Interview with Bauke Geuzebroek, Technology Manager at Knauf Netherlands

Knauf is a synonym for gypsum among construction experts and enthusiasts. Founded as family company in 1932 by brothers Alfons and Karl Knauf, today the Knauf Group is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of modern insulation materials, drylining systems, plasters and accessories, thermal insulation composite systems, paints, floor screed, floor systems, and construction equipment and tools. With 220 production facilities and sales organizations in over 80 countries, 28,000 employees worldwide, and sales of 7.2 billion Euro (in 2018), the Knauf Group is without doubt one of the big global players on the market. Amid the success, the Knauf Group has stayed true to its principles, valuing mutual trust, diligence, visionary thinking, and cohesion.
Leon van der Loo

Why is sustainability at the strategic agenda of Knauf?

Knauf is a special kind of company – a family business. As such we do not think on a short-term scale but from generation to generation. This means that long-term thinking is built into everything we do. It includes responsible treatment of resources, of all resources. Being sustainable is in our genes as from the start. Sustainability is a part of how our family business sees itself, paying interest in orderly transferring assets to the next generation. An example is that gypsum quarries are recultivated after finishing usage, e.g. turned into green places (parks, woodlands, etc.).

“Sustainability secures the future of our company”, Alexander Knauf

Next to this, also the market, our customers, are increasingly demanding when it comes to sustainability. They request to explain how sustainable our products are, how we can help them to make sustainable designs and constructions, and we need to substantiate this for them.


How do you approach sustainability at Knauf?

There are internal and external drivers, which lead us to sustainability. Internally we of course have an inherent interest in optimizing energy consumption, for example in our production. At the same time, our customers keep asking us: How can you design buildings to be even more energy-efficient? How high is the share of recycled material in the product? And in this way, internal and external forces combine and are reflected in our R&D work.

One of the tools we use here, is Life Cycle Analysis (LCA). With LCA we can determine the environmental impact of our products of services during the entire chain. You can see exactly which environmental effects occur at which time. The analysis is an important basis for sustainability and is an ideal stimulator for the sustainable development of products and the production chain.

Also, we have chosen to train three persons at Knauf Netherlands as BREEAM Expert, because we believe that BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) fits better in the Dutch building and real estate industry than the often used cradle-to-cradle product certification. I’ve also became such an expert myself.

BREEAM-NL is the tool in the Netherlands for measuring and assessing the sustainability of buildings, areas and demolition projects, in line with Dutch legislation. The results provide insight to investors, shareholders, buyers, managers and tenants. When designers indicate their sustainability ambition (e.g. BREEAM Excellence), we as Knauf BREEAM experts can advise how the Knauf solutions can fulfill this ambition with the highest possible impact on sustainability.

Another focus we have, is on circular products. A recent development is our Hybrid Circular Wall System, where a combination of new and used drywall panels form a durable new partition wall. The environmental impact of this system is much lower compared to conventional systems with equally high performance.


What are the challenges around sustainability within Knauf?

Working on sustainability is a never ending journey. Although we look for energy-efficient production, there’s still a lot of connection to be made between sustainability and production. Also, we most often steer on cost-efficiency rather than on sustainability. The consciousness that this can go hand-in-hand is slowly progressing.

Furthermore, there are a lot of actions ongoing around the sustainability theme, but we still have to embed this much better in our strategy and our guidelines.


What is your personal motivation towards sustainability?

I have a strong personal drive to not do things to people, nature, environment, etc., which cannot be reversed. Any short-term action that is not based on sustainable parameters does more harm than good at the end of the day. In that drive I’m always looking for the alternative, a better and more sustainable solution, as there is always a potential to do things with lower impact on the environment.

As it is within the Knauf family, also in my family, “care about” is in our genes. We’re passing this on to our children, e.g. by consciously dealing with holidays. We make the choice to not fly to our destinations, not making far-away trips. Also, we take “green” into consideration when making choices for leisure and housing & living. Our motto is “when it’s not needed, then don’t do it”!

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