tax incentives BREEAM had received since 2011.

ABN AMRO now incorporates LEED from the start of their building projects.

“I called them up and asked them why isn’t LEED mentioned in this regulation? They told me LEED is out of date and not applicable to the Netherlands,” he says. So, he provided the government with enough evidence to prove LEED Platinum can be achieved with the same effort of other certifications. “It was clear to them that the systems are quite comparable, which is exactly what we needed to allow LEED within the same law.”

The Dutch government sent Teunissen a concept version of the law, citing some issues with the lack of procedure surrounding a formal design review in LEED, which is presently part of BREEAM certification. “They asked me how to write the procedure down for the certification and—to my own surprise—when the official law text was published, the LEED bill I wrote was part of the official text,” he says (see sidebar).

It was accepted by Dutch law in January of 2014 and was something of a watershed moment for Teunissen. “The funny thing I discovered is that I can do presentation after presentation across the country about LEED, but once it was accepted by the government, people, especially the major tax consultancies, were calling me to ask about the process of LEED.

“All those tax consultants then tell their clients of the benefits and now the market is also considering LEED as a possible and relevant option for building certification for new construction,” he adds. “Now projects are considering the LEED option from the start of their project and, as a consequence, LEED-related questions by suppliers are decreasing as the knowledge base grows. Growth in LEED-related inquiries in the market and the tax regulations is one of the causes of that.”

And the ABN AMRO headquarters? It was LEED Gold certified in 2013. This, along with the tax incentives, has kept Teunissen busy, and he says there is still work to do. “I discovered that every LEED-enthusiastic person in Europe was struggling with the same issues,” he says. “Specifically, the differences within Europe and national regulations that are derived from the European standards.”

He believes that building a community among LEED APs in the Netherlands and Europe is key to achieving that goal. “LEED APs need to gather by themselves and get connected,” he says. “USGBC is also providing space for projects to demonstrate compliance in alternative ways and that’s very beneficial. But a meeting in Berlin showed that European projects are still struggling with some strictness of the references to the U.S. regulations and directives. It can be a bit tricky.”

Teunissen says his goal this year is to connect all the Dutch APs in some way “to work out those local details because it is all about the certification and how to show reviewers project compliance. LEED APs know how to work around these issues,” he says.

“I see a nice role for the LEED APs in the Netherlands and Europe,” he says—and there are few people better placed to envision and realize this future than Teunissen.

netherlands_iconDutch Tax Policy and LEED

As of January 1, 2014, buildings certified under LEED v4 BD+C: New Construction in the Netherlands are eligible to receive two tax deductions under the MIA and Vamil schemes.

The MIA tax deduction allows for LEED Gold projects to claim a 13.5 percent, one-time deduction from up to half of the investment cost of the building in the year of investment, while LEED Platinum projects may claim a 27 percent one-time deduction.

Additional deductions under Vamil are allowed due to the depreciation of 75 percent from 50 percent of the building’s value (common allowed annual depreciation is about 2 percent and under limited conditions). The Vamil provides an ongoing tax benefit, beginning in the year of investment, and allows trade-off over years. The Vamil scheme allows for a more lenient calculation of a building’s depreciation value, resulting in a higher deduction value. Both LEED Gold and Platinum projects receive the same deduction percentage under Vamil.