by Tom Bosschaert

April 15, 2019

Tom Bosschaert

Historic sites struggle to find business models that protect and optimize their cultural heritage in a rapidly changing world. The owners of the medieval castle of Sterkenburg in Driebergen decided to take up this challenge, looking for new ways to reignite its economic and social value. They engaged a multidisciplinary group of sustainability experts from Except Integrated Sustainability, who developed a unique program to help historic sites unearth their opportunities. The resulting roadmap delivers concrete, immediate cost savings in the short term and new ways for the castle to play a role in the society of today and tomorrow.

Sterkenburg Castle's name, when translated from Dutch, means "strong castle." Nearby to Utrecht, the surrounding hamlet of Sterkenburg derives its name from this historic and stately property.

Sterkenburg castle lies 20 km outside the city of Utrecht and is one of the few privately-managed estates left in the country. Dating back to the mid-1200s, the van Helsdingen family, its current owners, care for the estate, respecting its original function as a private household. The family is no stranger to the challenge faced by many other owners of heritage-listed buildings in the Netherlands - high maintenance costs and limited capacity for revenue creation.

How do we turn cultural heritage sites back into valued properties in today’s fast-changing society?

To help resolve this, Except developed an approach to design roadmaps and tackle complexity. In February 2019, our team gathered with the estate owners and co-created a comprehensive program that sets a new future for the castle.

  • After a long period of consideration, we began to discuss ideas from a systemic and comprehensive perspective. This approach marks the beginning of a bright future for Sterkenburg Castle.

    Jelle van Helsdingen

Sterkenburg group.jpg

The roadmap consists of short and long-term approaches to energy consumption, user experience, and society. The outcomes reduce operational costs, enhance the business model, and reconnect the castle with broader societal issues via an engaging event program, the "Club of Sterkenburg." The club nurtures national and international policy-making toward bolstering cultural heritage and sustainability and engaging both business and government in achieving it.

  • I found it profoundly inspiring to imagine this castle not only as a place that takes but actively gives back to society

    Maurits van Helsdingen


The short-term roadmap saves on operational costs through significant improvements in energy usage, including lighting, appliances, heating, and hot water. "The predicted reduction of electricity consumption ensures a complete return of investment in less than a year," says Jacob Verhaart, Head of Science at Except. Even better, the family can implement all these short-term measures themselves.

The business model capitalizes on the unexpressed potentials of the estate and sets a new paradigm for the future of listed heritage buildings in the Netherlands and across the globe.

April 15, 2019

Project team

  • Emma Westerduin

    Architect and Project Manager

  • Jacob Verhaart

    Head of Science, Industrial Ecologist

  • Alexandre Fradet

    IT & Business Specialist

  • Jane Butler

    Business Developer

  • Mattia Miccichè

    Content specialist

  • Emma Westerduin

    Architect and Project Manager

  • Luca Gennari

    Environmental Engineering Consultant

  • Inge Luyten

    Project manager
    Recycling Netwerk Benelux

  • Joseph D. Simpson

    Communication & Public Relations
    Except Integrated Sustainability

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