After the Second World War, Rotterdam turned toward innovation and reinvented itself as a young, modern city. Even today, the destination is continually growing and embracing new concepts. Case in point: it is home to the first indoor market hall in the Netherlands.
Since 1971, Rotterdam Ahoy in South Rotterdam has been considered one of the largest venues on the globe. Over the past few years, it has seen innovations like the introduction of a geothermal energy system, solar panels on the roof of the largest event hall, and a thermal smart grid to store surplus heat and cold—all part of a plan to reduce CO2emissions and energy costs by 25 percent. Rotterdam Ahoy has also incorporated sustainable catering and culinary initiatives. Ingredients are sourced locally to limit food miles, and the remainder of coffee grounds from machines are saved and used to cultivate oyster mushrooms. As a way to reduce waste, Ahoy plans to focus on waste separation during events by setting up recycling stations in public spaces.
The area around Rotterdam Ahoy is also undergoing a revitalization in an effort to create a new urban centre for South Rotterdam, part of a project dubbed Hart van Zuid. The heart of the new neighborhood: Rotterdam Ahoy Convention Centre (RACC), slated to debut in September. The new venue will incorporate energy-saving measures by minimizing the power requirement and utilizing residual heat. “As a large event accommodation, we see it as our job to set an example in terms of sustainability and we feel it as our duty to offer coming generations the same privileges our generation has. Moreover, we notice customers are still becoming more and more keen on sustainability, which will be one of the major facets of the new convention centre,” explains Susanne Blaas, Rotterdam Ahoy’s marketing and communications manager.
One of six partner cities involved in the EU’s smart city programme RUGGEDISED, Rotterdam is looking to serve as an example for smart solutions by working on large-scale urban pilot projects in the areas of energy, transport and digital technology. “We, as humanity, can do something about the enormous climate crisis that is in front of us. We all have to take responsibility, and that is why Ahoy is participating in the RUGGEDISED project,” explained Ahoy’s CEO, Jolanda Jansen, at the RUGGEDISED “Sharing Capacities” conference held at the venue in November 2019.
Over 100 participants from the six RUGGEDISED cities gathered to discuss how—and why—destinations around the globe should take on smart initiatives. As moderator Jacqueline Cramer, professor of sustainable innovation at the University of Utrecht and former environment minister, put it: “Smart cities are the heart of everything we need to do to be able to transform into a more sustainable society. It’s not the technology that holds us back, but we must change ourselves—and we can only do that together, through cooperation in projects and cities.”
The Hague, located on the North Sea coast, is known as the international city of Peace & Justice and is one of the greenest and most compact cities on the globe. A 30-minute train ride from Amsterdam Schiphol, the world’s legal capital and the second seat of the United Nations is home to 100 multinational companies, 115 foreign embassies and 200 institutions, in addition to the Dutch royal family and Dutch parliament. As the only major Dutch city located directly on the coast—and with most of the Netherlands being below sea level—The Hague has emerged as a leader in urban environmental innovation.
The city’s goal of becoming climate-neutral is reinforced by World Forum The Hague (pictured left), one of the country’s largest convention centres. One of the venue’s recent additions to The Hague’s sustainability policy is the climate-neutral “Fresh Air Zone,” a green canopy intended to prevent flooding and “leave something tangible with or around the venue that inspires other cities who want to replicate green roofing at their venues,” explains general manager Michiel Middendorf.
In February, the venue launched another project to reduce the number of plastic bottles used during events. Working with local water company DUNEA, World Forum installed five indoor fresh water tap points to provide drinking water for delegates, part of a larger project to eliminate the sale of plastic PET bottles, saving around 16,000 bottles a year.
“The craziness has to stop,” Middendorf says. “We allow water to be resourced in other countries, allow it to be bottled there, put it on trucks driving all over Europe to a distribution center. From the distribution centre, we drive those bottles to our venues, hotels and restaurants… when we have some of the best drinking water of the world right here, in The Hague.”
World Forum has a working group that continuously brainstorms ideas like these in an attempt to “cause a chain reaction in the country,” as Middendorf says, all while working to hold on to the ISO 20121 status for sustainable events. For nearly a decade now, the venue has strived to instill sustainable initiatives through three programmes: Think Green, Think People and Think Local.
As Middendorf explains, “We’re not increasing sustainability measures to appeal to groups and associations—we do it because this is the new economy, the normal new way to run a business nowadays.”