If you put this question to various professionals, who are all into green building and interiors, you will drown in their advice! During the lectures at the Buildin’ Green conference, but also during the workshops and in the corridors, various inspiring ideas and experiences were shared. An overview:

Know and convince your client

“Do we know the questions, problems and pain of the client?” one of the participants wondered. Investigate the real issues and focus on solving these, is her advice. “Focus on projects that have been realized and seduce the clients with numbers and results,” another brought forth. The biggest ‘but’ is often maintenance. “Why do our clients never complain about the window cleaner, but always about the maintenance of the plants?” workshop instructor Marieke Karssen wondered. It seems the need for control is at the root of this problem; because plants can get sick, as we know. A service contract specifying an obligation to achieve a result can be a solution as it can take away the client’s worries.

Selling to other industries

Who is already selling plants to shopping centres? Because green sells best to offices, but also to shopping centres, factories, the hotel and catering industry, health care and indoor swimming centres. So, start thinking about other industries. “Look for the bare walls to lead you to new business,” says Mike Weinmaster with a smile.


green wall in barGreen wall Restaurant Fortuijn Haarlem

Outstanding example

Outstanding green walls can even bring you new clients. “We have seen a tremendous growth in the last couple of years, while we have been working on green walls for ten years now,” says a green entrepreneur who operates internationally. Councilman John Nederstigt of Haarlemmermeer adds: “What we need are concepts that can be implemented simply as well as solutions for existing buildings.” Wendy Dieben is a project leader at the engineering office of Haarlemmermeer and involved in the projects ‘Green in the classroom’ and ‘Green stepping stone’. “With these two projects we want to make our schools more sustainable. We have involved the children in learning more about the effect of plants and nature and so enlarge their feeling for green… The positive effects of green on the indoor climate have been proven scientifically. That is stimulating. My view is that you need to demand more green when you develop social property. We need outstanding examples. Civil servants can stimulate people to treat green differently.”

Health and ergonomics

Take people’s need for wellbeing as your starting point, is what Owen Zachariasse and Djelko van Es will tell you. Don’t just convince the facility manager, but the boardroom as well, and talk with the HR department, because it is a health issue, says architect Daan Bruggink. The pull from the employee and consumer to put green building on the agenda is also important. Working both top-down and bottom-up appears to be the best recipe. “Consultancy agencies that are leading in ‘Het Nieuwe Werken’ (‘the new working’) don’t necessarily think green,’ observes Djelko van Es. “’Het Nieuwe Werken’ wasn’t invented to stimulate the worker’s wellbeing, so there is a niche if you want one.” “The office furniture business influences both ergonomics and health, where interior horticulturalists don’t, but plants are beneficiary for with good working conditions,” adds Robert van Aerts. He pleads for a more active lobbying of the sector.


Various factors influence the wellbeing in the workplace. Source: Djelko van Es

Showing a profit

‘Clients don’t want to invest in it’, is an often-heard complaint of green builders and interior landscapers. The audience has several solutions for this problem. Make it clear that people need green to improve their productivity. Think in numbers and profit, show the results and add an obligation to produce a result in your contracts. Make note of government funding in your quotations and tenders, but subtract them of the total amount to seduce the client.

Green is doing better at home

How do we make consumers more passionate about green? Strangely enough consumers are already enthusiastic at the moment; especially when it comes to health. But how do get this trend to the work floor and to more consumer groups? One solution is to involve young people, and let children get used to green as good, healthy and normal. And make sure green walls become cheaper. Buying a green wall at the garden centre? Why not!

Multi-disciplinary collaboration

With so many professionals from various disciplines put together, it quickly becomes clear that collaboration in green is rewarding. “Start collaborating outside your own business sector,” says Djelko van Es. “Why not work together with air conditioning fitters? If plants can improve the air quality, then they will aid these fitters to enrich their product. Think and/and instead of or/or. Raimond de Hullu adds that you need to collaborate in order to be visible. Another participant says: “You need to get the architects on your side, they can influence the client.” Some architects are not entirely sure. They confirm that the client is the central person. “The architect needs to listen whether the client thinks green; this is an area where mistakes can happen.” Peter Goossens is a researcher at the Research station for ornamental planting in Belgium: “My research on green wall systems bridges a gap between interior horticulturalist, architect and client.”

Information centre needed for innovation

Project developers want to build green, but view plants more like decoration than as a profitable part of their project. Sharing information will speed up any process. Sharing information is a precondition for growth and innovation. Green building should also get a place in the polytechnic schools. Daan Bruggink: ” Students already know what is sustainability and think about the eco society, but they know little of natural systems.”

The government’s role

Buildin’Green took place in Park 20|20, in Haarlemmermeer. This is an area adjacent to the Schiphol and the “Groene Hart”, the green lung (or rather: heart) of the western part of the Netherlands. Here city councils, provincial administrations and partners in civil society look for durable solutions for new development and renovations and also make their inhabitants more conscious of the value of planting.

Councilman John Nederstigt of Haarlemmermeer, responsible for sustainable economic development, innovation and education, has made an effort, since he took office in 2010, to make the local economy more sustainable and create a better working and living environment. But there are also responsibilities as well as opportunities to tackle climate changes at a local level. For Haarlemmermeer this means more green spaces, to achieve more balance in an area with rather large carbon dioxide emissions. Park 20|20 is an inspiring example and Schiphol is on its way to become greener too. Smaller projects also give local governance a chance to influence, as the green walls in fifteen schools in this area will demonstrate. “The best way to convince people that green works is letting them experience it. Test results on paper don’t work.”

building with trees

Park 20I20

Province unites

Karin van Hoof is policy advisor with the province of Noord-Holland. “The province plays an initiating, informative, observing and uniting role for building green but also in planning green. For Noord-Holland I am involved with ‘Groen Kapitaal’ (Green Capital), with which we want to improve biodiversity outside nature reserves and enhance the knowledge of the social and economic value of green. The province is still finding its place and duty in this policy area. We are starting up Information cafés to get in touch with representatives of other segments. And in the area of sustainable building we try to set an example: our provincial government building just saw a sustainable renovation, changing the energy label from G to A+ with a green roof and, more recently, the durable the archaeological depot in the province in Castricum, called ‘Huis van Hilde’ (House of Hilda).”

International approach

Rob Franken of Van der Tol Landscapers underlines the importance of the diversity of attendants: “It is a welcome surprise to see so many disciplines gathered here. All participants are interested and have put this matter on their agendas. This is a good sign! The employer’s organization needs to propagate green building on a macro-economical scale; that’s more effective than convincing people individually.” The Swiss landscape architect Gerhard Zemp was interested in meeting other participants and learning new things. ‘In Switzerland there is no professional association for interior horticulturalists and yet we all face the same challenges. We should all work to influence the market and inform the public.” Former EILO president Robert van Aerts wants to look at green from a European level. “If we want to put interior planting on the agendas as contributing to a healthy workplace and good working conditions, we must increase our lobbying in Brussels. The office furniture industry has already succeeded there. It there is too little attention for interior planting, this is mainly due to a lack of communication.”


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