Historic sites struggle to find business models that protect and optimize their cultural heritage in a rapidly changing world. The owners of the medieval castle of Sterkenburg in Driebergen decided to take up this challenge, looking for new ways to reignite its economic and social value. They engaged a multidisciplinary group of sustainability experts from Except Integrated Sustainability, who developed a special program to help historic sites unearth their opportunities. The resulting roadmap delivers concrete, immediate cost savings in the short term, and new ways for the castle to play a role in both today’s, and tomorrow’s society.
Dating back to at least 1261, the Sterkenburg castle lies 20 km outside the city of Utrecht and is one of the few privately managed estates left in the country. As owners, the van Helsdingen family take good care of the estate, respecting its original function as a private household.The family is no stranger to the challenge faced by several owners of listed heritage buildings in the Netherlands - high maintenance costs and limited capacity for revenue creation.
How do we turn cultural heritage sites back into properties that are valued in today’s fast changing society? At Except we developed an approach to design roadmaps to tackle complex problems. In February of this year, a team of experts from Except gathered with the owners on the estate. Together, we co-created a comprehensive program that sets a new future for the castle.
The roadmap consists of short- and long- term items in the areas of energy consumption, user experience, and society. The outcome reduces operational costs, enhances the business model, and reconnects the function of the castle with broader societal issues via an engaging event program, the “Club of Sterkenburg”. The Club nurtures national and international policy-making fora on the topics of cultural heritage and sustainability, engaging and linking both business and government.
The short-term roadmap saves on operational costs through significant improvements in energy usage, including lighting, appliances, heating, and hot water. “The predicted reduction of electricity consumption ensures a complete return of investment in less than a year” says Jacob Verhaart, Head of Science at Except. All short term measures can be easily implemented by the family themselves.
The business model capitalizes on unexpressed potentials of the estate, and sets a new paradigm for the future of listed heritage buildings in the Netherlands and globally.
“I found it deeply inspiring to imagine this castle not only as a place that takes, but that also gives back to society” says Maurits van Helsdingen. “We have been imagining the future of Sterkenburg for 15 years”, concludes his father Jelle. “After a long time, we discussed the idea from truly comprehensive perspectives. I am sure this is the start of a bright future for Sterkenburg Castle”.
The Utrecht Community (UCo) is a national center for sustainable entrepreneurship in the city of Utrecht. UCo brings together 150 pioneering sustainable entrepreneurs and SMBs, and facilitates them in an exemplary sustainable and inspiring building. UCo is a place to develop, discover, and accelerate together, 5 minutes biking from central station. Except developed UCo independently, and opened its doors in 2017.
In Rakvere, Estonia, we developed the masterplan for the 671 Ha self-reliant Arkna Eco-Park. The park is built on a historical site tracing back to 1527, and becomes a primary tourist destination in the country, including a Polydome sustainable agriculture system.
We worked with Arkna Eco-Park to build a complete masterplan template for years to come, including its marketing strategy, identity, logos and brochures, closed loop metabolism, food system, event program, and design guidelines.