By Andrew Starc

Meiny Prins

9 July 2010 – Meiny Prins, chief executive officer of Dutch sustainability company Priva BV, has been in Australia recently taking note of Australia’s burgeoning green building initiatives.

“In the Netherlands, the building industry is the key to reducing carbon emissions.

“I have been in Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne and have found it interesting to learn about how they deal with sustainability here [in Australia]. I have learnt about the Green Star rating, which is not only about energy efficiency but also implements other elements.“

These other elements, water and carbon emissions key among them, says Ms Prins, are factors that need to be integrated in order for the world to become more sustainable.

“We need to look at the integration of various elements such as water usage and the carbon emissions of a building as well as energy usage in order to create more sustainable cities.”

Awarded the World Wildlife Fund’s Dutch Clean Tech Star award in 2009, Ms Prins took over the reins of Priva BV, a company which her father co-founded, in 2005. During her time at the helm, Priva BV has become a world leader in delivering integrated sustainable solutions for glass horticulture, a sector that Ms Prins says needs to be addressed in order to create a sustainable society.

“The problem we are facing in the Netherlands is that locally grown produce that is being grown using less water and energy and with fewer nutrients are being outpriced by imported produce that is not grown in a sustainable way.

“It must be transparent in the supermarket so that when the consumer is making a choice that they know which products are sustainable products grown locally and which are imported and are not grown in a sustainable way so that they have the chance to choose local sustainable products.

“In glasshouse horticulture, we’ve come a long way in sustainable innovations; the system of climate, water and energy is completely integrated. There is a strong need for similar innovation in the built environment as well; it needs to be integrated right from the start.”

With its success in the glass horticulture sector, Ms Prins’ next focus will be to create more better integration of sustainability into public and commercial buildings, citing Australia’s Green Star rating system as a good starting point.

“People are starting to see that the biggest carbon reduction can be achieved in the built environment.

“The original idea [for the Green Star rating] is very good and I think that the Netherlands can still learn a lot from it.

“It is good to see that Australia has chosen a broader approach than LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) in the United States and many European countries could look to Green Star as a model for their building ratings.”

While Ms Prins praises the Australia‘s Green Star rating for its integration of elements and its broad scope, she believes that different countries have to develop their own standards.

“Climate and energy use is different everywhere so different countries need to find their own way.”

As part of her visit to Australia, Ms Prins will look to expand Priva BV’s focus to help to improve sustainability in the horticulture and hydroponics in particular by opening an educational glasshouse at the Chisholm Institute in Melbourne to educate growers to use less water and optimise their processes. The initiative will be driven by Priva partner Powerplants.

“We can expand our knowledge to other sectors and see if we can help growers …to develop a higher level in process optimisation.”

With agriculture demo projects also launched in Mexico and China, Ms Prins explains that by diversifying its scope and integrating sustainability elements, Priva BV will see future success.

“We [Priva BV] used to look at food or flower production on its own, but if you start to look at other factors in society there are more opportunities to improve sustainability.

“In the Netherlands, innovation [in the horticultural sector] has been quick because we have worked on integrating climate control, water use and energy savings, although you find that in the building industry that these elements are not integrated.”