Tivoli GreenCity, Belgium

An exemplary sustainable neighbourhood

Project Details

  • Scheme & Version: BREEAM Communities 2012
  • Stage: Final
  • Location: Brussels, Belgium
  • Size: 49958 m²
  • Score & Rating: 95.0% Outstanding
  • Certificate Number: BREEAM-0083-7047

Project Team

  • Developer/ Client: Parbam (Kairos / Pargesy)
  • NSO: BRE Global
  • Architect: ADRIANA (Cerau / Atlante Architecture / Atelier 55 / YY Architecture / Atelier Eole Paysagistes)
  • Building Services: Boydens
  • Assessor/ Auditor: Bopro
  • Contracting Authority: citydev.brussels
  • BREEAM Assessor:
  • Contractor: BAM Interbuild / BPC / Jacques Delens

About the Project

Tivoli GreenCity is a mixed-use neighbourhood in Brussels (Belgium) consisting of 271 affordable apartments, 126 social housing apartments, two child day care centres for 62 children and units for local shops and services. The project further includes the construction of a series of slow traffic streets and sustainable mobility facilities and 5 semi-public parks conceived as biodiversity laboratories. The total net building floor area is about 47.000 sqm spread over a project site of 2,75ha.

The development is located on a former brownfield in the middle of a dense and multicultural neighbourhood and next to the former industrial area ‘Tour & Taxis’ which is also being redeveloped. The project site was neglected for many years and was a no-go zone for the locals due to small criminal activities such as drug dealing and graffiti on-site. The redevelopment of the site has been initiated by citydev.brussels, the contracting authority who initiated a competition won by the consortium around developer PARBAM.

The development takes into account the existing qualities of the site such as the monumental plane trees around which the new square has been built and the existing office building with an interesting façade which has been transformed to housing units. All units are passive energy and 30% of them are zero-energy. Both walls, roofs, inner gardens and streets are designed in function of biodiversity, A water treatment system is in place which makes it possible to have 0% waste water.

Tivoli GreenCity performed very well in all BREEAM categories, which can be seen in the ‘Outstanding’-rating with a score of 95.0%.

About the BREEAM Assessment

From a very early concept and design phase, everything has been done to protect our valuable environment. Citydev.brussels envisioned Tivoli GreenCity to become an exemplary sustainable neighbourhood and organised a competition for the development. Parbam submitted a project proposal, including the ambition to achieve a BREEAM ‘Outstanding’ rating, and won the competition. By using the BREEAM Communities framework, it was possible to measure ‘sustainability’ and make an abstract term more concrete. Tivoli GreenCity is the first ‘BREEAM Communities Outstanding’ rated project within the BeNeLux-region and has, with 95.0%, also the highest Communities score worldwide. The neighbourhood’s performance per category can be found below:

Governance (8 /8 credits)

Tivoli GreenCity was citydev’s first project in which a stakeholder process was set up and a dialogue developed with the neighbourhood about mobility, public space, green spaces and others. This was done, for example, through events on the site itself, presence in community centres and classic flyers. In the long term there was for example the possibility to participate in the solar panels on the roofs. All the residents signed a sustainability charter containing a number of house rules and striving together for sustainability.


Social and Economic Wellbeing – Local Economy (5 /5 credits)

For the project, the economic needs of the neighbourhood were mapped out. This revealed, among other things, the need for crèches and commercial spaces that create employment in the long term. A space was also provided for the city cleaning services. In addition, there was temporary employment during construction and, within the framework of circularity and efficient site management, job opportunities and training were created for people with a distance to the labour market.

Social and Economic Wellbeing – Social Wellbeing (17 /17 credits)

Responding to social needs such as the creches is an element that was scored on. An important element is the mix of 70% affordable owner-occupied housing and 30% social rental housing, which are mixed in order to promote the social mix. A pleasant public space with lots of greenery and places to sit or meet up with neighbours and the preservation of monumental plane trees on the square contribute to the neighbourhood feeling.

Social and Economic Wellbeing – Environmental Conditions (25 /25 credits)

Aspects covered are flood risk, microclimate, noise and light pollution and how the project deals with climate change. The site naturally slopes towards the canal and additional water buffering via the roof and wadis will be used. Noise nuisance is limited by the location of the technical installations. Microclimates are created both within the building blocks with the different gardens and on the public domain with its greenery along the streets and the main square.

Resource and Energy – (24 /31 credits)

Tivoli GreenCity scores well for its energy strategy which focuses on reducing energy consumption, passive houses and 30% zero energy houses with improved insulation and renewable energy through solar panels and the heat grid. The water strategy in which rainwater is buffered, stored and delayed infiltrating the ground and maximum recovery of greywater also contributes to the high score. In terms of materials, the choice was made to recover materials where possible; for example, the existing, vacant RTT/Belgacom building was thoroughly renovated and integrated into the new district. For the public domain, sustainable materials such as natural stone and wooden benches were chosen. Construction waste and material surpluses were reduced as much as possible and ‘waste supervisors’ were appointed who were responsible for good sorting, so that a large proportion of the construction waste could be collected by producers for recycling. The project also has the potential to reduce its CO2 emissions in the use phase by focusing on sustainable mobility: the good location of the site near a public transport stop, Villo! point (shared bikes) and along a cycle highway contribute to this.

Land Use and Ecology – (18 /18 credits)

Tivoli owes its good score to the decontamination and development of an unused, polluted site in a dense neighbourhood. A previously inaccessible site, a no-go zone due to vandalism, became accessible to local residents as a result of the development. In order to give the neighbourhood character, the monumental plane trees have been preserved. A sophisticated ecological strategy with the choice of native plant species for the green links along the streets, roof gardens, an experimental greenhouse, green walls and thematic inner gardens creates a biodiverse environment. Nesting boxes in various sizes provide space for birds and bats.

Transport and Movement – (14 /15 credits)

Tivoli’s mobility strategy is based on a mobility study. The choice was made to avoid through traffic as much as possible with one-way roads and speed limits. Access ramps for the underground garages are provided on the outside of the project. The good location in terms of mobility offers residents many options; good and safe cycle routes, pleasant footpaths with green areas and benches encourage sustainable modes of transport. Enclosed bicycle sheds for more than 650 bicycles are located in the inner gardens.

Environmental Challenges and Green Strategy

The ambitions from the contracting authority (citydev.brussels) were high, but not very specific regarding sustainability. By proposing to use BREEAM Communities, Parbam had a framework to integrate sustainability in a holistic way throughout the entire project and process.

At the time, it was the first BREEAM-project for all parties involved; developer, designers, contractors,… Due to the scale and the number of parties involved, a learning process was inevitable but the result is there.

The main challenges were the following:

  • Creating support within the existing community for the new development. It was the first time citydev.brussels and the developers integrated a consultation process with workshops in a project.
  • Integrating the new neighbourhood in its surroundings while keeping the local character. An existing building has been renovated while plane trees have been preserved. The buildings are designed by a group of 4 architectural offices and 1 landscape office to give each building a unique character.
  • Creating a biodiverse neighbourhood.

Even if there’s goodwill to create a sustainable neighbourhood, there’s always the possibility of overlooking something. The BREEAM framework helped to avoid this and helped align all parties towards the same target; an Outstanding project.

The main innovative idea was to combine different technologies and concepts in a way so they enhance each other. The combination of green roofs with solar panels on top is one the examples, another one is the water management system which made it possible to have 0% waste water. Using the heat from the boiler room for the experimental rooftop greenhouse also shows how different functions can be linked together to create.

Benefits of BREEAM

The main benefit of using BREEAM was the structure it gave to integrate multiple ideas and concepts about sustainability in a holistic way. BREEAM helped setting measurable goals, from a global level (‘Outstanding’) to more specific goals on the scale of the buildings and their surroundings.

By using BREEAM, it was possible to integrate sustainability during all phases of the project, from the earliest design concept over the construction phase until the use phase by the residents and visitors of the neighbourhood. The final BREEAM certification is a validation of the sustainability ambitions of the project team and helps the project team to set sustainability ambitions more confidently for future projects.

“The project specifications from the competition contained a very short paragraph about sustainability. Looking for solutions to make sustainability more concrete, we included the BREEAM Communities-certification in our proposal which helped us win the competition and ensure that our ambitions became reality.
We explored all the possibilities available to us within the specific framework of the project, with a the aim of achieving the objectives of:

  • participation of the neighbourhood population and future users,
  • access to housing for low socio-economic groups,
  • mobility less dependent on the private car,
  • restructuration of the urban fabric
  • reinforcement of biodoversity in the urban environment,
  • rainwater and wastewater management,
  • production of green energy, etc.

for the realisation of a genuine sustainable district, which can be managed without complications, over a long period of time, by its inhabitants and by the public authorities.”

Daniel Tranchida – Project manager Pargesy (PARBAM)


“As a BREEAM-assessor, it’s a pleasure to work with a project team which challenges itself and wants to push it’s own limits. Very ambitious targets have been set from the beginning and achieved in the end by working together and bringing the best of each partner to the table. The project has set a new benchmark for sustainable developments within Belgium and Europe.”

Benjamin Huygels – BREEAM Communities assessor Bopro

Lessons, Outcomes and Achievements

Tivoli GreenCity was envisioned as an ‘exemplary sustainable neighbourhood’. By aiming to be exemplary, one has to go beyond the standards and push his own limits. Trying out new technologies and strategies, looking for creative solutions and combining different insights to create new ones is part of this process. All project team members worked actively together, shared information and expanded their knowledge by sharing their own expertise with each other. The new knowledge will help developing more sustainable projects.

Learning did not only happen between the project members on the project, but also with external events and organisations. This included for example working together with universities for the biodiversity and participating in a project from the government about sustainable construction site waste management and material reuse.

Tivoli GreenCity is the first BREEAM Communities certified neighbourhood in the BeNeLux-region and the one with the highest score worldwide; 95.0% – Outstanding.

The project introduces a new positive vibe and open spaces into a very dense area without tabula rasa or disruption. Connection has been sought with its surroundings and with the history of the location. Physically through the landscape and architectural design by the renovation of an existing building and highlighting monumental plane trees and on a social level with the existing community by the consultation process and by delivering much needed facilities such as children day care facilities and squares where people could socialize. Streets are spaces for people and nature, with benches and biodiverse greenspace.
The project further combines multiple sustainable technologies in a smart way such as solar panels, urban heat grid, water reuse and others.

To summarise, Tivoli GreenCity has raised the bar for future developments in Belgium. More and more projects are now incorporating, in whole or in part, the objectives of the Tivoli sustainable neighbourhood, which has the effect of improving the built environment.

  • Règles d’Or de l’Urbanisme 2019 – Gouden Regel voor Stedenbouw 2019 (Category ‘Prix d’une réalisation d’ouvrage ou d’ensemble neuf’ – ‘Prijs voor een nieuwbouwproject of -complex’)
  • Green Solutions Awards 2019 (3 winning awards in the category “Smart Builing”, “Green Construction” and “Green City”
  • RES Awards 2019 (Category Best (semi-)Public Development)
  • Be Circular 2016 (Recycling of the existing Belgacom Building)
  • Belgian Environment and Energy Award 2017 (Category Sustainable Building)
  • Publica Awards 2018 (Category Urbanism & Mobility)