Sustainable cities: innovative “hubs” and battlefields against negative change

Only ten years ago, knowing about sustainability meant that you might have accidentally read a piece of avant-garde research, speculating about harmful changes in our climate. In the blink of an eye, sustainability has gained wider momentum, and today has established itself as a global goal for our future and that of our planet.

However, years have passed but we still have a long way to go: threats to our environment and humankind haven’t disappeared as quickly as we’d hoped, and industrial production has largely been favouring short-term interests over environmentally-sound long-term benefits. Hence, the war against negative environmental impact is still on. What better battlefield than cities today?

Cities are expected to be home to over 70% of the world’s population by 2050[1]. In Europe, urban areas account for 75% of the population already. It is anticipated that US350 trillion are to be spent on urban infrastructure over the next 30 years[2]. How can we use those monetary resources effectively and sustainably?

Real Estate is a sector with one of the most comprehensive sets of tools and practical standards aiming to improve sustainability and resilience in cities. And thankfully so, as buildings account for almost 40% of carbon dioxide emissions globally, and in bigger cities up to 80%[3]. Ensuring that buildings are sustainable means finding ways to use resources efficiently, without compromising their overall purpose. Buildings should be designed with the best solutions and ideas at stake and should be a grounding element of future-proofed cities.

Great theory, great lesson, but what has been done so far?

Practical learning n 1: Business for sustainability, or sustainability for business?

A lot of initiatives and developments have taken place in the real estate sector to advance sustainability holistically. More and more, environmental standards and certifications such as BREEAM, LEED and many more have set out criteria to measure buildings’ sustainability and determine which actions can contribute to better results. Along this line, the GRESB sustainability survey has become a turning point for real estate investors’ business-wide future decisions. The speculative market environment can therefore easily be influenced by what investors believe to be future risks. This means that sustainable cities and structures are at the core of the international agenda, and they have the power to steadily shape what is next.

Practical learning n 2: All that glitters today is not gold tomorrow

Industries such as Real Estate, which deal with infrastructures that need sustainable (re)development, have started rewriting their founding lessons, with an eye for long-lasting value, rather than short-term benefit. Why is business, often the enemy to our environment, suddenly turning towards more sustainable solutions?

Industries such as Real Estate, which deal with infrastructures that need sustainable (re)development, have started rewriting their founding lessons, with an eye for long-lasting value, rather than short-term benefit.

Sustainable cities mean resilience, hence resistance to future risks and challenges. This means better stability and reward for the years to come as well as a greater understanding of how to peacefully live within our environment, rather than harming it or feeling threatened by it.  More in cities than anywhere else, where consumption patterns are the direct cause of environmental degradation, there is a need for enduring value, which can only go hand in hand with an increasing respect and understanding of how to treat our urban surroundings. What glitters today is not going to be the gold of tomorrow, if it cannot last until tomorrow!

Practical learning n 3: The happier, the better

Cities are a hub of production, which means innovation, creativity, financial reward, increasing services and ambitious professional, social and cultural opportunities. As a result, however, cities can also be stressful environments, filled with people, vehicles, infrastructure, but with little space and resources to support them. This does not only affect the resilience of businesses and infrastructures, but also of the people contributing to them, who increasingly suffer from psychological distress, anxiety and hence lower productivity. Sustainable cities and their infrastructures can only achieve enduring value if they become healthier environments for their people.

The Real Estate sector has recently made advancements in establishing health and wellbeing as a part of the sustainability agenda. Not only do sustainable buildings mean good management of resources, which inevitably meet future human needs, but research has shown that proximity to more natural elements within our urban spaces is fundamental to advancing our well-being, and as a result our productivity[4][5]. Standards such as the WELL, RESET and Fitwel have taken health and wellbeing as their main focus to aspire to resilient and thriving communities within urban spaces. Similarly, GRESB recently introduced a health and well-being module in their annual survey and it will likely gain wider coverage in future years. It seems that if you feel great within your environment, you will be happier, healthier and will reach your full potential. Isn’t this what we are all looking for?

If you agree, then you have reason to believe that because our current cities are the major obstacle to improving sustainability and finding enduring value, they are also the inherent solution.

This blog post was originally written for and published on GRESB Insights.

[1] Neij, L., Bulkeley, H. & McCormick, K. (2015) Cities and climate change: The great decarbonisation challenge, Climate in Focus, 1-4.

[2] WWF (2012) Reinventing the City: Three Prerequisites for Greening Urban Infrastructures, p. 6

[3] WF (2012) Urban Solutions for a Living Planet. P.10

[4] WF (2012) Urban Solutions for a Living Planet. P.9

[5] Ryan, C., Gaziulusoy, I., McCormick, K & Trudgeon, M. (to be published) Virtual City Experimentation: A Critical Role for Design Visioning. In: Evans, J., Karvonen A. & Raven, R (eds) The Experimental City. London: Routledge.

Monitoring and visualising indoor air quality with Foobot

With the rise of the health and wellbeing agenda, monitoring and visualising the indoor environmental quality (IEQ) of the workplace is emerging as a key objective for many.

Some smart buildings already have expensive state of the art IEQ monitoring in place. But what if you don’t find yourself in this situation and need to set up a system from scratch? You could go out and procure said ‘state of the art’ system at significant expense. However, if you are budget-constrained, you may find yourself looking toward the more cost efficient, ‘consumer-grade’ end of the IEQ monitoring spectrum…

Measuring IAQ

Now, we know there are considerable limitations with certain consumer-grade IEQ monitoring devices – including their level of calibration and, ultimately, accuracy. However, for this blog we would like to set this issue aside and focus on the practicalities of installing and monitoring indoor air quality through a popular consumer-grade monitoring device: Foobot.

With an interest in air quality, one of our consultants found Foobot. Foobot is a low-cost air quality monitoring tool which can interface with internet-based apps to log air quality and also help you to do something about it.


Setting up Foobot is easy. Once you’ve unboxed and plugged the monitor in, you need to download the Foobot app to an Android or iPhone smart phone.  After registering on the app, it will then allow you to connect to the monitor. Once connected, you can then monitor Foobot readings wherever you are.  For easy comprehension, Foobot gives you a headline air quality score, which is made up of several readings including carbon dioxide, particulates, and humidity.

The main Foobot phone screen, showing an air quality score (50+ is poor)

Data and API

As well as the app, Foobot supplies an API, which can be used to extract data from your monitor for your own use. To get the data you basically fire various URLs to the API, which include an API key supplied by Foobot, that will return data. This is quite advanced stuff for those who want to build their own mini applications. An easier way to do this would be to use something called IFTTT.

Connect Foobot up to other apps using IFTTT

A useful website (If this then that) has lots of applets; readymade code snippets that are based on a trigger (this) and an action (that). Handily there’s a few setup already for Foobot. For our Foobot (named Evorabot) we have used two – one to log readings to a google spreadsheet and the other to message a reading when you physically tap the monitor twice.

The Foobot applets listed on the IFTTT website.

To use IFTTT, first you need to register as a new user on the site. This can be done using a Facebook or Google login or a login specifically for IFTTT. Once registered you can then set up applets.

To setup an applet is simple.

  1. You choose the applet you want to use (Foobot/Twitter/Instagram).
  2. You then click on the trigger part of the applet (The ‘this’).
  3. This will prompt you to connect a Foobot device.
  4. To connect your Foobot to the IFTTT site, you just need to enter the login you created when you registered your Foobot using the mobile app.
  5. Once it is registered you can use any of the Foobot triggers for the ‘this’ part of the applet.
  6. For the ‘that’ part, we first used a connection to a Google drive account to log each reading made by our Foobot to a google sheet. This graph is a google sheets graph, plotting CO2 output in the Evora office.

An example Co2 graph of the Evora office

Using Slack

We now use an IFTTT applet which logs a reading to one of our Slack channels (the app we use for internal communications with the team). The Foobot reading is triggered by someone tapping/knocking on the device which then posts a message in the appropriate conversation.

The knock knock Foobot app in action

Hacks to the future

The great thing about Foobot is that its already collaborating with other technologies to create complete solutions. This includes linking to Nest to enable more ventilation if air quality gets too bad. These hacks enable both offices and homes to create Smart ventilation, keeping poor air quality in check.

We may well explore this solution for our office. For now, when the air quality gets bad, we open some windows!

GRESB Resilience Module: will you survive and thrive in the face of systems disruption?

When you hear the word resilience you might think of an activist like Martin Luther King, an explorer such as Ranulph Fiennes, or an athlete akin to Mo Farah.

In all walks of life it is an admirable and desirable quality, but the meaning it carries in the field of commercial property is perhaps not as well defined or understood as it needs to be given the increasing role it is expected to play in securing long-term success.

GRESB is recognising the importance of resilience in real estate portfolios by introducing a brand new module for the 2018 GRESB survey. Much like the Health & Wellbeing module that came before it, the GRESB Resilience module will standalone and evolve over the next 3 years with the intention of subsequently integrating it into the main GRESB survey.

But what is it that makes real estate resilient?

What is it that makes companies and funds resilient?

And what is it that will make you GRESB resilient?

What is resilience?

The exact definition of resilience in a sustainability context is not yet fully agreed, however the IPCC defines it as:

“The ability of a system and its component parts to anticipate, absorb, accommodate, or recover from the effects of a hazardous event in a timely and efficient manner, including through ensuring the preservation, restoration, or improvement of its essential basic structures and functions”.

Meanwhile, GRESB defines it as:

“The capacity of companies and funds to survive and thrive in the face of social and environmental shocks and stressors”.

In short, how well equipped is your organisation to deal with big events that disrupt systems (floods, fires, earthquakes, terrorist attacks etc.), and the stressors that make you more susceptible to harm when events do occur (poverty, environmental degradation, aging infrastructure etc.)?

The GRESB resilience module

The GRESB Resilience module has been kept fairly simple this year, asking basic-level questions on the involvement of management and stakeholders in resilience-related decisions, on asset and business operational risk reporting, on strategies for the management of risk, and, interestingly, to “describe your response to three illustrative, disruptive, extreme, or catastrophic events or near misses during the reporting period”. I am intrigued to see what kind of responses come in for this last one.

I am confident that the Resilience module will follow the projected path of the Health & Wellbeing and ultimately become a part of the main survey. Firstly, because the probability of these system shocks is indisputably growing for many issues (e.g. climate change, terrorism, I.T. security) and secondly, because of the potentially huge environmental, social, and financial consequences that could result from failing to invest in resilience.

Exactly how the module will look in a few years’ time is hard to say, with GRESB using this year to gauge the current state of play in the industry. I doubt it will progress to any kind of individual asset-level evaluation any time soon given the multitude of uncertainties in resilience modelling and the unique situation every asset is in with regards to external shocks and stresses. Instead, I expect it will likely remain procedural, focussing on how organisations go about identifying, assessing, and mitigating risks in their portfolio, and how they are communicating these risks to different parties. However, we wait with intrigue to see how this new reporting element develops.

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.

Contact us about GRESB support.

Transparency and the business case for ESG in Real Estate

Last month we ran a thought leadership event on ‘Real Estate Sustainability: Planning for 2018 & Beyond’ kindly hosted by our client Schroders.

Two key themes were raised by the speakers and the panellists, which are certainly not mutually exclusive. The first was setting out the business case for ESG in Real Estate and the second was the issue of transparency.

Evolution of GRESB for 2018

Sander Paul van Tongeren, Managing Director of GRESB kicked off with 2018 updates for GRESB. Increased transparency is being introduced through ‘Validation Plus’ applied to a sample of indicators for all participants (as opposed to a sample of participants). Ensuring quality of submissions through greater transparency is essential for the ongoing credibility of the survey.

Sander Paul made it clear that GRESB is increasingly focussing on the asset level.  The GRESB Assessment at the fund level will be strengthened by adding asset level data.

In addition, Sander Paul made it clear that GRESB is increasingly focussing on the asset level.  The GRESB Assessment at the fund level will be strengthened by adding asset level data. This will necessitate the collection of asset level data where the transparency of that data has been evaluated, i.e. has it come from a trusted source, and its quality identified through adequate validation. This is where sophisticated software systems such as SIERA will become fundamental in receiving asset & meter level data with automated validation functionality to ensure the completeness and quality of the data, which will support high scores in GRESB.

Transparency through public disclosure

Ed Gabbitas of EVORA presented the findings of a recent research paper identifying that strong sustainability practices combined with public disclosure are associated with superior investment returns. The award-winning research found that “sustainable” Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) benefited from higher rental income and lower interest expenses, resulting in increased cash distribution to shareholders. A lower risk profile was also identified attracting higher premiums to Net Asset Value (NAV). Transparency through public disclosure was found to be a key facilitator of driving improvement.

Overall, a 3% fund return uplift was observed between the lowest and highest GRESB scoring funds.

Ed went on to highlight research to evaluate if strong GRESB performance correlates to enhanced fund returns for non-listed funds. Overall, a 3% fund return uplift was observed between the lowest and highest GRESB scoring funds. These finding are clearly helpful enabling the capital markets to use GRESB as a broad indicator of fund quality in their evaluation.

ESG ratings lead to better financial performance

Murray Birt, Senior ESG Strategist at Deutsche Bank advised there had been more than 2000 academic studies since 1970, seeking to identify if there is a link between ESG and financial performance – clearly not a new endeavour! The findings demonstrated high ESG ratings correlated to better financial performance across multiple asset classes and regions.

Neither this, or the immediate impact of global physical climate change, which Murray also highlighted, have had a major impact on the uptake by the real estate industry, to accelerate energy efficiency in buildings. The answer – improved and increased European wide policy requiring corporate disclosure and greater transparency to promote the setting and delivery of long term objectives to address climate risk.

Social Value and Impact Investing

Finally, Debbie Hobbs, Head of Sustainability at L&G Real Assets presented on the importance of Social Value and Impact Investing, ensuring investments generate a beneficial social impact as well as a financial return. Debbie presented research highlighting that nine out of ten millennials believe the success of a business should be measured by more than just financial performance and 60% of millennials want to join companies that have a societal purpose. Fundamentally transparency of impacts and social engagement is becoming a necessity, both in the way funds invest and corporates run their businesses.

60% of millennials want to join companies that have a societal purpose.

Anecdotally, we have recently been recruiting for a number of positions at EVORA, and remarkably, so far, every candidate interviewed has highlighted EVORA Giving, which focusses on our social side of sustainability, as a key element that has attracted them to apply to EVORA.

Transparency and the business case for ESG

So, going back to our two key themes. Firstly, transparency is clearly the new buzz word and for many good reasons it should help bring quality, clarity and progression of the ESG agenda.

A decade ago I saw sustainability almost as a leap of faith for many - now I see it as a leap of common sense. Click To Tweet

And what about the link between ESG and fund performance? – well research, which has been ongoing since the 1970s, has shown that there is direct correlation. Will that put the debate to bed? I doubt it. But as I said in my closing remarks at the event, a decade ago I saw sustainability almost as a leap of faith for many – now I see it as a leap of common sense. So let’s stop putting our energies into trying to prove its worth and instead make our buildings and the world we live in more sustainable.

If you have any questions about the event or would like to speak to us about how we can support you with your GRESB submission for 2018, please get in touch with the team.


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.

Future of Work at the 40 Percent Symposium

Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, machine deep learning, Internet of Things, big data analytics to name but are a few are the buzz words we now hear regularly. Will these define the Future of Work or is there a greater dynamic?

The Future of Work

Recent research by Oxford university estimates that a staggering 35% of jobs could be replaced by automation in the next two decades. The growing influence of the Generation Y/millennials who are likely to represent 75% of the workforce by 2025, is already having an impact on working practices and will define the requirements of the buildings they occupy.

35% of jobs could be replaced by automation in the next two decadesClick To Tweet

If the last 10 years have been about cost reduction, hot desking and resource utilisation, now it is about flexible space that enables creativity, collaboration, learning and socialising. In short, 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.

This cannot happen without a transformation in the way buildings are designed and used.

Our Director, Paul Sutcliffe will provide a whirlwind tour opening our minds to why the Future of Work is something we must all embrace at the 40 Percent Symposium on 12th April in Berlin. Find out more here.

EVORA achieves Planet Mark Certification

We are proud to announce that EVORA has achieved the Planet Mark Certification for the 4th year running!

The Planet Mark is an internationally recognised certification based on sustainability standards. It represents an organisation’s sustainability programme to actively reduce environmental and social harm.

EVORA is committed to continuous improvement in sustainabilityClick To Tweet

In order to achieve the Planet Mark certification, EVORA had to submit data and evidence on a number of its business activities, such as its utilities (energy and water), waste (recyclable and landfill) and business travel. The Planet Mark then takes that data and puts it through ‘rigorous carbon footprint measurement and reporting’ to ensure we are acting responsibly and limiting our environmental impact.

Total carbon footprint per employee - decreased by 17.3%Click To Tweet

Highlights from the report:

  • Total carbon footprint – decreased by 8.6%
  • Total carbon footprint per employee – decreased by 17.3%

EVORA is committed to continuous improvement in sustainability and aims to reduce our carbon footprint even further next year!

EVORA Giving to Sponsor Promise Dreams Throughout 2018

Following the publication of our EVORA Giving blog post in December, I am pleased to announce that our chosen charity to support through initiative number 4 is Promise Dreams.

EVORA Giving Promise Dreams partner logo

Promise Dreams is a national charity that aims to make a real difference to children who are seriously or terminally ill. Every child has a dream and whatever it may be, Promise Dreams aim to make it come true – whether it be to go on the holiday of a lifetime, spend time with their siblings following extended hospital stays, the chance to meet their celebrity hero, a specially adapted trike to enable them to join in on family bike rides, or essential equipment and resources for their home. In fact, anything that will make life happier and easier for the family in need.

Promise Dreams Image one

Promise Dreams accepts applications for children from all over the UK from birth up to the age of eighteen. Their workforce is a small team of highly trained staff and several volunteers with a positive attitude, lots of energy and a little bit of imagination.  They receive no government funding so rely on supporters to help raise much-needed funds through bag packs, bucket collections, gala dinners, sponsored walks, corporate sponsorship and much more!

Throughout the year, EVORA will be a dedicated supporter to Promise Dreams by holding many fundraising events.Click To Tweet

Throughout the year, EVORA will be a dedicated supporter to Promise Dreams by holding many fundraising events. We are very excited about our partnership and believe every child deserves happiness and wonderful memories.

Promise Dreams Image two

I would like to encourage you to visit the Promise Dreams website where you can find lots of information on dreams they have made come true.

We will keep you updated on all our activities in the coming weeks. Any support you can provide to help us make dreams come true is invaluable.

We very much look forward to working with Promise Dreams and making dreams come true for seriously or terminally sick children.

Learn more about EVORA Giving.

EVORA to Manage Real Estate Sustainability Event for Over 100 Delegates

On Wednesday 7th February 2018, we are delighted to be running an event for over 100 commercial real estate and sustainability professionals.

Real Estate Sustainability: Planning for 2018 & Beyond

What started out as an idea in November for a small workshop-style event for up to 30 people quickly escalated into something much larger when we received over 30 bookings before Christmas. Thanks to our client, Schroders, who are hosting the event for us in the auditorium of their Gresham Street office, we are now able to accommodate up to 130 attendees.

With six guest speakers and panelists including Sander Paul van Tongeren, Managing Director of GRESB, Debbie Hobbs, Head of Sustainability at Legal & General Investment Management, and Murray Birt, ESG Thematic Research Strategist at Deutsche Asset Management, participants have been eagerly booking onto the event to hear from such industry experts.

We’re currently at 105 registrations, meaning we still have some spaces remaining! So, why not join your peers and kick-start your yearClick To Tweet

We’re currently at 105 registrations, meaning we still have some spaces remaining! So, why not join your peers and kick-start your year by learning the answers to the following questions:

  • How can you make 2018 your best year yet for meeting your sustainability goals?
  • What are the new risks and opportunities you should be aware of this year?
  • What changes are on the horizon for GRESB?
  • How can social value be measured?

We firmly believe this is set to be one of the biggest and best consultancy-organised events that the UK commercial real estate sustainability sector has seen to date. Don’t miss your opportunity to be a part of it. We expect the remaining few places to go very quickly!

Enquire now by completing the form on this page

3 Simple Ways to Make Your Office a Great Place for Your Employees

Welcome to my second blog post about the creation of an engaging workplace in a growing company. Today, I will be focusing on simple and affordable tips and tricks on how to make your office a pleasant and productive environment for your employees.

Why is this important? Providing an attractive workplace is key for employees’ health and wellbeing. Studies have shown that a well-maintained office “(..) improves employee satisfaction, and increases productivity” (The Productivity Report). We all spend so much time at work, so you want your team to feel comfortable and to enjoy being there.

Let’s get started!

Ways to Make Your Office a Great Place

1. Have a Breakout Area for Lunch to Improve Team Spirit

A typical lunch scenario in the UK is to grab a sandwich plus some crisps and eat them at your desk in front of your laptop while still answering emails. According to a study from Total Jobs, the average UK employee only takes a lunch break of 27 minutes and many skip lunch entirely.

In my opinion, this is not great for many reasons. Getting out of the office and stepping away from your desk during lunch will boost your productivity for the afternoon. Coming from Switzerland, having lunch away from your desk with colleagues is an integral part of the social life at work. Isn’t it much nicer to have an interesting conversation with your colleague while having lunch rather than eating on your own staring at your screen? It also helps to get to know your colleagues better and builds  stronger team bonds.

Stressful times don’t always allow us to take the time for a proper lunch, but if you take into account that you are much more refreshed back at work, the productivity boost easily makes up for the lost minutes.

EVORA Global office breakfast barDoes that mean you should always go to a restaurant, out of the office and spend a ton on lunch? No. What we did at EVORA is the following: when we moved offices in March 2017 (read Russ’ blog post for more), we decided to provide a breakout area for our employees. I don’t think that I exaggerate when I say that our so-called “breakfast bar” (see picture) is the heart of our office. It enables our employees to take a proper lunch break and to connect with each other on a personal level.

I am aware that square meter prices in London are crazy, but even with limited space you might be able to find a free corner in your office to create a nice little lunch area – assembling a small bar table and some stools will do the job. Believe me, it makes office life so much nicer, more interactive and your team will highly appreciate it.

Pro tip: get second-hand furniture from sites like Gumtree – it is often cheaper and better for the environment.

And keep in mind, you can also use the breakout area for other purposes like a casual meeting or a company social activity.

2. Give Your Office a Personal Touch to Build Company Identity & Culture

There are so many simple and inexpensive ways as to how you can personalise your office. Mostly, all you need is a bit of creativity, some basic stationery equipment and 15 spare minutes. Here are some ideas:

  • EVORA Global office VMVCreate a photo wall in the office. Why don’t you convert a grey room divider into a colourful board with pictures from your last summer party, after work drinks and the office mascot (yes, we have one)? Our next step: add a photo from the whole team – something we will tackle in the upcoming Christmas party.
  • Have a board for news. Why don’t you use the other side of the divider as a “What’s on at Your Company” board? Our board includes information about the monthly social, our childcare voucher scheme and much more. Plus some kitschy Christmas decoration at the moment to create a festive mood.
  • Frame and hang your mission, vision and values, so that everyone in the office can see them and is reminded of why everyone does what they do. Important: this doesn’t mean that the job is done. Showing the values etc. is a first step, but there is more hard work to it (more on this in another blog post soon).
  • Get some plants in the office. To make this even more fun, I decided to make employees godmothers and -fathers of plants. An offer they could not refuse. Their duties include to inform themselves about care instructions, to water it accordingly and to make sure to find a deputy arrangement while on holiday.

Personalising and decorating your office improves your company culture and creates a nicer environment for employees to work in. But before going crazy about it, keep in mind that prospects and clients also visit your office so make sure it is also professional.

3. Keep Your Office Organised and Tidy

EVORA Global office storageI know this doesn’t sound like as much fun as the decoration part, but it is actually very important. As Edmund Burke said: “Good order is the foundation of all things”.  A tidy and organised office will enable your team to work with focus, efficiently and productively.

If you have a hot desking office as we do, it is especially important to provide your employees a small space or drawer unit where they can store their laptop, snacks and personal belongings. Before our office move, we just had one cupboard we all had to share and even if someone tidied it up, it was messy again the next day. With the storage cabinets we have in the new office (see picture), the tidiness improved significantly.

Other than that, the best you can do is to have at least one organised person in your office. Even though you have a clean desk policy, there will always be that one person who forgets to unplug the charging cable, leaves the lip balm on the desk or fails to remember the food leftovers in the fridge. I usually do a quick office check every Friday afternoon to collect forgotten items and take a look at our fridge.

Whilst this does not sound like the job of a typical Operations Manager it highlights that in a small company everyone needs to be willing to roll up their sleeves to do work beyond their job descriptions.

One last tip – and I haven’t implemented this myself yet: collect all forgotten items in a lost and found box. Announce that everything which isn’t picked up by, let’s say the 22nd December for example, will be donated to charity.

Creating an engaging workplace is always a work in progress. What is applicable for other companies might not work for your team, so the best approach is learning by doing. Give it a try and see if it is well received by your employees.

Feel free to get in touch with me if you face similar challenges – I am always open for exchanging experiences and ideas. In my next blog post, I will write about the importance of having fun with your team. Stay tuned!

Working Smart, Working Fast: How Agile development and UX design are at the heart of SIERA

Software is one of the greatest tools of the modern world, providing us with a variety of options for any job we have at hand. When you use a software product, you want it to help you with your task as seamlessly as possible, and to address the major struggles faced. You can then focus your efforts on the task at hand, rather than the tool which is supposed to be helping you with that task.

We are all consumers of software and appreciate good UX design (User Experience) when we see it. I am sure some of us here are quite fond of unlocking our phones using our fingerprint rather than the classic 4-digit code. It makes our tasks simpler, quicker and easier.

A good tool though, comes from putting a lot of thought and effort into making it as intuitive as possible. It is through Agile Development and careful User Experience design that we shape our software product, SIERA.


Read: 110 seconds to understand how SIERA Sustainability Software can help you

Agile Development

As part of developments within the industry, and the ways we work always growing and developing, SIERA is designed in a responsive and agile format, this is called Agile Development. Though we use an overall roadmap, the team works in such a way that we can adapt areas of our time, projects, workflow and focus, to match business and client needs. Working in two-week sprints, we open the discussion for any necessary changes to project or scope, and the opportunity to reflect on current workflow practices and focus areas, adapt them, or suggest improvements as a team where needed. A team will always be growing and developing.

SIERA is designed in a responsive and agile format, this is called Agile Development. Click To Tweet

User Experience Design

Through the entire process, User Experience design plays a part amongst every area of the team, and is done by every member of the team. A software team should always have at least one member who has UX (User Experience) design as part of their job role (that’s me), a person who has the time and skills to carefully think through UX design and how this is implemented into the system. However, it is not only down to that person, every member of the team and business should have the opportunity to contribute to how things should be built and experienced, as this brings in a pool of thoughts built upon the years of expertise each team member has built up.

Discussions should be live through the entire development of a piece of software, everyone is involved early on at the inception of a piece of development or new addition to the software, and then, though the design and specification should be set early on, anyone can share their thoughts throughout the process.

This will then form together a much more well-rounded, robust and effective tool.

EVORA Global SIERA Asset Electricity profile

A fresh pair of eyes

And so, it is often very useful to get a fresh pair of eyes, when someone else looks at the same tool as you, you will often find they view it from different perspectives. As Quality Assurance Tester on SIERA, and UX Designer, I can spend a lot of time staring at SIERA, and in many ways, get used to the way it is and how it functions, so when something could be improved, as is always the case with software, it becomes less noticeable. As to me, that’s just the way it is. That is where a fresh pair of eyes is key, though I can still view the product from a good perspective, I can’t see everything, and have often found that other members of the team will raise new ideas and thoughts on the current work flows, which is amazing. A UX designer should never be left alone.

We can’t do everything, but we CAN do everything we need to… (being realistic)

We can’t do absolutely everything in life, and we all know that, but we can do everything we need to. Well with software development it’s the same. We don’t have time to implement every idea we ever think of, because it’s simply impossible, however through being realistic and honest with our time, and careful thought and prioritisation, we can achieve everything we need to; first usually as an MVP…

I hear the term MVP a lot, so what is an MVP? An MVP is a Minimum Viable Product, this is a version of the product which meets all the minimum requirements of what needs to be delivered. This takes much skill and discernment to define, and varies greatly depending on the software purpose. For example, if something needs to be functional and readable so it can be delivered to the user, then that’s the MVP, but then if it won’t be released until it looks really sharp, then that is part of the MVP as well. Keeping an MVP in mind is a good way of ensuring there isn’t time spent creating unnecessary enhancements, which can be re-prioritised and added later.


All these approaches form together to become the heart of SIERA’s robustness and effectiveness.

So, what exactly does this mean for our clients and product?

It means that SIERA can become the solution that will fill in the major gap in everyone’s workflow that is becoming a blocker, saving them time and effort, and addressing the long-term pain-points that users have been experiencing for years, then delivering these in the best way possible.

SIERA can become the solution that will fill in the major gap in everyone’s workflow that is becoming a blocker, saving them time and effortClick To Tweet

A good example of this is our Monitoring & Targeting system, with many companies looking for a solution to gather, store and display half hour data consumption for individual meters in an intuitive, clear and effective way, SIERA hit the market to fill in that gap. It did this through clear visual display, navigation and customisation, providing the basics of what was needed most.

Data can be compared against system overlays and user-defined overlays. The user can set operating hours for a meter, to visually differentiate when different amounts of energy should be used. The user can also set Alerts for their Meter, ensuring the user can tell when something has gone awry. All clearly displayed, as seen below.

EVORA Global SIERA Monitoring and Targeting module

As software users, users of our own product, and experienced veterans in the sustainability industry, we understand the importance of a good software and what it is this software needs to do. So, watch this space, SIERA is going to develop and evolve even more than it already has!

Have any questions about the specifics or want to find out more?
Get in touch!