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EVORA Insights: The future of GRESB and the real estate industry

Interview with Roxana Isaiu, Director Real Estate, GRESB

With GRESB submissions now over for another year, many of us in the industry can breathe a (small) sigh of relief.

EVORA Director and co-founder, Ed Gabbitas, took some time out to speak with Roxana Isaiu, Director Real Estate, GRESB to chat about the future of GRESB and what the real estate industry should be focussing on.

Listen to Roxana’s insights on what the big issues are for the industry, why a shift towards performance is going to be essential and whether GRESB should be leading the industry or just capturing what’s already been done.

You can watch the full video here:

EVORA is a recognised leader in the provision of ESG strategy and professional sustainability services to the real estate investment industry across Europe.

Contact us today to discuss your sustainability needs.

GRESB 2019: Are you ready for the portal to open?

With just two weeks until the GRESB portal opens for 2019, the EVORA consultancy team is gearing up for our eighth year supporting clients through their GRESB Real Estate Survey submissions. We are experts in GRESB and that is why at least 80 funds have put their faith in us to manage their submission.

GRESB is by no means a walk in the park, that said with sufficient preparation and ensuring the right stakeholders are engaged from the beginning there is no reason why the process should not be straightforward. EVORA provides clients with an end-to-end service to take the pain out of GRESB.

Top Tips for a smooth journey through GRESB 2019

  1. Start [and aim to finish] early.
  2. At the start of the process and if you responded last year, remind yourself what went well and less well during the 2018 submission – consider both the process and individual question responses.
  3. Review changes to the survey questions (available from mid-February) and the guidance/scoring document (available from 1st March), as soon as they are released. Review these changes in the context of your entity/entities and its/their ability to maintain/improve GRESB scores. These changes may also create possible logistical challenges in gathering the necessary evidence and data in time for survey completion – so the earlier the better!
  4. Engage and educate those that will support you in delivering GRESB. Keep in regular touch with them throughout the process to make sure everyone is on track and is aware of their responsibilities.
  5. Although the survey closes on the 1st July, 5% of all submissions are selected for a Validation Plus interview so there is still a chance you may be called upon. The interview is a detailed review of your responses and the supporting evidence provided. Validation takes place from 1st June – 31st July.
  6. Automate data collection – Our propriety software, SIERA, delivered 65 GRESB submissions in 2018, helping clients to seamlessly acquire and report asset-level sustainability data into the GRESB portal.
  7. Seek external support/advice – Our team of sustainability consultants are experts in sustainability, real estate and [most relevantly] GRESB.

And lastly, GRESB 2020 will come around quickly. The results are released in early September and it is worthwhile putting some time aside to digest them. However, if you can’t wait that long, we provide clients with indicative scoring ahead of submission. This helps with future planning and managing expectations on current scoring.

We work with our clients to put in place a roadmap that aligns with their ESG strategy and which will enable them to continue to improve their GRESB score in the following and future years. If you’d like to speak to a member of the team, please contact us.

Download our GRESB eBook here.

GRESB 2019 pre-release: a review of the tweaks and refinements

GRESB has broadly taken a “don’t fix what ain’t broke” approach to the 2019 survey, with the pre-release revealing that only minor changes to the reporting framework have been made from last year.

This is perhaps a sign that, after ten years of development, GRESB are settling on a long-term formula for the majority of the questionnaire. This consistency will enable real estate funds and sustainability professionals to focus more on delivering improvement programmes and less on dealing with shifting reporting expectations, thereby maximising the benefit that GRESB participation will bring about.

Steps have also been taken to reduce reporting burden, with evidence requirements removed from ME2 (data management system) and SE8.1 (tenant satisfaction surveys) where past evidence acceptance rates were high. While EVORA generally supports attempts to reduce reporting burden, removing evidence requirements is potentially an integrity risk, particularly in this instance regarding SE8.1. Open text boxes removed from RO5/6/7 (implemented measures), PI1.2/2.2/3.2 (intensity calculations) and NC7.2 (net zero buildings) where the information was not considered to be adding sufficient value for the effort required.

While EVORA generally supports attempts to reduce reporting burden, removing evidence requirements is potentially an integrity risk

Despite the pursuit of consistency, GRESB is still recognising the real estate industry’s shifting goalposts by introducing two two-part questions to the stakeholder engagement section (SE12 and SE13) on the implementation of programmes for the promotion and improvement of health & wellbeing. These are at organisation (i.e. your employees) and asset level respectively. A selection of other references to health & wellbeing has also been introduced throughout the survey, acknowledging the growing importance of this theme in real estate.

The Resilience Module is also entering its second year, and we await further details of this with intrigue. This topic continues to gain significant momentum amongst our clients and in the industry as a whole, and we expect GRESB will acknowledge this through its updates to the Module and the subsequent introduction to the main survey in the coming years.

If anything, I would argue that it’s the “checked” and “verified” categories that could be merged

Perhaps the most controversial change to the Survey is that “verification” and “assurance” of data will be scored equally. Having been through the assurance process with clients in the past, I can vouch that it is extremely thorough and, in my view, warrants the additional points it receives. If anything, I would argue that it’s the “checked” and “verified” categories that could be merged, as the lines of definition between these two are generally more blurred.

Overall, EVORA supports GRESB’s approach of striving for consistency whilst acknowledging new industry themes, and we look forward to continuing to drive innovation and transformation through its delivery in 2019.


EVORA Global GRESB Premier PartnerWe are perfectly positioned to provide GRESB support. View our official Premier Partner profile.

We can work with you to complete the submission and understand your scoring, as well as develop a sustainability plan that will improve your future GRESB performance and align with your organisation’s key environmental objectives.

Contact us to see how we can help you.

GRESB 2019: What are your limiting factors?

It feels like not too long ago, the GRESB reporting season reached its climax and our consultants breathed a sigh of relief, dubbing last year as one of our busiest GRESB periods yet.

Ironically, it’s set to get even busier for us this year with our team expected to support close to 90 submissions, quite a leap from the 70 submissions we supported on last year.

But how do we manage to accurately support all these submissions you may ask?


EVORA has had a close working relationship with GRESB over the last six years and has been supporting clients with the survey ever since. The depth of experience we’ve gained over this time enables us to support first-class submissions for our clients. To a large extent, our efforts are powered by our proprietary sustainability software, SIERA, which seamlessly transfers data into the GRESB portal reducing what we well know is a time-intensive process.

Getting outstanding results (where targeted), which is the much coveted five-star rating, comes with being recognised as an industry leader and speaks highly of you to investors and stakeholders. However, to achieve GRESB success we often find that there are limiting factors that can hold participants back from reaching their end goal.

With our experience in supporting clients right from the early stages through to market leadership, we seek to address common limiting factors that get in the way of achieving high GRESB ratings.

Have you identified areas where you can improve scoring opportunities?

“It’s the little things that matter!”

To bridge the gap between where you are and where you want to be, spend some time reviewing/analysing last year’s scores and define an action plan for this year’s survey aligned with your fund’s sustainability strategy and objectives. If this is your first GRESB assessment, consider each of the sustainability aspects within the survey and review the availability of sustainability performance data such as utility data, technical audits, and stakeholder engagement programmes. Allocate roles and responsibilities within the business, a timeline for completion and track progress.

Don’t forget to review changes to the survey questions within the pre-release document, which is available now!

Is there a coordinated approach within the organisation for submitting supporting evidence?

As we well know, a lot of supporting evidence that broadly covers ESG (Environmental Social & Governance) topics is required throughout the survey. It gets even trickier if you have an international portfolio and you work with multiple stakeholders.

Put a structure in place for collating and preparing evidence required early! Engage with internal and external stakeholders to ensure they understand what is required of them to ensure a smooth submission process.

Are there efficient processes in place for collating and submitting PI (performance indicators) data?

Collating asset level data can be quite a challenge for organisations with large portfolios, however, the PI aspect of GRESB accounts for 25.6% of the overall marks; the highest weighting of all seven aspects.

As we always say, focus on transparency, quality, and automation as much as possible. For example, with our software SIERA, we support clients to collate asset level data, provide verification, analyse and support submissions.

To provide an even more streamlined process to the GRESB survey we are set to release exciting updates to our SIERA software prior to April 2019 – keep your eyes peeled.

How would you respond to new ESG trends included within the survey this year?

The GRESB 2019 survey includes select questions from the previously optional Health & Wellbeing module. Prepare in advance by studying the pre-release document which sets out the key changes and will let you draw up an approach your organisation may take in responding to these. Keeping an eye on the weighting will help you to take a strategic view when identifying key focus areas for GRESB 2019.

Health and wellbeing is a broad topic and as such we recommend you engage with a variety of key stakeholders (considering internal programmes and what’s happening within your portfolio) to draw out key considerations. This could be across health, safety, crime, wellbeing, accessibility and inclusivity.

Implement a monitoring procedure which you can easily report on, that reflects these activities such as tenant satisfaction surveys, IEQ (Indoor Environmental Quality) assessments etc.

Final thoughts

With each limiting factor that you eliminate, you accelerate the rate at which you progress towards enhanced fund performance and GRESB success. EVORA can offer advice on overcoming any of these factors that are limiting your potential.

Read our GRESB eBook here for a comprehensive guide on how to prepare your assets and portfolio for success in the GRESB 2019 reporting cycle.

To make it easy on yourself and others, get in touch and our team of experts will be happy to help.

Health and Wellbeing: Emerging or Mainstream?

For many professionals working in the built environment, Health and Wellbeing still feel like relatively new buzzwords. In some ways this is surprising given that the subject area has been around for many years; for example, the term “sick building syndrome” was coined by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 1986.

In reality though, the subject area has received a massive uptick in attention in recent years and a simultaneous increase in the number and robustness of relevant building standards: RESET was released to the public in 2009, the WELL standard (V1) was published in 2014 and Fitwel in 2015.

Perhaps in part this is due to an increase in available academic research linking employee see ativan online https://ativanusa.com/ best sleeping pills ativan health and wellbeing with improved productivity, which significantly boosts the business case for it to be taken seriously. And arguably, being taken seriously it is…

  • WELL boasts it has projects covering 195 million of square feet.
  • The health and wellbeing GRESB module will be integrated with the main GRESB survey in 2019. Indeed 32% of Real Estate participants and 52% of developers responded in 2018.

All of this makes me wonder whether Health and Wellbeing is now genuinely becoming mainstream?

Well, in my view the trajectory is certainly forward however, Health and Wellbeing certifications are not desirable for all buildings. Typically, these standards are being applied to new buildings and major renovations where clearly, the application of Health and Wellbeing will always be easier with a blank canvas. For me the challenge really lies in the integration of Health and Wellbeing improvements in existing buildings. According to Defra 80% of the current UK building stock will still be standing in 2050; thus there is a huge imperative to address what can be done to make the spaces in which we work and inhabit supportive of long-term health and mental wellbeing.

As a first step towards achieving this goal for existing buildings, we work with clients to baseline the Health and Wellbeing credentials of their portfolios. This identifies gaps and key opportunities that will make a material difference and optimise the available budget. Whilst it may not be possible to redesign the fabric of the building or available daylight, improving the cycling facilities can enable tenants to switch their mode of commute. ‘Enable’ is the key word for landlords here. Although more direct interventions are possible through improvements to the ventilation and thermal comfort following a review of the building management system and the installation of sensors. These are but some of the scalable solutions that can be considered regardless of the inherent constraints of a building.

Going a step further if Healthy Buildings are to become mainstream this must be tackled in conjunction with the understanding that buildings do not operate in isolation.

Going a step further if Healthy Buildings are to become mainstream this must be tackled in conjunction with the understanding that buildings do not operate in isolation. The fact that the built environment can make a positive impact to enable ‘Healthy Placemaking’ needs to also be considered. Linking the internal with the external does move the goal post but it is all the more necessary if we are to be truly successful at enabling healthy outcomes for tenants and communities alike and fostering resilience.

The WELL Community standard seeks to address this and it will be interesting to track its adoption. Taking an integrated approach further boosts any derived benefits from interventions made at the asset level. Returning to the example of the improved cycling facilities within the building. Where this is made in conjunction with improved access to local cycling routes outcomes can be further enhanced. Approaching Health and Wellbeing as part of a joined-up strategy that situates the building in its locality will ensure we create truly Healthy Buildings and urban environments that serve many generations to come.

This blog post was first published on GRESB Insights.


You can download our FREE GRESB eBook here or contact one of the team to discuss how EVORA can help you.

GRESB 2018: The Results

At EVORA, we support a broad range of clients to complete GRESB submissions – from new starters and organisations just starting out on development of their ESG strategies through to industry leaders.

This year, we assisted around 70 submissions.  It has been (and continues to be) challenging work. However, we are delighted with the results.  We are in the process of completing a detained analysis for all participants we supported, however, below, we set out some exciting highlights.


GRESB 2018 Results for some of our clients

FORE Partnership, a purpose-driven, direct co-investing platform for UK and European real estate achieved five green stars (out of five) and came third in its peer group.  This was particularly pleasing as FORE has rapidly progressed to five green stars through a deep-rooted commitment to incorporate sustainability into everything it does.

SPF Joint Venture, an investment in German out of town retail parks and managed by PATRIZIA achieved five green stars and came third overall in Germany.  This GRESB result recognises two years of work to establish best practice ESG programmes.

The Hines Pan-European Core Fund(HECF), an open-ended non-listed pan-European diversified core fund, also achieved five green stars.  This time, for the second year in a row. HECF also retained its GRESB Global Sector Leader status and ranked first among European diversified office/retail portfolios. This year, HECF also achieved first place among the 367 European non-listed vehicles and seventh globally among the 874 vehicles that participated in the survey. Notably, the HECF also ranked first globally in the optional ‘Health & Well-Being’ and ‘Resilience’ modules.  Read more here.

Europa Capital submitted five funds to GRESB. EVORA has supported Europa to develop and operate an ESG strategy over the last two years and has assisted with responding to GRESB for longer.  The ongoing work is paying off.  This is reflected by improved ratings for all funds and an average 15% score increase.

For more information on GRESB, and on Health, Wellbeing and Resilience in particular, why not request to attend our upcoming event.


EVORA Global GRESB Premier PartnerWe are perfectly positioned to provide GRESB support. View our official Premier Partner profile.

We can work with you to complete the submission and understand your scoring, as well as develop a sustainability plan that will improve your future GRESB performance and align with your organisation’s key environmental objectives.

GRESB 2018: A Call to Arms!

Following the release of individual respondent-level GRESB results on Friday 7th September, overall results were presented by GRESB in London on Tuesday 11th September. Results presentations will continue to be delivered by GRESB around the world throughout September.

Headline figures presented demonstrated both the increased level of interest in GRESB and the positive impact the survey is having on real estate sustainability performance. In summary:

  • Participation has increased. In 2018 there were;
    • 903 survey responses (207 of which were from publicly listed entities)
    • From 64 countries
    • Covering 79,000 assets and $3.5 trillion in gross asset value.
  • A continual improvement in ESG performance was reported – where average GRESB scores increased to 68, up from 63 in 2017.  GRESB state that this continued improvement reflects the industry’s commitment to further integrate ESG best practices.
  • Australia maintains its regional leadership position but the performance gap between geographies is narrowing.
  • Of the 79,000 buildings covered by GRESB, 50,000 submitted data at ‘asset level’ (74% of all participants).
  • 83% of reported energy data was subject to a third party review.
  • Like-for-like energy, GHG and water data all demonstrated a year-on-year reduction (a good thing).
  • 11% of reported floor area benefits from some form of green building certificate.

I am heartened by progress to-date and continue to believe that GRESB remains a powerful mechanism that can help drive change in the real estate industry. However, I also believe that as an industry we must change-up a few gears.

However, as an industry we must rapidly progress further towards automated collection and transfer of ESG performance data to speed-up the process and also reduce potential for human error.

We have been talking about data – coverage and quality – for years, and yet it is still a problem. This must be addressed ‘globally’ and soon. EVORA developed our proprietary software tool SIERA to support the process of data acquisition and validation.  The decision to do so was and continues to be transformational for us and our clients. It has helped simplify and speed-up data collection and analysis at meter, asset and fund level. However, as an industry we must rapidly progress further towards automated collection and transfer of ESG performance data to speed-up the process and also reduce potential for human error. The technology exists to automate data acquisition but adoption remains low, in simple terms, data collection is still a bottle neck and the source of many errors, even in 2018!

Furthermore, wholescale adoption of new technologies and investment in retrofit of domestic and non-domestic buildings is needed, especially if, as an industry, we are going to contribute to our fullest ability to the internationally agreed commitments to mitigate climate change.

Rapid progression is needed!


EVORA Global GRESB Premier PartnerWe are perfectly positioned to provide GRESB support. View our official Premier Partner profile.

We can work with you to complete the submission and understand your scoring, as well as develop a sustainability plan that will improve your future GRESB performance and align with your organisation’s key environmental objectives.

GRESB Results 2018: EVORA supports Hines to achieve Sector Leader status and top global ranking in Health, Wellbeing and Resilience

PRESS RELEASE – 12 September 2018
Download the full press release here.

Hines Pan-European Core Fund Recognized as Sector Leader by GRESB Results 2018 for Sustainability Performance

We are delighted to congratulate our client, Hines Pan-European Core Fund (HECF), for their absolutely stellar GRESB 2018 results:

  • GRESB Global Sector Leader
  • GRESB Europe Sector Leader
  • Ranked 1st Globally in the supplementary Health & Wellbeing module.
  • Ranked 1st Globally in the supplementary Resilience module.

It’s testament to their historic investment in and ongoing commitment to sustainability/ESG, plus their ability to respond quickly to emerging trends and topics such as health, wellbeing and resilience.

We have thoroughly enjoyed providing HECF with sustainability consultancy (including GRESB submission support) during the past two years and look forward to continuing our collaboration during the year(s) ahead.

Ed Gabbitas, Director, EVORA said: The EVORA and HECF teams have worked incredibly hard over the past year to maintain Sector Leader status. It is great to see our high performing ESG strategy contribute to an equally high performing overall fund strategy, which has seen occupancy at 99.4% (as at Q2 2018), and doubling of assets under management (to €1.2bn GAV) since we first started working with Hines.

You can read the full Hines press release here.


GRESB Premier PartnerWe are perfectly positioned to provide GRESB support. View our official Premier Partner profile.

We can work with you to complete the submission and understand your scoring, as well as develop a sustainability plan that will improve your future GRESB performance and align with your organisation’s key environmental objectives.

GRESB 2018: over, not done with!

With GRESB over we talked to a number of staff across our business to get a view on experiences faced, whilst it was still fresh in the team’s mind.


Supporting the team for our busiest ever GRESB season.

Paul Sutcliffe – Director

I’ve lost count of the number of GRESB submissions I have supported over the years. I do know that this year at EVORA we supported around 70 submissions, from a broad array of clients (covering sector Number 1s through to first time participants). Our busiest ever GRESB season!

Whilst we represent a broad array of participants with different fund structures and objectives, we do see some common themes. Our clients universally want to ensure that:

  1. Sustainability policies and practices are effective and appropriate for their organisations
  2. Their GRESB submission correctly and accurately reflects their true sustainability position.

There is a clear recognition and acceptance that GRESB is a one size fits all approach. To use a sloppy analogy – sometimes the shoe fits perfectly, other times it’s a bit loose, sometimes too tight, but everyone can still walk in it.

With the GRESB deadline of 12 noon Eastern US time fast approaching, I prepared myself for some long nights. I needn’t have worried though. Our team and clients mobilised, focused, used SIERA (our sustainability software platform) and worked hard to get everything in on time. Final confirmation, of the last submission (for me) came from the last of my clients early on Saturday morning. I breathed a sigh of relief. I had a weekend to enjoy!

One last thing. GRESB has been able to galvanize the industry and drive forward the sustainability agenda. Our industry should work with this and in particular, reflect when the results come out in September. I am a strong believer that GRESB should be used to inform, not drive individual organisational ESG agendas.


Time flies when it’s your first GRESB year!

Katie Brown – Junior Sustainability Consultant

As this was my first year supporting GRESB, there was a lot to grasp and a lot to learn, fast! The time flew, and on reflection preparation is key. Some elements of the submission would have been extremely challenging and time intensive to complete without the help of our SIERA software. We would not have been able to support so many submissions without it. It was important to plan well and communicate early – time well invested should be reflected in an accurate (and higher) GRESB score.

Some elements of the submission would have been extremely challenging and time intensive to complete without the help of our SIERA software. We would not have been able to support so many submissions without it.

I have been impressed that despite the focus on environmental performance of assets forming a core element of the survey, there is a broad spectrum of the sustainability agenda covered, with attention also on social and governance topics including health and safety, management, policies, and supply chains, just to name a few! Also, the inclusion of the health and wellbeing module, and this year a new module on resilience, brings to the forefront important and emerging ESG trends.

The GRESB survey promotes much needed transparency of the sustainability efforts by businesses in the real estate sector, both as a benchmarking tool and providing greater visibility for investors, but also provides a great opportunity to guide and inform more ambitious and rigorous ESG strategies going forward.


It’s all about the data.

Nick Hogg – Associate Director (SIERA Software)

As those that have participated in the GRESB submission process will know, the amount of information and effort that can be required to provide a seemingly straight forward number in answering a GRESB question can be sometimes underestimated. The Performance Indicators is an aspect where this can challenge participants due to sheer quantum of data that might need to be handled across all the impact areas for an entity, not least with more participants submitting data at asset level.

Across all the submissions we were supporting on this year we found that SIERA handled over half a million datapoints through the Asset level interface alone. We have blogged before that GRESB have allowed the automated transfer of Performance Indicator (PI) data from sustainability management software systems, such as SIERA, directly into the GRESB portal for the last few years. We found this automated transfer of data through SIERA vital, not just in trying to make the complexity of reporting more efficient but essential in establishing a robust and transparent method of reporting asset level data.

Across all the submissions we were supporting on this year we found that SIERA handled over half a million datapoints through the Asset level interface alone.

We introduced additional functionality in SIERA this year to further automate the calculation of energy, GHG and water intensity and have plans to continue expansion of SIERA’s GRESB capability over the coming months.


Submissions are done, but it’s not over!

Louise Russell –  Senior Sustainability Consultant

This will have been my fourth year supporting GRESB clients. I support a variety of clients each at a different stage on their sustainability journey.  Existing clients who are already hot on sustainability continue to maintain leading positions principally due to their wider sustainability programmes which we support during the year. For them, GRESB is useful to benchmark the position of their various funds against peers and internally. However, GRESB is not the driver and broader sustainability as well as responsible investing is something that is taken very seriously.

For my clients that were newcomers to GRESB this was the first time that they as an organisation considered what sustainability means to them. Clients are often surprised by what is already in place within their organisations albeit via an unstructured approach. Where we assist is coordinating the various stakeholders to collate the responses. Whilst we never advise that a sustainability strategy should be GRESB driven it does act as a gateway for those approaching sustainability for the first time.

The key to this is starting early especially for those clients that report in calendar year, waiting until the results come out in September will only allow just over three months to December to make improvements before the GRESB reporting year is over.

Now that we are post-GRESB these same clients are looking to build on their existing processes, formalise their sustainability strategy and put in place a sustainability programme that will deliver an improved score in 2019. The key to this is starting early especially for those clients that report in calendar year, waiting until the results come out in September will only allow just over three months to December to make improvements before the GRESB reporting year is over.

If you have anymore questions about the content of this blog or GRESB in general, get in touch and our team of experts will be happy to help.


GRESB Premier PartnerAs a GRESB Real Estate Premier Partner, we are perfectly positioned to provide GRESB support. View our official Premier Partner profile.

We can work with you to complete the submission and understand your scoring, as well as develop a sustainability plan that will improve your future GRESB performance and align with your organisation’s key environmental objectives.