The community property company Vacse was founded ten years ago by seven Swedish retirement foundations. They own, administer and develop properties for the justice system, the educational system and offices for community services, while providing long-term leases based on long-term yield. “The long-term perspective is one of our cornerstones,” Jägermo says, “which is only right because we administer pension funds, so everything about our operations is long-term. Looking specifically at property service, turnout time is one of the most vital aspects, because it includes so many critical phases. For example, if you work in a police station, you can’t have the gates suddenly jamming when first response vehicles are trying to exit; the cars would crash into them. An emergency is an emergency.”
Today Vacse is one of the biggest players in the community property segment. They own the Attunda city courthouse, the high-security jail in Sollentuna and the new Court of Appeals building in Malmö. Working with public properties presents a number of challenges for a property manager or operations manager—in particular Vacse, which often needs to consider a wide range of aspects that don’t usually come up in property management. For example, how to secure the roof of a courthouse in the event of an escape attempt by helicopter.
“We have to be very understanding—which we often are as citizens, we understand at a basic level how the justice system and jails work. But we have to understand that you can’t just come and knock on the door to conduct maintenance, you have to understand why the structures look the way they do. And that requires greater insight from everyone involved.”
What is BREEAM?
is an environmental certification system from the UK, established in 1990. It is the most widely used system for environmental certification in Europe and applies to over 500,000 buildings worldwide.
As long-term owners of community properties, sustainability is a core issue and a core value for the operations as a whole. In the fall of 2017, Vacse also began efforts to certify all of its non-certified properties under BREEAM In-Use, with the aim of having 100% of their properties certified in the near future. But for Vacse, the job is not just to be responsible for their buildings, they also have to take a social responsibility—and when you work with public buildings, you often face interesting challenges beyond the usual long-term focus.
“The main challenge is that you can’t do just what you feel like; there are laws and regulations to follow. If you look at jail cells, they don’t have the same requirements for sustainability regulation as other buildings. You’re working with an entirely different type of rights in terms of things like heating and cooling. And we just have to accept that, but it also means that government authorities’ willingness to change becomes extra-important.”
Jägermo points out that discussion is crucial. That agencies like correctional services see that the will exists and that they jointly plant the seeds of responsibility and changing their behaviors. And perhaps that attitude is what led to Vacse receiving an international environmental prize at the BREEAM Awards for the best BREEAM In-Use-certified building for the high-security jail in Sollentuna. “In terms of sustainability issues, there is a false belief that property owners only want to save money, but as property administrators, this is not true. On the contrary, we go the extra mile to benefit our tenants, not ourselves. We also have a whole new climate world to consider. For example, we talk too little about water these days when we talk about measuring consumption in a building. That hasn’t been a problem in the Nordic countries before, but it is now.”
The Södertälje police station, which Vacse administers, is currently awaiting beehives, which will contribute to increased pollination, and navy blue solar cells have been installed on the roof. The station also works extensively with monitoring screens that show the health of the building, and with insect hotels that benefit our flora and fauna. “This concept wasn’t even on the map five years ago, but today we see that we must work with sustainability at all times, on all levels. Property managers like Coor have a huge job here, because they need to implement behavioral changes bothfor users and tenants, and learn how to use heating, cooling and lighting efficiently. And of course everyone who works with these properties has a responsibility to ensure that the basic societal features work. Every little thing counts, so it is vital that the right people are in the right place.”
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