NOM Drives - 'We won't have an impact until we become massively sustainable'
  • Drives

NOM Drives - 'We won't have an impact until we become massively sustainable'

Drives are the real engine behind growth and development, but to what extent are companies in the Northern Netherlands consciously working on them? And how do they approach it? NOM is curious and, for this column, interviews organizations that are actively exploring their motivations.

With the greenest business premises in Assen, software specialist Ultraware has been inspiring other entrepreneurs for years. In order to contribute to the energy transition at a higher level - "because there is still a world to be won" - CEO Serge de Mul decided to go one step further: with the spin-off Comforest, he is now marketing his own holistic methodology for sustainability.

The fact that the necessary energy transition among companies is still in its infancy is partly because the approach is so fragmented, according to Serge. 'Installers all focus on their own specialty and work alongside each other. But if cohesion is lacking, it can happen that in business premises the heating and air conditioning are on at the same time. Then you may have solar panels on the roof, but a lot of energy is still wasted. To make serious strides, it's all about consistency and smart switching. I discovered that during the construction of my own sustainable home and from that same holistic vision I started to make our business premises in Assen more sustainable.'


Ultraware's accommodation dates back to 1998. Almost a quarter of a century old and still a forerunner, because the now gas-free zero-meg building with energy label A+++++ achieved the ambitions of the Energy Agreement for 2050 several years ago. In fact, the meter reads positively, because much less energy is consumed on an annual basis than is generated with the 278 solar panels; even with a small dozen electric company cars. 'To make sense of all that extra energy without being dependent on the (im)possibilities of the power grid, we recently ordered a battery pack,' says Serge. 'Improvements are always possible. Besides storing energy ourselves, we are therefore also optimizing the building's airtightness and honing the self-learning capability of our climate system.'

Smart coupling

So the greenest business premises can be even greener, although in the meantime the inspired CEO is also focusing on his new business. 'What we have achieved here is wonderful, but to really improve the world, we need green business premises in much greater numbers. And you can't build them all new. The reality is that there is plenty of work being done in older buildings and we are showing that they can be made sustainable just fine.

Moreover, the intelligent systems and controls we work with are just as interesting for new buildings. By cleverly linking, expanding and fine-tuning existing solutions, we have gradually developed methods and systems in our building that save energy without compromising on comfort. Other companies can also benefit from this, which is why I - together with business partner Eric van der Horst of Sinewave - started Comforest'.

Sustainable development path

NOM Drives - 'We won't have an impact until we become massively sustainable'

Serge de Mul

The spin-off fits seamlessly with Serge's motivations. 'The urge to improve was always in me and has now turned into a passion for sustainable living and working. That comes from the beautiful place in Drenthe where I built myself a house and started thinking about preserving nature for future generations. I became very aware of the impact of all our actions on the environment and so began my sustainable development path: first building a CO2 neutral house, then making our business premises sustainable and now turning the knowledge gained about green office buildings into business. We have been sharing our insights with anyone who is interested for some time. I believe in open source, especially in this area, because we will only have an impact if we make sustainability as massive as possible. I see that most people and companies want that too, but that there is also still a lot of fragmentation, frustration and ignorance. That's why I decided to jump into that gap.

Big Five For Life

'Comforest is a logical next step in which all my interests and knowledge flow together,' the entrepreneur continues. 'As a child, I already loved construction and engineering, I studied electronics and then ended up in software development. During my career, I grew as a person and an entrepreneur and started contributing more consciously to a better world. Thus, from intrinsic motivation, I gathered valuable knowledge and experience in the field of sustainable development. And that goes beyond greening our work environment; it's also about getting the best out of each other as a team. The more aware we are of our personal and shared motives and core values, the more focused we can put our energy into everything we do. In doing so, I like to be inspired by Big Five For Life, a concept that helps get life goals clear and coincide with business goals. This is another process that we take one step at a time. We work agile in everything, so there is room to learn and adjust along the way.'

New impulses

Through projects with some launching customers, the focus is currently mainly on new business. Serge: "The need for energy transition has only increased since the war in Ukraine. We must and want to get rid of Russian gas. As with the corona crisis, bottlenecks in trade and logistics are now creating new impulses. And yes, that can be accompanied by considerable challenges, which is why we are glad that we are of the holistic solutions, where we keep the direction ourselves. For Comforest, for example, we are adapting our software and circuit boards so that, despite the global shortage of chips, we can continue with what is available. I love that constant state of change and improvement. I always have a thousand and one ideas and at their core they all have the same goal: to leave a better world for the
future generations.

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