La Tour du Midi: The tallest building in Belgium and exemplary for high energy performance

In Belgium, Veolia is currently responsible for guaranteeing the energy performance of the Federal Pensions Service’s (FPS) building. In addition to modernizing the energy facilities, Veolia has raised the awareness of the FPS’s 1,867 employees regarding the improved-performance approach.

Fact sheet

  • Company: Veolia Belgium for the Federal Pensions Service
  • Location: Brussels
  • Country: Belgium

  • A 29% reduction in electricity consumption since 2008
  • A 37% decrease in fuel oil consumption since 2008
  • 2,028 tCO2 emissions avoided each year

What makes this site special?

The Tour du Midi is a 37-storey, 171 m skyscraper built between 1962 and 1967 in Brussels, Belgium. The tower, a trademark for the city, is the tallest building in the country. It houses 1,867 employees of the Federal Pensions Service (FPS), which is responsible for managing pensions schemes for employees and self-employed people in Belgium.

Having been built over 52 years ago, the FPS has been continuously searching for technical and “soft” solutions to maintain and increase the energy performance of the Tour. Because of this, the public authority teamed up with Veolia Belgium over 49 years ago, and has been working with the operator since, renewing the partnership in 2008 when a 17-year Energy Performance Contract (EPC) was signed. The contract generated remarkable results, since back in 2008 the annual fuel consumption of the Tour du Midi added up to 690,301 litres of fuel oil, and electricity consumption neared 8,900 MWh/year. Over the past ten years, constant optimisation efforts in the framework of the EPC have led to significant reductions in both aspects, enabling the FPS to showcase its commitment to a responsible and sustainable approach to resources and the environment. These savings would most likely not have occurred had it not been for the implementation of the EPC, which highlights their importance especially in public sector buildings.

The FPS’s aim was to improve energy performance while guaranteeing the comfort of users. Said objective has been reached through a long-term relationship with the energy service company.

Fig1-Implementation process
Use of available information to increase energy savings. Veolia guarantees cost savings over the duration of the EPC. Although the improvement works are paid for by the FPS, Veolia commits on an agreed level of savings, with incentives to attain them as they benefit from the monetary savings achieved. (Source: Creara)

The aim of the EPC was to install and integrate new equipment as well as maintain and increase optimum energy performance levels. The process followed is depicted in Illustration 1 above. First, an energy audit identified opportunities to reduce the Tower’s overall energy use and carbon footprint. The necessary tools for the engineering process were identified and several measures implemented, of which the most important are listed below:

  • Definition of a detailed action and investment plan
  • Implementation of an energy accounting system with an energy monitoring and control system. Through it, exhaustive control and validation of invoicing and energy expenditure is conducted, and energy and economic savings and the reduction in CO2 emissions are quantified
  • Redesign of the entire heating and cooling system which led to performance improvements and a reduction in life cycle costs
  • Installation of a high temperature 600-kW heat pump to optimise the refurbished energy system, the first in the tertiary service sector
  • Installation, in 2010, of a 200-kW cogeneration plant, which supplies both electricity and heating; by 2016 the return on the investment was already positive. This technology enhances operational efficiency to lower overhead costs and increases energy efficiency. It also reduces electricity-from-the-grid dependency
  • A campaign to raise the awareness of the 1,867 employees regarding the predefined performance approach, making them part of the transformation effort
  • Continuous proposals for improvements and new projects in relation to the formulated objectives
  • Hubgrade, an innovative control system, implemented to manage all the new equipment

Hubgrade is Veolia’s smart monitoring center for water, energy and waste management. The facility hosts the Group’s analysts who can monitor and leverage real-time data to improve the management of these resources for municipal, commercial and industrial customers. Veolia currently deploys and operates 25 Hubgrade centers around the world. With Hubgrade, the production unit performance is monitored in real time via a smart data collection, use, and management system that helps maintain performance and continuous optimization. It combines a data collection software with a pool of expert analysts for real-time, on-site response and long-term scheduling as well as sharing and information systems with customers. These aspects help make substantial energy savings.

The measures implemented, which cost around EUR 1 M, brought about significant improvements in the Tour du Midi’s energy performance. Electricity consumption decreased by 29% since the EPC was signed, generating a 32% electricity bill reduction. The use of fuel oil was reduced by 37% and 2,028 tCO2 emissions are avoided every year.

“A common vision is essential for a successful partnership: we decided to have a sustainable energy policy and hence implement technologies that emit less CO2. The first step was to have a realistic vision of our consumption – to measure something is to know it, and to make sure the steps we were taking were transparent and that traceability was guaranteed. This illustrates the importance of having a preliminary audit, in order to define very concrete short, medium- and long-term goals, and to study the profitability of the solutions proposed. This was possible because we chose Veolia and an EPC that entails all those stages. It also and means that both the client and the operator commit to finding win-win solutions, together”

Marc Leunens, General Advisor at the FPS

Addressing the challenges

A 49-year-long relationship has brought about many benefits, and Veolia and the FPS have always strived to prolong them by continuously looking to improve the energy conditions of the Tower. But as every ambitious and complex project, it has had its challenges:

  • Financial aspects: there was a need to optimize the use of public resources, through a long-term vision on energy assets management, to avoid unexpected and unnecessary costs. Using an EPC, the need for resources from the FPS was reduced.
  • Image related aspects: as the highest tower in Belgium, and a potential showcase for energy management of similar types of buildings in the country, the challenge was to ensure the building implemented the most exemplary solutions for the reduction of fossil fuel use, optimization of water consumption, and overall reduction of CO2 emissions.
  • Technical aspects: in this case, two challenges arose:
    • The need for the outmost transparency and traceability for all stakeholders led to Veolia granting access to FPS to interactive reporting and their CMMS MAP. An awareness screen at the entrance of the building was also installed.
    • A data room was installed in the South Tower, with particularly high and continuous electricity needs. An audit was conducted, and measures implemented in order to minimise its energy impact, as well as the impact of an additional 550 employees that recently started working in the building.

Continuous improvement, key to the project

As illustrated below, since 2008 numerous measures have been implemented in the Tower, and others are currently being studied for potential deployment. These include:

  • The installation of emergency power units
  • The potential connection to district heating network
  • The installation of a wind turbine on the roof of the building
  • The installation of the KNX lighting control application
  • The replacement of the cogeneration plant by a more advanced option
Fig2 - Tour du Midi's EPC timeline
Tour du Midi’s EPC timeline (Source: Creara)

The choice on whether the measures are implemented will be made based on the technical parameters and suitability of each solution as well as a careful analysis of the return on investments. These measures will prolong the Tour du Midi’s energy performance improvements.

Text: CREARA (Madrid)
Project leader/content provider: Veolia
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