‘Rendering existing property more sustainable is a big problem,’ says Nina van den Berg. As a project manager at Green Business Club Zuidas, she is responsible for energy, waste and mobility. Saving energy is complex in the sector because the building owners are not always the same as the building users. ‘If an owner improves energy consumption in his building, it’s the occupant who benefits,’ is how Van den Berg summarises the problem. ‘So the advantage does not accrue directly to the party paying for it’.
Van den Berg calls it the ‘split incentive’, which expands further once you dive into the subject matter. The first thing that does not help is that building owners often reside elsewhere in the world. Secondly, they do not have to worry about letting their property as demand for office space in Zuidas is abounds. There is a third issue, however: many buildings have multiple tenants. And with these ‘multi-tenant towers’ comes another stakeholder in the property arena: the manager.
‘How can this be true?’
Owners hire building managers to handle electricity and water, for instance. Tenants pay a ‘service fee’ for this, part of which the manager keeps. So the stimuli work the other way, explains Van den Berg. ‘It is better for a manager for the service fee to be high, so he’ll get more.’ She remembers talking to a manager in Zuidas, whose name she won’t mention. When Van den Berg told them about energy-saving measures, the manager said they would never implement such measures because they reduced the service fee, and with that his source of income. ‘His trainee stood there next to him and seemed completely confused,’ says Van den Berg ‘Really? How can this be true? Does it work like this?’ Clearly it does. Van den Berg does not think the system will change anytime soon. ‘This is what the business model is like.’ In discussions about how to do things differently, she often encounters the ‘computer says no mentality’.