Okay, so life is ticking along nicely and you’ve both settled into a routine, but somehow there’s something missing from the relationship. You just don’t seem to talk much. It’s all business as usual. So where’s the togetherness you both hoped for?

Sound familiar?

If you’re a tenant feeling like you just don’t have much of a connection with the landlord, let alone other tenants or the property manager – or you’re a building owner who finds it hard to connect with your tenants – you are certainly not alone.

Despite the best intentions, most building owners and tenants struggle to keep up regular communication that could enhance their efficient use of the building, improve wellbeing of employees and substantially cut their business costs.

A bit of exposure – it’s a trust thing

Sharing information on energy and water use, or ideas about recycling and technology, can have a large impact on how tenants use their workspace, and on sustainable outcomes. And the same goes for building owners with the base building operation.

Finding a forum to do this is just the start. What really makes a difference is adopting a collaborative mindset involving shared information. Sometimes this requires a complete change of culture.

Pip Harley, CitySwitch Green Office program manager, says businesses can be reluctant to share information such as energy use data with each other, but once the benefits of collaboration become apparent this barrier can quickly fall away.

Over the past 12 months CitySwitch, together with the Better Buildings Partnership, has run the Vertical Communities Initiative to encourage a collaborative approach within commercial buildings to achieve more sustainable outcomes, particularly on energy efficiency.

The first step is to initiate communication and trust between landlords and tenants so that information such as energy data can be shared and assessed.

Tenants consume up to 50 per cent of energy in commercial buildings, representing a significant opportunity for reductions. But industry observers say not enough has been done to target this sector.

The idea of the Vertical Communities Initiative is to encourage a more collaborative and targeted approach to energy savings across the building, both among tenants and between tenants and landlords.

“A vertical community is about using the collective power of the businesses that occupy a building to drive change,” Harley says.

“Participants not only learn from one another but are able to achieve economies of scale by engaging suppliers together rather than as siloed organisations. It takes some of the fear of the unknown out of the equation, and helps building occupants to get extra value from leveraging the expertise of their building owner.”

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Lynne Blundell is a freelance writer and journalist. She is a co-founding editor of The Fifth Estate and specialises in writing about sustainability in the built environment. She also writes about design, technology, health and finance.

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