Recently the Dutch import organization of BSH Group (Bosch-Siemens Domestic Appliances) moved into a new head office, not far from Amsterdam Schiphol airport. Normally, that would not be newsworthy, but there are some interesting aspects.
For many years BSH sold their products in the Netherlands through two channels: a local division of Siemens, based near the Hague, and an independent importer for the Bosch brand, Willem van Rijn Huishoud Elektro. This dated back to the days before 1967 (!), when Siemens and Bosch decided to merge their white goods operations into a separate company BSH, who became the market leader in Europe. In Holland, Bosch was the leading brand in freestanding and Siemens in built-in. As Van Rijn did such an excellent job, there were not enough reasons to change into the 'normal' situation, a separate BSH establishment.
BSH wanted to be careful, because Holland (18 million inhabitants) is the largest of the countries around Germany, quite German-oriented and a very important export market. As the years went on, a closer integration of sales and production was required, as well as better financial and IT aligning, and when the distribution contract with Van Rijn expired, BSH decided to take the step. So now the five BSH brands (Siemens, Bosch, Gaggenau, Constructa and Neff) have their own showrooms in a new building, roughly located between the two former establishments.
The building itself is the second interesting point, in two ways. First, it has large showrooms for all the brands, quite unique in Europe. Competitors Miele and Electrolux already opened 'experience centers', where all the products are displayed but no sales take place. This is above all geared towards built-in appliances, as the many aspects of these need extra explanation. Customers like the support of specialists in a non-sales environment and tend to stick with the brand of the showroom they visited. You can achieve that with one showroom because Holland, especially the western part, is a small and highly populated country and within one hour drive there are something like eight million customers.
The second aspect of the building is the energy-saving design. It is built according to the Cradle-to-Cradle philosophy of architect William McDonough. BSH Holland wanted the building to express something about their products, and what could be a better theme than energy saving. The building reflects the latest techniques in this field. First, the heating is integrated in the floor as well in the ceiling, has large surfaces and therefore works with low temperatures, suitable to the ground source heat pump system. To find room for this the building uses sandwich floors, where the space in between is used for installations as well as ventilation.
It is a prefab system called SlimLine, consisting of a concrete base with metal beams. The upper concrete layer is added later. The heat pumps use two water areas at a 100 meter depth. Heating energy use is about halved, and for airco the compressor method is replaced by air-to-water heat exchangers, transporting heat into the ground water. For lighting a simple trick was applied: the light level was reduced from 500 to 350 lux, but because you can move the fixtures right above the desks this is still sufficient. All of that is LED of course, and the parking garage has automatic dimming. The roof is covered with solar panels.
It did took some discussions with BSH headquarters in Munich, because this kind of building was about 25 percent more expensive. Still, the additional message to the consumers turned out to be the decisive factor for this extra investment.