Solar power: still a viable option following the closure of the feed-in tariff

There have been widespread predictions that green energy technologies, such as solar and wind power, would not be able to survive the government’s closure of the feed-in tariff (FiT) scheme for small scale renewables at the end of March this year.

For many suppliers, this has certainly been the case. The number of registered solar installers, which blossomed to 6500 by 2014, is now less than 1000 in May 2019 – equating to just a few hundred companies.

But for those who have managed to hang in there, the signs are that this tariff-free future could, in fact, herald a new golden age of solar photo-voltaics (PV) without the hindrance of continual FiT deadlines.

The great gamble by the government seems to have paid off and the material prices for PV have now reduced significantly to the point where, so long as the generated solar power is used within the building where the system is installed, small/medium scale commercial solar PV systems do not need a feed-in tariff to be viable.

Four years ago the cost of a 50kw PV system was in the region of £65,000. The same system, including design, structural engineers report, mechanical and electrical (M&E) support and the installation itself, is now circa £40,000. Whether the building owner consumes all of that power themselves or the same is sold to the tenant on a competitive power purchase agreement of 12p per kWh, the investment rate of return (IRR) can be expected in the region of +12%. That does not take into consideration the annual increases to the cost of electricity which would boost this return still further.

Even if the system owner opts for a full life-time operating and maintenance package, the IRR is still in the region of 8%, which provides a very healthy return on investment, given system lifetimes are well over 35 years currently.

On top of this, PV still delivers on its initial promise of reducing carbon dioxide, with a 50kw system saving more than 20 tonnes of carbon emissions per year compared to existing electrical consumption.

With the government signalling that climate change targets are likely to get even more challenging, commercial building owners can once again look at PV as a well proven, low impact method of generating green energy, as well as a very profitable investment.

EVORA EDGE has experience in installing and managing PV systems in commercial buildings. For more information have a look at our case study where we identified suitable sites, negotiated with occupiers and managed the installation of systems for a large investment fund.

Contact Andrew Cooper on acooper@evoraglobal.com or 01743 341 903

Addressing Environmental Risk in Shopping Centres

Environmental impact is not the first thing that comes to mind when we pop down to the local shopping centre. However, going behind the scenes offers a very different viewpoint.

Many impacts need to be considered and managed including energy and water usage, waste management, potential water discharges (think car washes), noise, air conditioning, climate change resilience, flood risk, EPCs and Minimum Energy Efficiency Standard (MEES) obligations. I could go on and I haven’t even mentioned social, economic or health and wellbeing factors also at play. Left unmanaged, these issues can cause harm to the environment, waste money and even impact on asset values. This blog explores the benefits of implementing an Environmental Management System (EMS) to a shopping centre.

To provide a bit of background, I have worked at EVORA for 18 months now.  My role is varied and late last year I successfully completed my first ISO 14001 EMS implementation project. I thought I had better get my ideas down and quickly.


Proactive

Environmental issues are regularly dealt with on an ad hoc basis. Understanding risks and legal requirements is key in mitigating potential incidents and pollution events – otherwise they may only be identified after an incident has occurred. An EMS provides a proactive approach to managing risks as it provides a mechanism and structure to identify, understand and manage the site-specific issues appropriately.

As an example, a site I visited recently benefited from an interceptor, however, it had not been inspected for several years (due to access issues) and maintenance records did not exist. As a result, if there had been a significant spillage, the interceptor may have failed and resulted in a pollution event occurring in the local environment. An EMS, if implemented and used correctly, identifies risk, potential legal requirements and, in this case, would have ensured a regime of maintenance was implemented and sustained.

It could be argued that such an approach can be developed without an EMS – true – but in this case it was not.  Our project used EMS implementation to address this issue.


Legal Compliance

The environmental regulatory landscape can be a minefield for those unfamiliar with the subject. This can result in difficulties in maintaining legal compliance (you cannot comply with legislation if you don’t know what you have to do). Having worked for EVORA for the past 18 months, I have spent a lot of my time building up an understanding of the nuances and intricacies of environmental legislation.  Spoiler alert – it is never as straightforward as it seems! There are many different areas of environmental legislation applicable to shopping centres (and the wider arena of properties in general).

Examples include:

  • Ensuring that waste is stored correctly and disposed of appropriately, if treated on-site, waste exemptions must be considered
  • Maintaining the availability of accurate waste documentation
  • Ensuring EPCs are in place where applicable and compliant with MEES requirements
  • Arranging boiler servicing and F-gas leak testing to be undertaken in line with defined timescales by appropriately competent people
  • Maintaining the integrity of on-site fuel storage and associated systems such as interceptors
  • Bird control (one of the shopping centres we support has a significant seagull issue!)

An EMS can help ensure legislative requirements are understood and implemented.


 A Structured Approach

At first glance it can be difficult to understand the widespread benefits of an EMS. On my first EMS project I asked the question ‘Why are they were pushing ahead with ISO14001?’

On reflection, I think there are multiple reasons:

  • Structured control of environmental risks
  • Identification of improvement opportunities that reduce operating costs (energy savings)
  • Ability to demonstrate environmental credentials to the outside world.

An EMS provides a defined methodology for risk management. It can be implemented on a single site or across an entire business. Furthermore it can integrate with other systems (think health and safety or quality). The setting of objectives helps to manage risks (i.e. energy use) and improve performance often resulting in reduced costs. Progress is monitored in order to determine if objectives are on course to be achieved. This all drives continual improvement, which in turn ensures shopping centres with effective environmental management systems become more resilient to environmental risk and helps in future proofing the asset.


To Certify or Not to Certify

ISO 14001 is the international standard for environmental management. An EMS can be certified against this standard. This is not essential, however, it can be useful for an external party to certify the EMS as it can provide a fresh pair of eyes and helps to confirm that the system is working effectively. A certified ISO:14001 EMS provides external proof and strengthens reputation, provides good publicity for the business, improves GRESB scoring (where relevant) and is often perceived favourably by tenants.

Environmental Management Systems – Worth Far More than the paper they are written on!

If you want to find out more about Environmental Management Systems and wider sustainability strategies in shopping centres contact EVORA today.

Easy energy savings: Closing Up for Christmas

Easy energy savings: Tips & Tricks to minimise your energy consumption over the Winter break.

It’s that time of year again: the old Christmas jumper pulled from the depths of your drawers, Secret Santa gifts exchanged, every last drop of mulled wine in a three-mile radius consumed, and now Christmas is just around the corner and the office is closing up.

With all the occupants out and about, why not give your building a break too?

With all the occupants out and about, why not give your building a break too? Closing up for Christmas should be more than just locking the doors and turning on your out of office – the holidays present an ideal opportunity to shut down your building systems and avoid unnecessary wear & tear and energy usage.


These are our top tips for site teams on closing up the office for Christmas:

  • Shut down central plant– The 25thof December and the 1stof January are national holidays across Europe, so as a minimum plant need not run on these days. Many offices will shut on other days as well or even throughout the whole period so be sure to make the most of this. The majority of BMS front-end systems will allow you to set exceptions for specific days so that everything returns to the normal setup in the new year.
  • Turn off / turn down radiators– Any manually-controlled radiators around the building will continue to pump out heat unless you turn down the thermostats or switch off the LTHW system centrally using the BMS.
  • Check frost protection settings– Dealing with frost damage is no way to kick off the new year. Therefore, make it your early resolution to ensure that all internal temperature (stage 2) frost protection settings are adequate. EVORA recommends these be set to 10ºC.
  • Review tenant control panels– We all know what an office is like… Sarah’s too hot, Jonny’s too cold, and no one knows why Phil keeps opening the window. If you leave tenant HVAC control panels unchecked for too long, this battle of wills can quickly make a mess of the settings. As the office empties over the holidays this can be an ideal moment for the site team to step in and do a review, whilst minimising disturbance for the tenants.
  • Reduce fresh air delivery– Even if the office is open chances are occupancy is reduced, and with fewer people around CO2 levels in your building will increase much more slowly. If you’ve got a demand-driven system with CO2 sensors on the extract ducts then, nice work, your BMS is sorting it for you. If not, then consider monitoring building occupancy and internal air quality, then reducing the fresh air delivery rate and/or Air Handling Unit operating hours where possible based on this information. This will have the bonus effect of reducing heating demand, as less cold winter air will be pulled in from outside.
  • Finally, unplug the Christmas lights– I know you’re proud of your nicely decorated tree but come on now, nobody’s here to see it, just switch the lights off!

Happy Holidays from everyone at EVORA!

Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme (ESOS) – a burden or an opportunity?

Regulatory reporting can often feel a burden, and in areas which are more specialist, such as energy and carbon reporting, it can be a daunting experience.

Energy and carbon reporting regulations have principally been introduced to highlight the materiality of the impacts and provide visibility of the opportunities to deliver both energy and cost savings.

The reality is that many organisations only want to be compliant and it is only the few who see the opportunity to push forward opportunities and create a competitive advantage.

A good example of this is the Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme (ESOS).


ESOS (Article 8 in Europe) is upon us again in the guise of Phase 2 and will impact large undertakings both in the UK and Europe, requiring them, in simple terms, to measure 12 months of energy across their organisation and identify energy efficiency initiatives through energy audits. For more information on meeting compliance read our ESOS compliance guide.

ESOS has been developed to help organisations understand their total energy use and identify opportunities to deliver energy and cost savings, which is presented to senior management. It is hoped by the government that ‘low hanging fruit’ with pay backs of less than a year will be a no brainer to organisations to implement.

Although the deadline is the 5thDecember 2019, there are advantages in kicking off early with the energy audits, firstly to have a project plan in place to ensure you meet the deadline and secondly to identify cost-effective energy efficiency opportunities, which could provide immediate benefit to the financial bottom line. In Phase One, EVORA identified £2.8M of low cost energy savings for its clients.

Do you see ESOS as a cost to your business or an investment?

ESOS only requires you to identify the opportunities and ironically many organisations did not implement the initiatives found in Phase One. This turns ESOS regulation into a cost rather than an investment – a significant missed opportunity.

An example of the quick win opportunities is highlighted by work EVORA delivered in collaboration with a property management company to deliver an energy efficiency programme utilising EVORA’s energy management software, SIERA. The graph below displays the weekly energy profile at the office building (110 Queen Street in Glasgow) before (light blue line) and after interventions (dark blue line) were brought about by the improvement programme.

Significant improvements in the energy profile can be seen, especially at the weekend, which has delivered savings of 30% (greater than £30,000 actual savings in the year) without any capital expenditure. This was achieved despite increased occupancy at the property throughout the year and payback was less than three months.

For more information on how we delivered these savings read the full case study here.

This is certainly not the exception and we have worked with an array of sectors including power generation, real estate, retail and hotel & leisure to optimise energy efficiency, often achieving surprising results.

If you’d to learn more about how we can support you with your ESOS regulation and turn a compliance cost into a long term investment, contact us.

Do your buildings meet the Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES)?

Are your assets at risk as a result of the Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES) regulations which came into force on the 1st of April 2018?

In a previous blog post titled “MEES regulations: How they will impact flexible workspace from April 2018” written by my colleague Russ Avery, he gave a 10-point strategy on how you can manage MEES risks.


The regulation means that landlords cannot let, extend or renew a lease for F and G rated properties unless an exemption applies. One such (temporary) exemption is that the EPC rating cannot be improved through measures that pay for themselves within a 7-year period.

E rated properties may still be at risk from MEES regulations!

Landlords and their professional advisors should also be aware that there was a fundamental change to the EPC calculation methodology effective April 2011.

This means that assets which had their EPCs prepared prior to this date could be at risk even if they were E ratedClick To Tweet

This means that assets which had their EPCs prepared prior to this date could be at risk even if they were E rated. We can identify these assets after reviewing your existing EPC’s and help establish improvement programmes to improve your rating.


What implications will this regulation have on your assets?

MEES regulations will need to be factored into the day-to-day asset management of commercial real estate. We consider below some implications of the regulations.

Transactional value: We have first-hand evidence as a company that poor EPC ratings affect transactional values. We know of transactions where hundreds of thousands of pounds have been ‘chipped’ off the agreed purchase price once the due diligence processes established incorrect EPC certificates were in place.

Valuation: Both yields estimated rental values (ERVs) are ‘at risk’ because of MEES. Research indicates that the effect of disregards at a rent review and under a 1954 Act lease renewal on ERVs could impact capital values by more than the cost of relevant improvements.

There is an assumption by some professionals in the market that MEES will hit secondary and tertiary assets more than prime real estate. This may be incorrect due to the way in which commercial property is typically valued. In its simplest form, capital values are determined largely by the rental value of the premises, either actual or potential. A valuer looks at this income and applies an appropriate ‘all risks yield’ to reflect the security and term of income, and any potential for future growth. This is represented by the simple formula: NI x YP = CV, where NI in net income, YP is years purchase, and CV is capital value.

The cost of the installation (or disregard) of building services is reasonably uniform subject to locational adjustment factors. Technologically speaking, a heat pump installed in London will be the same as a heat pump installed in Hull, and cost is affected by labour rather than the technology itself. A prime yield might be 5%, where as a secondary yield might be 10%. A £1.00 reduction in rental value as a result of MEES will therefore affect capital values by £20.00 on the prime investment (100/5 = 20 YP) and by £10.00 on the secondary investment (100/10 = 10 YP).

Dilapidations: The effect of Section 18 Valuations and supersession generally have the potential to render tenant repairs useless because of MEES. If precedent is established for this, then the dilapidations market could be significantly impacted by MEES. We see this as a potentially market disruptive issue for property. Read more about dilapidations here.


How to manage MEES (our previous 10 step guide)

  1. Review how you store your data
  2. Identify any gaps in the data and any assets at risk
  3. Consider the use of software, such as SIERA
  4. Use CIBSE accredited assessors
  5. Ask your assessor to review the existing EPC for accuracy
  6. If you need a new EPC, ask for an indicative certificate
  7. Review point 6 in the context of the lease
  8. Consider ways to recapture capital costs through energy savings
  9. Retain future access to the energy model used to prepare the EPC
  10. Review how operational performance can be monitored – and even linked to the EPC model

EVORA EDGE can support you in all cases as we employ competent CIBSE qualified level 5 EPC assessors.


Our expertise

EVORA can identify and manage MEES derived risk by developing an asset management strategy at the fund and portfolio levels.

Our technical engineering division EVORA EDGE is experienced in using our revolutionary BIM:SAM– Building information modelling for Strategic asset management to manage MEES risks, engineering and energy efficiency, resource efficiency and capital cost planning.

Building Information modelling (BIM) can be used for high-level MEES risk assessments and act as a ‘digital passport’ for your building, recording data and information of the building and its services.

The BIM can be integrated into our SIERA software to create a powerful monitoring and targeting (M&T) toolset.

BIM: SAM merges real intelligence and innovation with strategic asset management.

“By using a dynamic BIM model, alongside monitoring and targeting through our SIERA software, we can bring real intelligence and innovation within the strategic asset management approach.”

Neil Dady, Director, EVORA EDGE


To ensure your buildings remain lettable after the 1st of April 2018. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with our experts.

Download our BIM: SAM brochure for all the information in a handy PDF and see our BIM:SAM approach in action.

Why sustainability cannot be ignored by the real estate industry

A key motivation when we started this business was for sustainability to be seen and accepted as a valuable asset management tool by the property industry. Seven years on, has our goal been achieved? Read on!


What is sustainability in Real Estate?

Sustainability can mean many different things to many different people so to keep it simple, I see sustainability in Real Estate as delivering enduring value. For the real estate industry, ultimately, for a building to be sustainable it needs to be occupied both now and for the foreseeable future, delivering an acceptable return to the investors.

Delivering value comes down to the key drivers of occupancy, rent, lease length and covenant strength so if a sustainable approach can enhance any of those key elements it will deliver value, in the same way as any other asset management tool. That has been my approach for the last seven years although I hope some of our methodologies have matured!

Sustainability is far more than managing energy, water and waste. Don’t get me wrong, these are important aspects, which can reduce the operating costs of a building and improve its resilience, all of which should be attractive to the occupiers.

Does this deliver quantitative returns?

The answer is not obvious in Europe, although the award-winning study entitled “Decomposing the Value Effects of Sustainable Real Estate Investment: International Evidence” measured the impact of sustainable investment on the value and performance of listed real estate investment firms (REITs) and found that strong sustainability practices are associated with superior investment performance.

If you ignore sustainability you marginalise your ability to attract the broadest scope of occupiers, potentially those most likely to have the best covenant strength who often also have the strongest CSR credentialsClick To Tweet

More importantly, if you ignore sustainability you marginalise your ability to attract the broadest scope of occupiers, potentially those most likely to have the best covenant strength who often also have the strongest CSR credentials. We have experienced, on a number of occasions, corporates matching this profile, willing to commit to longer leases for buildings which have excellent green credentials. This is of course not a one size fits all.

What does this mean?

At a regulatory level, in the UK it is now unlawful to let a building if it does not have a minimum EPC energy rating of an E. In addition E rated properties may still be at risk from MEES regulations. This is significant. For the first time we have energy efficiency regulation that impacts rental income and value. It will be interesting to see if this transitions into Europe in the future.

Interestingly though, we have seen greater uptake of sustainability through voluntary reporting than enforced regulation. GRESB, the global sustainability benchmark survey has mobilised the real estate industry over the last few years with 850 portfolios participating in 2017, representing more than USD$3.7 trillion in assets under management. GRESB is investor driven, to assess the environmental, social, governance (ESG) performance of their investment managers, where many see ESG as a fiduciary duty to protect and enhance future value of their investments. It is also interesting to note that research in July 2017 by Dirk Brounen and Maarten van der Spek identified a return premium of 3% between the highest and lowest GRESB scoring participants.

What practically should we be thinking about for the future?

So there appears to be some quantitative correlation to performance if enough research is done. But what practically should we be thinking about for the future?

For me, the three big impacts to plan for will be climatic change, technological advances and a generational shift in behaviour. I’m not going to dwell on climate change but the combination of rapidly advancing technology with a changing work culture will see a move away from honest work for honest pay to meaningful work in a meaningful environment. The advent of health and wellbeing to deliver a ‘meaningful environment’ is already upon us and my instinct tells me this will be the new face of sustainability, which will mobilise the industry far more quickly than just measuring energy.


To speak to a member of the team about how we can support you, please contact us.

PropTech: A Real Estate (R)Evolution

Back the 1980’s I was co-founder of a software company, which specialised in creating systems for the (then) new generation of PC’s. Myself and my colleagues had learned our programming skills whilst studying for PhDs using massive mainframe computer systems with clunky user interfaces and torturously slow software development cycles. We seized upon the new generation of “Micro Computers” that had emerged in the 1980s and new software tools that let us develop systems far quicker.

We started to develop software for the commercial real estate market, creating a system that allowed agents to match client requirements against a database of available property. We created a centralised service to compile the database of property and distributed it by electronic bulletin board. Fairly rapidly, we had all of the major agents using our system with over 100 clients.


This was before the internet. In short, we had used technology to disrupt an industry, revolutionised the distribution of information, automated manual processes and consolidated effort. I guess these days we would have beards and drink flat whites in some trendy loft studio near Old Street.

30 years ago PropTech was confined to the primal needs of the commercial real estate world, namely managing the process of finding tenants or a suitable property, managing the process of rent and services charge, and valuing the property. And that was about it.

These processes remain core to the PropTech offerings that are currently on the market and over the years they have been augmented by new technologies, but we have not necessarily seen disruptive change. The advent of the Internet in the 90s bought about huge changes in the way that property could be marketed, but, did this really shake the residential and commercial agency markets? New technological developments are bringing new products to the market but will we see further ‘disruption’?

Let’s examine the potential for change.

EVORA Global Proptech in Real Estate


Virtual and augmented reality

This technology certainly has the potential to enhance and quicken the design process, allowing the client to get closer to what their space will could look and feel like. Certainly, this technology will impact the way that architects and designers work with their clients, reducing the cycle time from concept to finished product.

However, in reality, is this tech making an existing process more efficient rather that creating a new model?

Internet of Things (IoT)

IoT has the potential to enhance the way that we monitor and control space. It’s noticeable that some BMS vendors are now rebranding as IoT vendors. Closer control and monitoring will enable more cost efficient and environmentally sustainable use of our workspaces. As suggested this technology is already disrupting the BMS market, causing established vendors to shift their stance as new players start to infiltrate their market with new platforms that allow monitoring and control of workspace use, CO2 levels, basic energy use and focussing on a ‘Wellbeing’ agenda.

IoT has the potential to also produce lots of Big Data, but what does that mean?

Big Data

The potential for Big Data within real estate is enormous. At a micro scale, looking at data from IoT sensors and BMS and meter data and also on a macro scale, analysing value trends etc.

But, as Dan Areley of Duke University said:
Big data is like teenage sex: everyone talks about it, nobody really knows how to do it, everyone thinks everyone else is doing it, so everyone claims they are doing it…

There is the potential for Big Data to extract nuance and understanding from complex systems. In real estate terms, to be able to identify how factors such as weather, occupancy and footfall can impact on cost and environmental impact.

The issue with Big Data is that by its very nature, it is big. So big that conventional Business Intelligence tools cannot really cope with the sheer volumes that are in play and the complexity of the relationships between the data. The potential for disruption through enhanced insight is always possible but, with current tech, unlikely.

But there is hope, in the form of AI/Machine Learning, how would this look for the Real Estate industry?

Artificial Intelligence (AI)/Machine Learning

AI/Machine Learning is the new kid on the analytics block and is the key to unlocking the value of the Big Data that could disrupt many aspects of the real estate world, such as valuations, sustainability, planning and market analysis.

The driver behind AI/Machine Learning is Data Science, a whole different approach to analytics. It is not so much about the evolution of Business Intelligence (BI), but more of a completely new approach, a new species.

Data Science offers the opportunity for discovering new questions to be answered and takes the approach of statistically analysing the data, so that the relationships between the different data types can be articulated as a model.Click To Tweet

BI is about KPIs, charts and answering questions that we knew – in very crude terms – sorting, grouping, charting and comparing data that exists in regular structures. Data Science offers the opportunity for discovering new questions to be answered and takes the approach of statistically analysing the data, so that the relationships between the different data types can be articulated as a model. As that model becomes refined and perfected that gives us the intriguing possibility of prediction.

DAaaS – Data Analytics As A Service

Data Science isn’t new, it has been around for around 30 years and arguably, has been driven forward more recently by faster processing, high capacity storage. This is now manifesting itself as DAaaS – Data Analytics as a Service. Cloud providers such as Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure are offering storage, data handling and modeling tools to provide the possibility of creating predictive analysis opportunities based on our own data. However, these tools require new skills in our teams, Data Scientists to create the models that we need.

So don’t be surprised to see service providers and end users on the real estate market recruiting and training Data Scientists, which will lead to the creation of value from Big Data. This value, in terms of strategic and operations advice will in turn reveal The Big Answers and also The Big Questions.

Blockchain

Whereas Big Data is a fairly easily understood concept, Blockchain causes a few difficulties. Firstly, what is Blockchain and, secondly, how could impact the real estate world and, in particular, the sustainability agenda?

Blockchain originated back in 2008 as a digital ledger that provides a way of encrypting and providing transparency for cryptocurrency transactions. More recently, it being seen as a way of encrypting transactions between parties in such a way as to provide total transparency and auditability. In the real estate world, this could be used to encapsulate lease transactions, rent payments and rent review agreements. If we extend our crystal ball into the sustainability world then we could see Blockchains between utility companies and consumers, providing investment strength data with regards to energy consumption.


EVORA can help you capture your building data with SIERA Sustainability Software. Contact Us for a demo.

GRESB Support 2018

GRESB reporting season for real estate and infrastructure participants is here again, and as a GRESB Premier Partner, EVORA is recognised as a leader in the provision of GRESB support, including training and strategic insight.

We have provided GRESB support for the last six years, and in 2017 we directly supported over 50 submissions from organisations that represent a cross section of the European property industry. We have helped clients get on the GRESB ladder and have equally supported clients to be market leaders.

We sit on a number of GRESB benchmark committees and our close working relationship with GRESB ensures that we are prepared and aware of future changes.

With our experience and expertise in this ever-emerging market sector, we ran a webinar last week with participants across Europe on our end to end service Titled “How to overcome GRESB challenges and achieve your best score”.

In this session we shared valuable insights and tips in a 5-point GRESB strategy, to increase awareness on how to get the best out of the reporting process and how you can align GRESB ratings with your long-term sustainability strategy.


Five point GRESB strategy

Our GRESB strategy covered an action plan for a seamless GRESB submission process. A quick recap is set out below.

  1. Plan your next GRESB submission in advance. Map out a plan on who to talk to, what to ask and which evidence you need to provide.
  2. Reduce the complexity of reporting by engaging in a streamlined process with your property managers. At EVORA, our consultants provide asset-level templates to property managers, to help in the collation of asset-based questions such as technical assessments, tenant engagement and efficiency measures.
  3. Improve scoring, where appropriate. Don’t miss out on easy points, discounting your reporting efforts by not meeting validation requirements. Read more here on our GRESB verification blog on how to ensure your response is accurate and acceptable by GRESB.
  4. Focus on data integrity and performance. Our proprietary software SIERA ensures that the process of data management is transparent, accurate and robust.
  5. Finally set actions for future success. GRESB addresses several key areas of an EMS within their survey such as management responsibilities, communication, training, objectives and, importantly, the results they are delivering. Developing an EMS therefore seems an appropriate approach to score well in GRESB. Find out here how a Plan-Do-Check-Act (EMS) approach can impact your GRESB score.

Final thoughts for GRESB success in 2018;

  • Start early / now!
  • Engage with internal colleagues and external stakeholders
  • Understand indicator intent and scoring requirements
  • Gather evidence and identify alignment to requirements
  • To make it easy on yourself and others – get in touch and our team of experts will be happy to help.

Request the webinar recording


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.

Moving towards lower carbon electricity generation

The latest UK carbon (‘Carbon’ is being used here as short hand for carbon dioxide emissions – CO2) conversion factors from the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) demonstrate that a significant and much-needed decarbonisation of the electricity grid is being achieved.


The latest (2017) carbon emissions from UK electricity generation has reached its lowest recorded figure at 349g CO2/kWh. It is worth noting that there is a two-year delay in the release of updated carbon factors in the UK and so, in reality, this rate relates to electricity generated in 2015.  As seen in Figure 1 below, this compares favourably to the latest global average of 506g CO2/kWh2 (although the average for EU countries is still lower than the UK at 302g CO2/kWh).

Figure 1: Average carbon emissions from electricity generation.

Please note: These values relate to the direct (‘Scope 1’) carbon emissions from electricity generation only (i.e. ‘Scope 3’ or ‘well-to-tank’ emissions are excluded).

Given the two year delay between the electricity generated and the reported values, the true carbon emissions from electricity generated in 2017 are expected to be even lower than those stated in the latest carbon emissions. In November 2012 coal contributed 50% of electricity generation, however, in July 2017 the contribution was only 2%.  Based on this, we should expect a greatly reduced 2019 conversion factor given that coal generation in 2017 reached record lows.


Why the decrease?

In short, the observed trends in the fuel mix (and therefore the main driver of emissions) have been:

  • Less coal;
  • More nuclear;
  • More renewables; and,
  • More electricity directly imported from other countries with the use of interconnectors.

The UK is, typically, a net importer of electricity, with the majority sourced from France. This reduces our carbon conversion factor as France has a heavy reliance on nuclear fission which produces zero direct (‘Scope 1’) carbon emissions. For further information, please see Figure 2 which shows how the UK’s fuel mix has changed in recent years.

Figure 2: Quarterly UK electricity generation by fuel source.

As we all know, moving towards less carbon-intensive electricity generation is essential if we are going to meet our statutory carbon reduction commitments, most notability the 80% reduction by 2050 from 1990 (as outlined in the 2008 Climate Change Act).

As demonstrated by the data, the trends are going in the right direction, however, there is still a lot more the UK can do as we continue to lag behind some of the developed European countries (especially the Nordics). Future progress is being halted by a number of factors.


The Challenges

1.  Despite investments in UK clean energy more than doubling from 2010-2015, investments fell by 56% between 2016 to 2017. However with technological advancements in terms of affordability and efficiency, for solar and wind, there could be a reverse in the recent trend. Most notably, the operational costs of offshore wind farms costs have halved to £58/MWh. This is in contrast to the much more expensive rate agreed for Hinckley Point C at £92.5/ MWh6.

2. Continuing with nuclear as our main source of lower carbon electricity is approaching a bottleneck, with many of our active reactors due for decommissioning in the mid-2020s. This creates issues due to the lengthy process involved in commissioning new nuclear plants meaning we may not have enough time to adequately replace them.

3. The current government’s proposal is to substantially increase our reliance on directly importing electricity from other countries, from a current capacity of 5.7 GW to 20 GW by 2024. This equates to a jump of 6.5% to 24%, which further reduces our own energy security. This means the UK will need to become more reliant on mainland Europe than ever before to meet our increasing electricity demand.

4. Carbon efficiency assessments (i.e. conversion factors) often do not consider lifecycle emissions. Therefore, the carbon associated with the materials used in the building of each power station/turbine is ignored. This is especially pertinent to the nuclear power industry which requires huge amounts of concrete (which indirectly emits large amounts of carbon in its manufacturing), combined with a comparatively short operating lifespan.


Final Thoughts

Despite an uncertain future, there is cause for cautious optimism as the UK is moving in the right direction, with appropriate fuel switching as low carbon technologies become more economically viable. However, whether future changes in our fuel mix will be sufficient to meet our climate change obligations whilst simultaneously balancing electricity demand and energy security remains to be seen.

Despite an uncertain future, there is cause for cautious optimism as the UK is moving in the right direction, with appropriate fuel switching as low carbon technologies become more economically viable.Click To Tweet

 

Real Estate Sustainability: Planning for 2018

The new year heralds new journeys for individuals and organisations as we seek to learn from experiences in 2017 and focus on opportunities that preserve and enhance ‘value’ in the myriad forms that it takes.

It is a tremendously exciting 2018 for EVORA and one that has started incredibly positively. We are looking to forward to working with existing and new clients as we implement best practice solutions that deliver value to their funds, assets and the environment.

Below I identify my predictions for 2018 across five topics. In addition, where risks are identified, I propose solutions, to mitigate and manage.

There are many more areas and topics that could be covered, and this reflects the rapid changes the industry is currently seeing. I’d love to hear your thoughts on my predictions plus any of your own.  I will commit to reviewing these predictions at the end of 2018, to see how things panned out.


GRESB: an evolution

The GRESB survey is in its ninth year and participation shows no sign of waning, particularly in the Real Estate assessments.

GRESB does not suit all fund strategies and our research demonstrates that Core funds, particularly those with a high percentage of directly managed (multi-let) assets, do perform better than those with Opportunistic strategies and / or a high percentage of indirectly managed (single-let) assets. Perhaps this is no surprise. Consequently, GRESB is reviewing the method in which is benchmarks and scores data availability for indirectly managed (single let assets).

Early adopters of GRESB tend to perform better, as investment managers develop (and align) their ESG strategies with GRESB criteria, particularly through the use of structured frameworks such as an Environmental Management System.Click To Tweet

Early adopters of GRESB (with years of experience) also tend to perform better, as investment managers develop (and align) their ESG strategies with GRESB criteria, particularly through the use of structured frameworks such as an Environmental Management System.

To counter the above two points, GRESB has launched a Pre-Assessment module. This survey is designed for:

  • New investment products that are raising capital and / or undergoing initial investor due diligence;
  • Real estate strategies with opportunistic, short-hold or development focus;
  • Real estate vehicles beginning to incorporate ESG into their operations

I expect this ‘toe in the water’ approach will lead on to greater participation in the full survey, despite the fact that GRESB is now charging participants that complete the main and/or pre-assessment survey. This change will have limited impact for participants who are already members or those who pay for the benchmarking reports (which will be issued automatically as part of the service)

The final, encouraging point for 2018, is the increased engagement by GRESB with a wide range of stakeholders as they seek to shape survey components. This is an important facet to ensure that the survey remains relevant to market needs, whilst continuing to push ESG strategies to deliver meaningful performance improvement.

Prediction: Continued growth in the main Real Estate survey, with respondents in North America and Europe leading the field in terms of number of participants. As it is the first year of operation, I expect a small uptake in the Pre-Assessment, which will increase over time as investors and their managers gain awareness of this approach.

I expect the main GRESB survey to incorporate more Health & Wellbeing (H&WB) questions, possibly at the expense of the separate H&WB module. I expect ‘pilot indicators’ for the measurement of social value, H&WB impacts and potentially governance scorecards. Measurement of environmental impacts alone will not be sufficient as the sole indicator of performance for too much longer.

Debbie Hobbs, Head of Sustainability at Legal & General Real Assets will be speaking about measuring social value, alongside Sander Paul Van Tongeren, MD of GRESB, at our industry event on 7th February. Get in touch if you would like to attend.

Resolution: Continue to work proactively with both GRESB and our participant clients.  Last year we supported over 55 submissions.  We expect this to increase significantly in 2018.

Maintain and enhance our clients GRESB ratings through practical and value driven sustainability programmes, as appropriate to their investment strategy. In 2017, our client Hines achieved Sector Leader status and was rated the number 1 non-listed European fund.


Building certifications: more than just a tick-box exercise

Sustainability building certifications have been in operation for around 28 years following the launch of BREEAM in 1990. There are now numerous in-use and design/construction stage standards around the world. Schemes cover individual topics such as water and air quality, to comprehensive multi-themed sustainability / health and wellbeing  standards.

Whilst the use of these standards for new developments is fairly common-place (particularly in the office sector within major cities), the application for existing (in-use) buildings is less so. However, market drivers such as GRESB, who reward participants for holding certification, together with (future) policy standards and incentives for efficient retrofits have, in our experience, increased the interest for in-use schemes such as BREEAM In-Use and Fitwel. It is important that the application of these schemes leads to performance improvement rather than just a tick box exercise.

It is important that the application of these schemes leads to performance improvement rather than just a tick box exercise.Click To Tweet

Prediction: Increased application of certification for standing investments through schemes such as BREEAM In-Use and Fitwel for major refurbishments.

I also predict more, but not many, WELL certifications for new developments. It will be interesting to see if WELL issue a ‘lighter’ certification route that has wider commercial application that the full WELL standard.

Resolution: Grow the number of EVORA employees that are accredited professionals for sustainability building certification schemes.

Support completion of health and wellbeing certifications through the recognised standards (WELL, Fitwel, RESET) that EVORA has expertise in.


MEES: you might feel the pinch come April

I am sure it is well known to most (but probably not all) real estate professionals, that as of 1st April 2018 landlords will no longer able to lease (via new leases and lease renewals) commercial or domestic space in buildings with an EPC lower than an E rating. Unless that is, a five year time-limited exemption applies and is registered on an Exemptions Register.

Previous studies have indicated as much as 20% of the market could be impacted. From our experience, a high proportion of ‘sub-standard’ EPCs (those lower than an E) have improved their ratings when reassessed by a trusted and competent EPC assessor. Many EPCs issued in 2008-09 were completed quickly using default setting for efficiency ratings. Whilst this was acceptable and legally compliant at the time, the resulting EPC typically did not reflect the state of the energy system in place.

That said, there will be a number of F and G rated units that may leave landlords scratching their heads on what to do, when to do it and crucially, IF they have to do anything at all – noting the relative ease that exemptions could be achieved, albeit with some resource implications to administer.

Prediction: Organisations that were slow to respond may feel the bite come April. I expect the regulation to be largely self-policing, via appointed solicitors, as is the case for the availability of an EPCs for lettings (and sales). However, I also expect enforcement (by local authorities) to be weak based on the relative ease of gaining an exemption and the convoluted nature of MEES guidance.

Resolution: Continue to utilise SIERA’s EPC profiling capabilities to assist clients to quantify the risk of MEES against Estimated Rental Value (ERV), lease and EPC expiry dates. We shall look ahead to the hard backstop of 2023 for existing leases.


Blockchain: new ways of working

Beyond cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, blockchain has the potential to revolutionise the method in which individuals and organisations digitally transact with one another in a secure and verified environment.

Blockchain came into operation ten years ago. It’s use beyond cryptocurrency is becoming clear (in property and sustainability) through applications such as:

  • Smart contracts – simplifying the retrieval of data through distributed ledgers
  • Governance – transparency is key to blockchain and it could increase the range of publicly available documentation.
  • Intelligent grids – facilitating the buying and selling of renewable energy generated by decentralized systems
  • Data management – countless possibilities for swiftly transferring secure and validated data

One final comment on blockchain (particularly mining of crypto-coins) that needs to be made, is how immensely energy inefficient it is. The process of using individual PCs to mine coins has led to Bitcoin alone having the annual energy footprint equivalent to Hungary, at the time of writing, and this is increasing on a daily basis as more ‘nodes’ are added to the blockchain. Bitcoin transactions require several thousand times the energy of other means, such as Visa transactions (source).

The process of using individual PCs to mine coins has led to Bitcoin alone having the annual energy footprint equivalent to HungaryClick To Tweet

Prediction: An exciting year where I expect Proptech companies to introduce new ways of working (more efficiently) through utilising blockchain applications. It is something that our SIERA team is busily exploring.

Resolution: Continue to track the emerging blockchain market (I will do this on a personal level to ensure I can understand what my software colleagues are talking about!)


Policy Landscape: hopeful for clearer messaging

A continued lack of clarity on future policy measures is one prediction that can (unfortunately) be confidently made for 2018. Through BREXIT and the fragility of global politics, uncertainty on the future of medium term policy instruments shall, I think, remain.

Long term achievements have been ratified by global leaders (minus one), however, specific programmes for achieving this for the building sector will not become clear until 2020. The UK government is yet to confirm the replacement to the CRC or ESOS  (carbon and energy assessment and reporting schemes) beyond 2019, although I do appreciate that consultations are ongoing.

Recent UK government publications such as the Industrial Strategy and 25 Year Environment Plan are welcomed. However, industry needs to understand how the government intends to act on these strategy papers, rather than see recognition that the points covered are important.

Prediction: 2018 is unlikely to herald the launch of forward-thinking and fit for purpose policies that will progress the sustainability agenda.  However, I am hopeful of a clearer message on the future of carbon reporting and disclosure requirements for organisations towards the end of the year.

Resolution: Continue to voice our concerns and aspirations for clear and forward thinking policy through participation in government / industry consultations and working groups.


Join us on 7th February for an industry event that that looks at planning for Real Estate sustainability in 2018 and beyond.