Case Study

Schneider Electric is living proof: relocating is not always the most sustainable solution

Sometimes the perfect solution is so close that you need a fresh perspective to see it. That’s exactly what happened to Schneider Electric, who were looking for a more sustainable head office in the Netherlands. With CBRE Netherlands’ help, this multinational electrical engineering company found its dream location: the very same building they were already in. But obviously based on a serious upgrade in terms of technology, use and facilities. So sometimes the most sustainable option – stay put, make space available and reuse materials – is simply the best solution.

February 8, 2023

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Time for sustainable office premises

What Schneider Electric wanted to do with its branch in the Netherlands was more than a major step. It was a gigantic leap in terms of digitisation, saving space and sustainability. The electrical engineering field is developing rapidly and, as a specialist in energy management and industrial automation, Schneider Electric is leading the way across the world. These days, the company is just as well known for its data solutions and cybersecurity as it is for its cables and plugs.

‘We believed from the tips of our toes to the tops of our heads that we had to do this,’ Debby Slofstra, Country President Netherlands at Schneider Electric, tells us. ‘Fewer square metres, less consumption. No huge offices anymore, with managers behind closed doors. But rather digitising, sharing, creating a completely different kind of workstation while including our people in the process.’

That’s how the process started

The most important driver: sustainability. That motivation is alive and well across the whole world at Schneider Electric, a company that is strongly committed to green technology and more energy-efficient premises. The same realisation prompted Slofstra to knock on CBRE Netherlands’ door in 2019, with a plan to build a future-proof head office. ‘We got to know each other a few years back,’ Geert Wilmink – Executive Director Advisory & Transaction Service at CBRE Netherlands, recounts. ‘We had confidence in each other from early on. We also share an ambition: we are determined to achieve our sustainability goals. To make a difference, instead of merely improving our own situation.’

First find out what you need

A requirement doesn’t automatically produce a tangible and widely supported plan. Together with CBRE, Schneider Electric decided to tackle the first phase carefully. Wilmink: ‘We used to simply do the sums and press on with the plan. That has since evolved into a detailed and research-driven process, culminating in a design brief.’ It includes issues like work requirements, sustainability, corporate culture and funding. ‘A design brief like this is not just about real estate; it’s also about how to support an organisation. You put down in writing exactly what you want, when all the options are still on the table.’

Together with Schneider Electric, we have a shared ambition: we really want to achieve something in the field of sustainability. To change something, not to make ourselves better.
Geert WilminkExecutive Director

Stay or go scenario

That’s how we came up with a choice. Schneider Electric could either move to a suitable location or turn the current one into something new. It was sustainability that tipped the scales at the end of the day. The Hoofddorp premises needed a major make-over, but there were plenty of opportunities to reuse materials. The company was able to free up the top two floors and give them back to the owner of the building. What’s more, the corona crisis was in full swing, so we had all the leeway we needed to get stuck in. In short: Schneider Electric stayed exactly where it was.

Exceptional offices, sustainable transformation

As you approach the renovated offices in Hoofddorp, you could be forgiven for thinking that nothing much has changed. But appearances can be deceptive. ‘As soon as you set foot in the door, you immediately think: wow. There’s plenty of greenery and light, and great acoustics,’ Debby Slofstra explains. Whereas before you’d make your way to your usual desk, now you decide on a daily basis where your workstation will be, depending on what you’ll be doing. ‘There are focus rooms and various kinds of meeting rooms. But you can also opt to join your colleagues and take a seat in the central entrance area. That’s where you can get coffee and healthy food from Farm Kitchen – a plant-based caterer who’s in the neighbourhood and who works with local farmers to provide a healthy organic lunch.’

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The Schneider Journey

Two things were important. Firstly, the building had to keep its ‘Schneider office’ feel. So, among other things, an open ceiling structure was installed to keep the control engineering installation technology, an SE product, in full view. And, secondly, the staff had to be involved every step of the way. It’s change management that CBRE excels in, Geert Wilmink tells us. ‘Particularly at a technical company, that is often where the challenge lies: measuring want the people want and need, and including the team in the changes.’

‘It takes time, but it is really worth it,’ Debby Slofstra reckons. Schneider Electric needed premises that matched the company’s high sustainability standards. Fewer square metres, which you use more efficiently. A smaller footprint with less energy consumption. But Schneider also wanted an office that perfectly suited the people using it every day. The plan has clearly succeeded.

Mutual trust

The funny thing is that the inspiration for the whole process came from The Core, CBRE’s own head office in the Netherlands. With Schneider Electric’s help – then as a supplier, not yet as a customer – CBRE turned an old Peugeot garage into a beautiful, sustainable home base several years ago. A showcase like that can bring like-minded people together, Debby Slofstra confirms. ‘The best partners are those that share an intrinsic motivation. Who decide for themselves and are prepared to change. Those are the ones you need to take great steps together.’

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