Dang Vu Hoai Nam has finished a market research for a Brussels-based company:


for the new “Green Roof of XXI century - Made in Belgium” by The Brussels-based SME GreenSkin DVMH


  1. Research Context

As climate change has emerged as a “hot topic” on the global scale, many countries are trying to find out feasible solutions to deal with its increasing impacts on daily lives of residents. It is particularly critical in big cities with high population density.

According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA, 2007), for the first time in history, half of the world’s population is located in urban spaces rather than rural areas. By 2030, nearly 60% are expected to be urban dwellers. Cities will be the powerhouse for future development and growth, and planning their future will make or break a green economy. Green cities will have to effectively and efficiently manage energy, recycle resources and make use of waste. Thus, it is crucial to transform cities’ infrastructure from grey to green by learning from the lessons of Mother Nature, so that they will provide for the health and wellbeing of people, as well as the environment.

A solution that is being more and more taken into account by building owners and constructors is to retrofit existing buildings with green roofs and make green roofs an integral part in any architectural design for the future. Without a green roof, impervious surfaces lead to two main impacts: the urban heat island effect and urban stormwater runoff, that both have negative influences on the consumption of energy and water as well as the demand on energy and water systems. This greening system not only helps reduce building related carbon emission but also brings about a lot of other benefits (Stephanle & Katrin, 2004, p. 1).

The International Green Roof Association (IGRA, 2011) indicates that:

Further benefits of Green Roofs include the protection of waterproofing, water retention, thermal insulation, improvement of the climatic environment as well as new natural habitats for flora and fauna.

Green roofs prevail over any other architectural in terms of such a wide range of positive effects for buildings, inhabitants, and the environment. Therefore, green roofs meet one of the essential conditions of sustainable development, the reconciliation between economy and ecology (IGRA, 2011)

In fact, integrating a green roof into an architectural design and construction plan brings about higher durability and lower building costs in long term, compared to “naked roofs” (Getter et al. 2009; Oberndorfer et al. 2007; Saiz et al. 2006). “It has to be considered that roofs belong to the most strained parts of a building; if no precautions are taken and product qualities lack, problems arise quickly” (IGRA, 2011)

In Belgium, green roofs have been taken into account and regulations regarding the obligation of green roof installation and requirements for a green roof have been reinforced. The Flemish government is granting subsidy for the installation of green roofs at 31 euro per m² and equal to the actual cost if it is lower than 31 euro per m² (Agentschap voor Natuur en Bos) while in Brussels, this subsidy is set at 20 euro per m², applicably to at least 100 m² of roof (Inter Environnement Bruxelles, 2008). However, municipalities are free to implement this subsidy scheme.

Greenskin DVMH – a Brussels-based private company: Industrialize the production of green roofs - Setting a new standard for Green Building

Whether economic crisis or not, the market for green roofs is deemed to be booming. But for now, we are still in the era of craft and do-it-yourself (DIY). This is the challenge for all experts, technicians, architects and other people involved in the development of green roofs. Of those, Greenskin DVMH is trying to transform the craft into a technological solution for widespread manufacturing (Adrien, 2010).

Greenskin DVMH was set up in October 2008 and is dedicated to the development of “greening” systems for roofs and façades. Its objective is to conceive, protect and commercialize its inventions. Greenskin is currently marketing products and lay-out concepts (Design department) as well as licensing its technologies.

The company was launched by two environmentalists, Toan Dang Vu (Civil Engineering, Environmental management) and Marc Hermans (Civil Engineer Architect), who possess a WIPO patent on “Roof with modular plant covering” (World Intellectual Property Organization, 2010). They have set a new standard for “green roofs” in the world so that this new technology could resolve all existing obstacles and be applied on the global scale.

Greenskin DVMH creates a selection of adaptable modular eco-roofs (R&D with SIRRIS, CSTC – WTCB, the experts and Lab from Belgian Universities). Greenskin DVMH has developed and patented a range of modular and customizable green roof technology with , "Greenskin Box" system, called "The multi-applications Green Roofs" for low cost to luxury concepts.

The technology is based on the “domino” principle, with a design based on "interchangeable and auto connection" properties. These “ready to place” elements are pre-assembled before on-site setting up. The product is 100 % compatible with all existing and future roof equipments such as solar panels, automatic watering, roof terraced garden solutions, etc...

This technology overcomes the drawbacks of the existing green roofs solutions (built-in-place systems), and creates an innovative “Smart Green Roof” concept that can be extended to providing clients with customized contractual services such as maintenance, upgrade, etc.

The company is now trying to commercialize its technology and developing a strategic plan to successfully launch its products to the Benelux market and then, exporting to other countries. However, one of the biggest challenges of Greenskin DVMH is to have a good understanding of the green roofs market in Brussels so as to determine its potentialities and a optimal marketing strategy.

  1. Research Question and Objectives

2.1 Main Research Question:

The main research question of this project is,

What is the potential of commercializing “Greenskin Roof” in Brussels?

To answer this question, the research will focus on several sub-questions:

-           What is the policy background in Brussels region in terms of “Sustainable Cities”, “Green Building” and “Green roof”?

-           What is the current building stock suitable for utilizing “Greenskin Roof” in Brussels?

-           What is the market demand for “Greenskin Roof” in Brussels?

-           Who are main competitors of Greenskin DVMH in Brussels market?

-           What are competitive advantages of competitors in comparison with those of Greenskin DVMH?

2.2 Research Objectives:

The explicit goal of my master thesis, or this company project, is threefold:

-           First, we accumulate knowledge about policy background in Brussels region regarding “sustainable cities”, “green building” and “green roof”.

-           Second, we aim at a good understanding of the market for “Greenskin Roof” in Brussels in terms of market volume, demand and supply.

-           Third, we take into account competition, making an analysis of other green roof systems and develop competitive advantages for “Greenskin Roof”, a Belgium-made product, so as to become “Green Roof of XXI century”

  1. Methodology

Within this project, a wide variety of methodologies will be employed to answer the main research question and reach the research goals.

Objective 1 will be addressed through a literature review into the development of policies regarding “sustainable cities”, “green building” and “green roof”. Such governmental departments, organizations, NGOs, associations and experts as “The cabinet of Evelyne Huytebroeck”, “Brussels Institute for Environmental Management (IBGE-BIM)”, “Centre for Urban Research”, etc, would be resorted to for detailed information. We will also highlight benefits of “Green Roof” as a solution to climate change adaptation and sustainable development.

Objective 2 could be achieved through a combination of methodologies. The project will involve an exploratory research of a buildings database and inventory of roofs in Brussels suitable for “Greenskin Roof” adaptation by means of public and commercial databases.

First, we will interview architects to collect ideas and information about the green roofs market, especially useful databases.

Second, we will develop an understanding of the incentives and obstacles for potential customers of Greenskin DVMH by using case studies. Semi-structured interviews will be conducted with past clients of Greenskin DVMH (random sample) and some other building owners that might become potential clients of Greenskin DVMH (from 05 to 10 interviews).

Third, the utilization of Google Maps (www.maps.google.com) as well as Google Earth (www.google.com/earth) and Google Streetview (www.google.com/streetview) allows us to have a close view over roofs of big buildings, including residential and office buildings. We will be able to evaluate preliminarily the possibility for “Green Roof” retrofit based on such observations and characteristics as roof area, pitch, facilities, equipments or shadow that might affect the installment of “Green Roof”. However, due to time limitation, it is impossible for us to screen all over Brussels region but we will choose a small area to focus on.

Last but not least, substrate and vegetation suppliers would be valuable sources of information about the market so as for us to approach.

Objective 3 is focused on competition on the “green roof” market. By agency of governmental organizations, institutions, private companies and NGOs related to green roofs, we will have access to a comprehensive database of current competitors in this market. We will also contact competitors directly by emails, phone calls and visit them as a potential customer to get more information. Then, we could analyse other green roof systems, their pitfalls and develop competitive advantages for “Greenskin Roof” in terms of technique and commerce.

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