Interview with Luigi Prins in Shell Window
In the October edition of Shell Venster about sustainability an interview with Luigi Prins from the Cobraspen Group. How sustainability plays an important role in the preservation and development of industrial heritage and the way in which it is intertwined in the Cobraspen method.
Founder and owner of real estate company Cobraspen Luigi Prins focuses on preserving historical and industrial heritage. He constantly searches for the balance between conservation and progress. Sustainability plays a major role in this.
You restore historic buildings. Is that going together with sustainability?
“By renovating we save a building for demolition. We adapt a building to the demands of today, with a look at the future. In that sense, it is always sustainable what we do, because our buildings are still there in four hundred years.”
Is new building not much cheaper than renovating?
“People mistakenly think that restoration is always expensive. The cost is simply different. We always use the existing structures, such as the concrete sugar silos in Halfweg. The old sugar factory on the site has been redeveloped into an event location, the two concrete silos themselves have become offices. They are real eye-catchers, impressive buildings with their own story. You will not get that fast if you build new.”
It seems complicated to renovate such an old building in a responsible manner?
“It depends on. It is sometimes a matter of wearing a jacket around it, like our building with serviced apartments in Amstelveen. We are currently working on an insulating shell around it that picks up and returns solar energy. With a cold heat storage underneath. That way we can get all the gas out of the building.”
But double glazing, for example, is that possible in such a monumental building?
“Double glazing does not always work, but then we solve it in a different way, often with Van Ruysdael glass, which is only glass but is especially insulating. Much is often done on the inside during redevelopment. For example, in the building in Elswout in Overveen – designed as an Italian palace – the latest techniques have been incorporated, which is special because we are the first owner who completely reduced it. That had not happened yet due to circumstances in 135 years. The monumental Moco museum, between the Van Gogh Museum and the Rijksmuseum, is also new inside. All original ornaments have been preserved or replaced. Such a building is much more valuable than you can ever build new.”
In the past, renovation was mainly about reuse. Does that still play a role?
“Re-use is always our goal, but in a smart way. Sometimes we can use things elsewhere. Like the windows of an old office building – which has been converted into homes in Bloemendaal – that are now in the Beachhouse Hotel in Zandvoort. If you know what it costs to have those beautiful toograms made, then you are happy when you have 45. But it must be self-evident, it should never be kitsch.”
Read the October edition of Shell Window about sustainability and energy transition.
TEXT: FREUKE DEEPBROCK PHOTOGRAPHY: JIRI BÜLLER