2019 Arts and culture Guido Mensink, Directeur of G.T. van der Bijl B.V. founder of Gedachtegoed
What challenge was the inspiration for your project?
The G.T. van der Bijl windmill site on Kostverlorenvaart in Amsterdam-West is the oldest in the world. The original buildings, with the paltrokmolen (post-mill) De Otter in the centre, has remained intact.
There used to be around 26 saw-mills in Amsterdam and De Otter is the oldest of this mill type in existence. Built in 1631, at the time it was Amsterdam’s first saw-mill. Today, it’s also the last. That makes it even more important that it continues to be preserved and, like the surrounding site, is restored in a future-proof way. G.T. van der Bijl BV purchased the site in 2019, which gave space to build on the restoration, maintenance and sustainability of this piece of Amsterdam cultural heritage.
In what way is your approach innovative?
We are passionate about creating interesting, healthy and sustainable areas and use the location experience model for this. We do this sustainably as the development needs to be seen to add value for the neighbourhood over the coming decades.
But we also want to ensure that our impact on the world around us is as low as possible. For instance, during the renovation of the G.T. van der Bijl site, we will install heat pumps, using circular material for insulation and aim for the smallest ecological footprint possible. We are currently working on a sustainable roadmap in partnership with our millers, Het Oversticht and De Groen Grachten, advisor and implementation manager for enhancing the sustainability of historic buildings. These experts are helping us optimise the site’s sustainability with respect to such things as energy consumption and generation, and material use.
What impact has Triodos Bank had on your organisation?
Triodos Bank finance has enabled us to breathe new life into the site, with the aim of restoring the site to its original state, making it sustainable and ensuring that the mill can run again permanently. Triodos Bank is helping us to create a future-proof place where people will still be able to experience Amsterdam’s rich cultural heritage in the future. We’re extremely proud to be able to start this challenge in cooperation with a sustainable bank like Triodos Bank.
What impact has your business had on the sector you work in?
We hope to inspire others by demonstrating that it is possible to restore a heritage site, while also making it sustainable. Of course, this is a complex process and we’ll continue to face challenges, but we firmly believe in adding value and having a positive impact.
What impact has your business had on the community?
We are creating positive impact by continuously searching for ground-breaking solutions that facilitate a shift in our society. We also believe that we can’t do this alone, which is why we are working with passionate millers, neighbourhood residents and other stakeholders. We’ve worked with a handful of dedicated millers in recent years to ensure, literally, that we have fresh wind in our sails.
The site is in continuous development. The millers welcomed the first neighbourhood residents and other interested parties during a busy Christmas market in 2018. Since April 2019 the mill has been running regularly and last summer we carried out a thorough renovation and all the wood was painted. Last Autumn, and for the first time in 15 years, the mill sawed an entire wooden beam; a true milestone after years of lying idle.
How does Triodos Bank share your vision?
Triodos Bank believes that money can change the world and invests in over 5,000 high-impact projects in 45 countries across the globe. It is there for everyone who wants to make a difference and have a positive impact on people and society.
The Golden Age literally started here in Amsterdam, partly on this site. We are working hard on the transition to a Green Age and are delighted that Triodos Bank shares our vision so that we can build toward this shared goal.
Photo: Jan-Jaap Hubeek