What trends marked 2020 and how will they evolve in 2021? How has Bopro responded to these new trends and how do they think they will emerge as a winner from the crisis? We discussed this with Peter Garré, Managing Director at Bopro.
What do you think were the main trends in 2020?
Peter Garré: “2020 was, of course, first and foremost the year of the coronavirus. In any case, the pandemic shows that we must learn to deal with our limitations. We have been forced to face reality: this is the result of our overconsumption and energy addiction. The solution is not to stop consuming but to approach things differently. We need to realise that we can make conscious choices as individuals and as a company. Every organisation should think about this. I think the growing awareness of our impact – as a person and as a company – is definitely a trend that gained momentum in 2020.”
How has your company responded to this?
“As a company active in the construction sector, Bopro has long been aware of the impact we have on biodiversity, energy consumption and CO2 emissions, among other things. That is why we have ensured that we are carbon-neutral and our objective is to contribute to a better world. We use locally produced renewable energy and we limit our travel by car as much as possible. The company cars that we replace will now be electric. Everything we undertake must support this sustainable strategy. For example, we also take energy consumption into account in our IT strategy and the purchase of hardware. In order to ultimately achieve climate-neutral (-90%) CO2 emissions, a further change in behaviour is required, in combination with the right technology. These ambitions in the area of sustainability make Bopro a pioneer. We are also aware that the issue is very much alive because our activities are growing rapidly. We think this is positive not only for our business, but also because it means that more and more buildings are sustainable.”
“Besides the increasing focus on sustainability and ecology, we are clearly seeing an acceleration of digitalisation. In our long-term vision, therefore, we want to strengthen our commitment to circular and eco-effective construction, combined with digitalisation. For example, we can approach construction projects more efficiently by using BIM systems or ‘building information modelling systems’. This can also support us in making maximum use of urban space, so that the nature outside is retained as much as possible. It is no coincidence that Bopro itself has located its offices in city centres.”
What do you see emerging as the main trends in 2021?
“Policy organisations and companies are taking more and more initiatives on sustainability. Companies in all sectors are gradually becoming aware of their ecological footprint. This certainly applies to the construction and real estate sector. The investment horizon for real estate projects is easily 30 to 50 years, so you automatically have a big impact. It still requires some time, but an evolution towards a new economic system has been set in motion. The European Green Deal – a series of policy initiatives to make Europe climate-neutral by 2050 while taking into account the ‘Leave no one behind’ social component – already proves that the policy is providing the necessary stimulus. It is very positive that all these projects will create a lot of employment. But we are increasingly faced with a shortage of skilled technical staff and managers.”
What is your company doing to ensure it will be ahead of the curve when the corona crisis is over?
“Thanks to our long project pipelines, Bopro had a relatively good year in 2020 as well. The existing trajectories continued as usual. Housing is simply a basic need that cannot just be set aside. Moreover, we remain strongly committed to our clear vision of sustainability and circularity. Our biggest challenge is attracting and retaining the right staff. Some 80 per cent of our employees are engineers and architects, and they are in great demand on the labour market. But here, too, we have the advantage that not only can we offer people an interesting, financially attractive job, but also that when they come to us they join a committed organisation with a social mission.”
Bopro develops real estate projects with a positive impact on people and the environment and provides services and advice to real estate investors, including on sustainability and circularity. The organisation has offices in Brussels, Ghent and Mechelen and has around 80 employees.