Europe’s most energy-efficient office building opens in Limburg


Flemish minister Lydia Peeters calls on other companies to follow Encon’s example by generating excess energy

To Infinity and beyond

Europe’s most energy-efficient office building has opened in Bilzen, in the east of Limburg. Two years in the making, the new offices of engineering consultancy Encon was declared open this week by Flemish energy minister Lydia Peeters.

“This building is more than a collection of new technologies for building, for heating and cooling, and for generating electricity. It’s about a new, different way of thinking, living and working,” she said. “For the moment, this building is still one of a kind, but Encon is proving that energy transformation is feasible.”

Encon designs sustainable energy systems for industrial companies, so the idea is both to lead by example and to showcase what it can do for its clients. “The inauguration of our building is really a symbolic moment for us,” said company manager Sandra Deraeve.

Geothermal energy

Called the Infinity Building, the low-rise structure (pictured) combines extreme energy efficiency with three kinds of renewable energy. The main source of heating and cooling comes from underground, thanks to a geothermal system that should save 90% of the electricity that would otherwise be used to cool the building in warm weather, and 40% of heating during cold spells.

A wind turbine that looms over the small building, and solar power systems on the roof, then produce enough electricity to make up the difference, and more. This is an example Peeters wants more companies to follow.

“Generating decentralised green energy and using as much as possible locally means that, in the future, we will develop more models in which companies can supply electricity to neighbouring companies or near-by residential areas,” she said.

We will develop more models in which companies can supply electricity to neighbouring companies

- Energy minister Lydia Peeters

The opening was also attended by the children of Encon’s staff. Fifteen-year-old Julie Bruninx, whose parents run the company, has followed the project since Peeters’ predecessor, Bart Tommelein, came to inaugurate construction work in 2017.

“I am very concerned about the environment,” she told Het Laaste Nieuws. “Now you will think: Oh no, another climate girl following the example of Greta Thunberg. But I was here two years ago, I was already worried, and I asked minister Tommelein annoying questions.”

According to the paper, she remained true to her word, telling Peeters that there were already enough plans to do something about the climate. “Now, more than ever, it is time for action.”