Project developers develop new projects or reconvert existing buildings for new or different use. The project developer is often an independent company that focuses on the development of use concepts for homes and businesses and outsources the actual construction to third parties. There are, however, also project development companies that are part of a construction group: the so-called developing builders. An important reason for the project developer’s existence is the assumption of the risks involved in the process of a development. Three risks can be distinguished: how the market develops, the price of construction and how well the development process will proceed. As a private business that is part of the project only during the development phase, its main motivation is realising short-term profit.
As initiative takers for building projects, developers can play an important role in the implementation of climate adaptive and nature orientated solutions. Having a leading role and being financially responsible, they are in contact and have to work together with local and national governments, water authorities, real estate investors, constructions firms, architects/ city designers, Buyers and renters, inhabitants of the project area, and consultants. This gives them an ideal position to affect positive change, if proper motivation and lack of barriers are present.
One of their strongest barriers is their profit-based orientation: if they do not see a perspective of possible financial benefit, it is not likely they will engage in climate adaptive measures as they will see the financial risk involved as too high. Developers themselves therefore stress the importance of a level playing field, provided through government law and regulation
On the contrary, governments can, however, also serve as a barrier to private developers. Especially municipalities usually have different departments responsible for different issues, creating a network that has the risk of being confusing to the outsider as it is not always clear who to contact or work with. Conflicting interests between different government departments add to the complexity. Connecting these different departments and interests within can therefore serve both the government itself as well as business.
To achieve this, specialised help is key and knowledge exchange should be improved. Consultants could help overcome both the processual barriers as well as those that have to do with climate adaptive solutions itself. A lack of knowledge and information is furthermore evident in the lack of measuring tools. Creating such tools could help developers understand better and reduce the financial risk of climate adaptive solutions.
Lastly, as market orientated private businesses, developers are bound to factors such as consumer willingness and market norms. A sustainability trend could therefore push a developer into the direction of adopting more climate adaptive solutions in their designs. Creating awareness, involving citizens at early stages, setting up good laws and regulations, informing and consulting with business, and letting market principles guide the process once sustainable norms are set, could therefore go a long way in convincing developers to take action.