What were the reasons for / challenge of the project?

When we acquired Goerzwerk in the Spring of 2015, it was almost empty. I was attracted by the idea of reviving a 100-year-old building complex and bringing it into the present; not knocking down and rebuilding, but using what was already there constructively.

We had to learn how to deal with the particular challenges that a historic, industrial monument entail – including its legacy contamination issues. We faced an extensive property development project. Renovating the site while operating it in a manner geared to the requirements of tenants, with various approval requirements, was and is challenging.

Proximity to the tradesmen, the authorities and, of course, our tenants, meant collaboration with a spirit of trust could be established from the start. There’s sometimes the attitude in the property management sector to see the tenant as an opponent. This approach has always been alien to me. It’s important to us to see the Goerzwerkers – as we call all the people who run their businesses here – as partners and to encourage them to get involved in Goerzwerk, whether in joint networking activities or simply as responsible tenants and neighbours.

How are you addressing this challenge in your project?

we’d like to establish a sustainable living and working environment at Goerzwerk. Our efforts to create the technical pre-requisites for attractive premises have succeeded. With our wide variety of alternative spaces, we’ve managed to meet everyone’s needs so far. And we’ve succeeded in bringing the tenants together to develop and reinforce a lively sense of community through great willingness to socialise.

What role does Triodos Bank play for your project?

Triodos Bank shows the level of agility and flexibility necessary to support Goerzwerk’s growth. The bank is an excellent fit for us as we aim to have sustainable relationships.

We also view our collaboration with Triodos Bank as a spur to increase our sustainability in environmental and technical terms. we’ll put our first photovoltaic system with 100 kilowatt peak (KwP) into operation this year. we’re planning on increasing it to up to 500 KwP in the next few years. Right now we’re thinking about utilising waste heat and building a biomass heating system. Overall, we’re planning a whole series of efficiency projects that target energy savings. Triodos Bank is supporting us with the implementation of these as a committed partner.

What role does the project play in your sector?

A unique selling point for Goerzwerk is an unconventional approach in many areas. Relationships built on trust are rather unusual in the real estate sector, but they are at the heart of Goerzwerk’s approach. For example, we charge a flat-rate fee for heating costs instead of working out individual heating bills. I trust the Goerzwerkers to use the heating responsibly. So far it’s worked very well.

Because the construction measures at Goerzwerk are still ongoing, there’s plenty of opportunity for friction in many areas. But generally, we’re very successful in working together to overcome difficulties. Another issue is tenancy agreements, which target long-lasting cooperation without being “long-term”. The vast majority of agreements are concluded for an indefinite period with a short notice period. If there are any omissions in the contract, mostly in connection with tenant improvements, we always focus on working together to work out how we would have dealt with it if the omission had been identified in advance. Sometimes that works out in favour of one side, sometimes the other. But in my experience it always leads to quick, satisfactory solutions.

What social role does your project play?

We cultivate positive relationships at Goerzwerk. We strengthen team spirit, sustainability and a sense of locality. All of these are keys to a better world. Coexistence leads to belonging, sustainability to lower consumption of resources, locality to short distances. So it all increases quality of life and quality of work. It’s important to us that the Goerzwerkers feel comfortable with what they’re doing, when they socialise with their neighbours, when they do business with each other, when their concerns are addressed quickly.

A lively community has grown at Goerzwerk out of our many networking meetings. On this basis, we founded the networking association Goerzallee e.V. to spread the momentum and positive energy that prevail here beyond the boundaries of the property. Our aim is to get as many neighbouring businesses as possible to join the association and contribute to making it thrive.

I should also mention our courtyard festivals in 2017 and 2018, where Goerzwerkers presented their work against a background of live music and culinary delights. Far more visitors than expected, particularly from the neighbourhood, took part in these social events. We will be holding another courtyard festival this year too.

To what extent do you think that Triodos Bank shares your vision?

We feel honoured that Triodos Bank considers us to be sustainable. That’s also a great incentive to give sustainable thinking more scope to drive forward. I see great similarities between Triodos Bank’s aims and what happens here at Goerzwerk.