BEIS framework consultation: Streamlined Energy & Carbon Reporting

Last month, the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) opened a consultation on their new proposed framework for energy and carbon reporting. This process has the potential to bring environmental data smoothly into the mainstream, but could also just create further tangles in the knot that is the current energy reporting landscape.

Between the CRC, ESOS, climate change agreements (CCAs), and mandatory greenhouse gas reporting (MGHG), there’s a lot of existing legislation that either encourages or coerces companies into monitoring, reporting, and acting upon energy and carbon data. It must be easy for companies to get lost in this complex legislative landscape so, with this in mind, the basic premise outlined in the BEIS framework consultation document of streamlining the reporting process makes a lot of sense.

The million-dollar question, however, is how exactly should this new framework be designed? In particular: who should report and what should be reported?


Firstly, who? There are different ways to scope the policy that fit into three broad categories: employee numbers, financial turnover, and energy consumption. Any one or a combination of these could be used to define what counts as a ‘large’ company and hence who will be required to report under the proposed scheme(s).

The consultation also asks whether Limited Liability Partnerships, which are not subject to the Companies Act (meaning they are not covered by the framework in its current form), should be made to report too. This would increase the burden of implementation, but would also greatly expand the coverage of the scheme and the volume of data being reported.

There are different ways to scope the policy that fit into three broad categories: employee numbers, financial turnover, and energy consumption. Click To Tweet

Secondly, what? There are also different things that companies could be made to report. Centrally, there is total energy use, which can be broken down into electricity, gas, transport, and potentially some other categories, and emissions, which can be broken down into scope I, II and III. There are also additional options such as intensity metrics, or listing opportunities identified in audits and whether they have been acted upon. This last one could be a channel to formally tie ESOS requirements into the framework.

This last one could be a channel to formally tie ESOS requirements into the framework.

Finally, another question that should be given more attention is: how? Specifically, how will these large companies manage the data collection process, and how will its quality and accuracy be assured. The presence of good data is integral for pursuing the far-reaching energy reduction goals of the UK Climate Change Act and the Paris Climate Agreement, but the consultation document only asks for recommendations of the guidance that might ease reporting burdens for companies towards the end, and offers even less on how the Government intends to ensure the quality of data.


At EVORA, we recognise the frustrations and resourcing it can take to collate, analyse and report energy data on a national and international scale. It is why we developed SIERA to seamlessly collate, verify and report data to enable decisions to be made on portfolio and building optimisation programmes. Our clients are seeing the positive impact of SIERA, which has helped one portfolio achieve a 3% like for like reduction in one year and individual buildings save up to 26% through operational improvements.

Our clients are seeing the positive impact of SIERA, which has helped one portfolio achieve a 3% like for like reduction in one year and individual buildings save up to 26% through operational improvements.

The consultation also asks for recommendations on possible complementary policies that might help drive further emissions reductions. Currently, there is no additional incentive proposed to help reduce consumption beyond the fact that the published report will be available to third parties and therefore be subject to investor and public scrutiny.

Personally, the outcome I would like to see is a framework that requires large quoted companies & LLPs to report global energy use, total emissions and intensity, whilst requiring large unquoted companies & LLPs to report UK energy use, total emissions and intensity, with all of the above required to undertake ESOS-style audits every four years and then report the opportunities identified and whether they have acted upon them each year. I would align the definition of ‘large’ with the UK Companies Act definition to minimise confusion, and give it a stand-alone bespoke report in the annual report portfolio to exemplify its importance. Such a design would streamline the CRC, ESOS, and MGHG schemes all into one package, greatly simplifying the reporting landscape.

Such a design would streamline the CRC, ESOS, and MGHG schemes all into one package, greatly simplifying the reporting landscape.Click To Tweet

But the important takeaway here isn’t my opinion, it is that this consultation has the potential to radically change the environmental reporting landscape. Therefore, businesses need to make sure they are aware of the proposals and what it could mean for them. We here at EVORA are in the process of producing a company response to the consultation, and if you wish to do the same then the full consultation document as well as information on how to respond is available on the BEIS website.


This blog has done its best to summarise a 40-page document in a few hundred words, but if you need any additional information or assistance regarding the consultation, or any of the other policies mentioned in this blog, feel free to get in touch and our team of experts will be happy to help.

Sustainable web and graphic design: An introduction

Sustainable web and graphic design – has it ever crossed your mind? I think it’s ok to admit that up until now, the sustainability of your marketing collateral isn’t something you’ve thought much about, if at all. But with climate change and sustainability climbing further up the agenda, now might be a good time to start.

I’ve been an in-house designer for a number of years now, but it wasn’t until I started working in the industry almost five years ago that I even gave sustainability a second thought.

Beyond asking your staff to go ‘paperless’, adding that footer to your emails, and having a recycling bin, is there much that you can do? The answer is yes!

In this blog post, I endeavour to introduce you to the idea of sustainable web and graphic design, and give some top tips to get you started.


Change your approach – form, function and usability

For many of us, the thought process behind a new piece of collateral is simple. A client or a colleague says, “We have a new service to talk about, let’s create a brochure” or “we need a poster about the Christmas Party” and we go straight to design ideas.

Taking a ‘back-to-front’ approach that starts with visualising our end goal allows us to find a creative way to solve the problem.

Let’s use the example of the poster. Think creatively and ask questions: What is our end goal? Is a poster necessarily the right solution? How and where is the poster used? Is there another option that might be more effective?

If your goal is to inform staff about the Christmas Party, could your poster actually be a banner that is on your Intranet home page? Or a short internal email campaign? If you want to ensure something tangible is getting in front of your staff, could a postcard work?

Thinking about the answers and working with your agency or in-house designer, it might be clear that an alternative solution might have a more positive impact.

Once you have your perfect solution, it’s time to follow some top tips for design and production.


Top Tips to get you started

Sustainable web and graphic design

Design: Optimise!

  • Be size-ist – go for substance over size! By optimising your design and downsizing, you reduce the demand for paper.
  • Use less ink coverage in your designs. The more ink on a page, the more difficult it will be to recycle.
  • Reduce the bleed when possible. Keeping the bleed white where you can reduce the amount of waste.
  • Think about how you work. Do you print out your design drafts? Can you reduce that number? Or stop doing it altogether?
Be size-ist – go for substance over size! By optimising your design and downsizing, you reduce the demand for paperClick To Tweet

Print: Know what to ask for

There will always be situations where printing is the correct solution, which is why your print supplier is also an important consideration. What should you be asking for to ensure that your projects are being printed as sustainably as possible?

Paper:

  • FSC certified – find out more here
  • Recycled paper – at least 30% Post-consumer Waste (PCW) recycled fibre
  • Processed chlorine free (PCF)
  • Consider using a lighter weight paper
  • Use uncoated paper stock

Ink:

  • Vegetable/plant-based
  • Low VOC levels

Other considerations:

  • Use a local printer
  • Choose a printer with a formal environmental and energy reduction policy
  • Consider digital or waterless printing
  • Choose PDF over print proofs
  • Reuse and recycle – have a strategy and make sure your printer has one too

Digital: There’s still things you can do

While printing contributes to pollution through the usage of materials, digital design contributes to climate change through the usage of electricity but there are still some things you can do to reduce your impact.

  • Streamline website image size to reduce download times (and you’ll also make your site faster, giving your visitors a better experience and giving you a welcome SEO boost from Google’s algorithms!)
  • Offer print-friendly web pages – that really lovely scrolling page might drop over to three or four pages if someone decides to print it
  • Have a strategy to offset the carbon used by your electronics

What does sustainable design look like at EVORA?

Since I joined EVORA in June, we have already made a start on improving the sustainability of our design process and there are things that we’re really excited to be doing in the year ahead.

  • Switching print suppliers. The first (and most simple) thing I have done. EVORA’s preferred printer is Seacourt ‘planet positive printing’, a Net Positive print company.
  • Identifying our standard paper stock. The next step is a switch in our paper stock for all work going forward. We will work with our supplier to identify a paper stock which is as sustainable as possible while maintaining a corporate image in keeping with our brand guidelines.
  • Being more creative with our designs. A revamp of our marketing materials for 2018 provides the ideal opportunity to be more innovative with our collateral – watch this space!
  • Optimising digital. EVORA’s new website, which launched recently, offers us much more control of the design of the site. We have already worked on image optimisation to reduce our site load speed and in the new year we will be working on print friendly versions of our most visited pages.

EVORA supplier Seacourt logoSeacourt ‘planet positive printing’ is a green printing company. Seacourt is known for its radical approach to protecting the environment, is one of the very first printing firms to achieve EMAS certification in 1999, an accreditation renowned for its high standards and stringent demands. The company has been recognised as ‘one of the top three leading environmental printers in the world’ by a worldwide printing association, and has gone onto win THREE coveted Queen’s Award for Sustainable Development. In 2017, they were also awarded a European EMAS Award.

Net Zero and Health and Wellbeing: Can the ‘Net Zero’ Concept Be Applied to Health and Wellbeing?

This blog is part of our Net Zero series for World Green Building Week 2017 – read more here.


‘Net zero’ buildings are highly energy-efficient buildings that use on or off-site renewable energy to achieve net zero carbon emissions. Can the concept of ‘net zero’ by adapted for the health and wellbeing agenda? Well, I think so and here’s why…

From a health and wellbeing perspective, a ‘net zero’ management strategy would involve identifying those aspects of building user health that are detrimentally affected as a direct result of entering the building.

Probably the most obvious example of such an issue would be indoor air quality. For example, buildings with relatively high-levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), particulates (PM2.5, PM10), carbon dioxide (CO2), carbon monoxide or ozone (O3) negatively impact on user health. Chemicals in cleaning products and soft furnishing materials, ingress of unfiltered and polluted outdoor air, and poor ventilation effectiveness are just some of the factors that can result in these indicators rising to dangerous levels in buildings.


Using language that better suits the health and wellbeing agenda

At this point, I am thinking: could we adapt the terminology to better suit the health and wellbeing agenda; and, what would a definition for the concept look like? My attempt below:

A health neutral building is one that enables access for all and does not result in deleterious health outcomes for building users as a result of direct increases or decreases in exposure to negative or positive [respectively] determinants of health.

Armed with this definition, I have drawn up a draft list of issues that might be considered in such a health neutral building:

  • Disabled access and access to public transport
  • Indoor air quality (e.g. VOCs, PM2.5, PM10, CO2, CO, O3).
  • Noise and vibration
  • Drinking water availability and quality

Looking at this list, I think that the concept of ‘health neutrality’ could be a useful consideration when conducting a materiality assessment of health and wellbeing issues. Naturally, it’s subjective, but at the very least it could be a starting point for pulling out the most material concerns and therefore those requiring prioritisation.

Could we adapt the terminology to better suit the health and wellbeing agenda; and, what would a definition for the concept look like?Click To Tweet

Reassuringly and perhaps not surprisingly, the above list looks similar to issues covered by the WELL Standards precondition criteria – requirements that must be met in order to achieve the most basic (Silver) certification. That said, there are some WELL precondition criteria (e.g. nutrition) that are additional to my list and I might argue go beyond health neutrality and are more about boosting the health of building users.


What would a health positive building look like?

Taking the conversation to its logical next step, if one accepts the notion of a health neutral building then what would a health positive building look like? Well, that would be a building that directly supports and or encourages improvement in building user health. Amongst other strategies, such a building might:

  • support active modes of transport (e.g. cycle storage, showers), active design (e.g. accessible staircases) and provide onsite exercise facilities;
  • optimise access to daylight;
  • provide access to outdoor green space and support biophilia;
  • provide multi-purpose rooms (e.g. faith, lactation rooms); and,
  • support healthy nutrition.
Well, that would be a building that directly supports and or encourages improvement in building user healthClick To Tweet

So, to conclude I think the concept of ‘net zero’ [and ‘net positive’] can be applied to the built environment’s health and wellbeing agenda and proves a useful way of considering the materiality of key health-related risks and opportunities.


Interested in exploring health and wellbeing risk and opportunities relating to your portfolio? Don’t hesitate to contact us today for a free consultation with one of our expert consultants.

Net Zero and Urban Sustainability: The future really is green

This blog is part of our Net Zero series for World Green Building Week 2017 – read more here.


I’ve taken the name “World Green Building Week” a little more literally than most. All too often our urban spaces are at odds with the natural environment; masses of steel and concrete trying to control and contain the elements. However, increasingly planners and policymakers are waking up to the benefits of incorporating vegetation into our towns and cities, urban sustainability is a trend I fully expect to accelerate in the coming years.

It is an adage as old as civilisation that mankind should seek to ‘dominate’ over nature, and this insistence on control is reflected in the design of our urban environments. This persistent societal axiom has almost certainly contributed to the incredible rate of human technological advancement over the last few centuries, and has resulted in some engineering feats that are nothing short of remarkable, but we shouldn’t forget that nature’s R&D department has had an extra couple of billion years to perfect the art of living on Earth.

Increasingly planners and policymakers are waking up to the benefits of incorporating vegetation into our towns and citiesClick To Tweet

Take the Amazon Rainforest as an example. It is essentially able to completely to self-regulate its internal conditions, it recycles resources in situ again and again and again, and it has survived millions of years of ice age and El Nino cycles, all the while developing into the most biodiverse ecosystem on Earth. Such longevity is testament to its ability to both adapt to long-term change and to deal with major exogenous shocks; it is the ultimate display of sustainability.


Incorporating sustainability into urban environments

Whilst I’ll admit that the Amazon is far from ideal for human occupation, there are a lot of lessons we can learn from nature, and opportunities to incorporate its sustainability strategies into our urban environments. Some of the major ecosystem services that vegetation can provide include:

1.     Drainage & Flood Prevention

Sealed surfaces such as roads and buildings increase the speed and volume of runoff during precipitation events, increasing the likelihood of disruption due to flooding. Having vegetation present means that some rainwater is caught in plant canopies, before either evaporating away or dripping more gradually to the ground, thereby alleviating some of the ‘shock’ of flooding. Meanwhile, unlike tarmac, the soil in which plants sit will usually be permeable, allowing water to soak into the ground.

2.     Building Energy Usage Reductions

Trees can provide shade in summer, whilst blocking cold winds in winter, so their careful placement can reduce energy consumption for nearby buildings. Meanwhile, green roofs and green walls can act as a kind of makeshift insulation, reducing the energy required for internal temperature regulation.

Careful placement (of plants) can reduce energy consumption for nearby buildingsClick To Tweet

3.     Reduced Urban Heat Island Effect

As mentioned, vegetation can help cool in situ by providing shade, but it can also help cool whole urban areas by removing heat through the process of evapotranspiration. The albedo of vegetation is also lower than dark surfaces such as tarmac, meaning more energy from the Sun is reflected rather than absorbed.

4.     Improved Air Quality

Via photosynthesis, plants can be used to take up some of the carbon dioxide produced by our cars and factories. They can also absorb other gaseous pollutants and some solid pollutants, as well as acting as retention sites for impermeable particles. The extent of air quality benefits from urban vegetation is still debated, and depends a lot on a number of variables including building structure, vegetation structure, vegetation type, pollutant type, and pollutant levels.

5.     Wellbeing Benefits

Research exists that suggests that access to nature can help improve concentration, alleviate stress, and generally improve the psychological condition of those exposed. Even just having plants in and around the workplace seems to be sufficient to carry at least some psychological benefit.

Even just having plants in and around the workplace seems to be sufficient to carry at least some psychological benefit.Click To Tweet

6.     Aesthetics

Maybe it’s just me, but I think plants look pretty. The green wall on the side of the Rubens at the Palace Hotel in London is definitely worth a look, being both innovative in design and spectacular to look at.

Perhaps even more telling than the long list of benefits, is the seemingly short list of downsides to incorporating vegetation into urban spaces.


So what are the downsides?

The key issue for most places will be to do with space, which is a finite and valuable resource in modern cities. However, from rooftop gardens to green walls, people are finding new and innovative ways to integrate vegetation into even the densest urban areas, and I believe that all cities have measures available to them for improving their utilisation of available space if local governments, planners, building owners, and tenants are willing to innovate.

Other issues include the cost associated with the maintenance of vegetation, and the minor risk of damage from falling trees. However, personally I view these as minor prices to pay compared to the potential benefits that are on offer.


In conclusion, for any problem we create in our modern urban environments, nature usually has a solution. We only have to be willing to find ways to integrate it, then we can just let it help us out.

World Green Building Week 2017 – Advancing Net Zero Buildings

25th September to 1st October is World Green Building Week 2017 (WGBW). Run by the World Green Building Council (WorldGBC), this annual event is an opportunity to empower the green building community to ‘deliver green buildings for everyone, everywhere’.


Earlier this year, WorldGBC released a report ‘From Thousands to Billions – Coordinated Action towards 100% Net Zero Carbon Buildings By 2050’ in which it calls for a dramatic and ambitious transformation towards a completely zero carbon built environment.

As a continuation of this campaign, WGBW 2017 focuses on net zero buildings which use clean energy, are highly efficient and don’t waste energy – making them climate change heroes.

Screen Shot 2017-09-20 at 09.18.14

 

“Did you know that buildings contribute to climate change? They account for over a third of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. But that can change.

When buildings are net zero they use clean energy, are highly efficient and don’t waste energy – helping us to win the fight against climate change. That makes them heroes. Let’s make all buildings net zero by 2050.”

As a UK Green Building Council member, for WGBW 2017 the team at EVORA will be sharing their insights in a series of blog posts about net zero buildings, including:

  • Incorporating nature into cities
  • Challenges in the solar industry
  • BIM technologies
  • The health and wellbeing agenda
  • Opportunities and considerations for on-site renewables
  • Achieving carbon reduction targets
  • The role of the EU ETS
  • Science Based Targets

Stay tuned to our social media channels and check out the hashtags #WGBW2017 and #OurHeroIsZero for more news.

ISO 14001:2015 – Transition Planning Should Not Be A Headache

If you operate an ISO 14001 environmental management system (EMS) – certified to the 2004 issue of the standard, then you have 1 year left to transition to the revised 2015 version.


ISO 14001:2015 The Changes

ISO 14001:2015 has changed significantly (when compared to its predecessor) and has also introduced a number of entirely new requirements. Overall, there has also been a change in emphasis.

A key theme of ISO 14001:2015 is leadership and commitment to ensuring that environmental considerations are part of the strategic decision making process.

Environmental management must be part of everyday business activities – it cannot be viewed as an independent exercise. Whereas previously, top management could essentially delegate the EMS, there is now increased emphasis (and specific requirements) setting out the need for senior management involvement. Additionally, the EMS will need to consider potential impacts of the environment to determine internal and external risks and opportunities.

Other new requirements focus upon life-cycle analysis of operational aspects and the need to define performance indicators.

The Good News

We have seen a fair bit of scaremongering about the changes needed.  In my experience, external assessors all state that it’s a lot of work.  However, whilst there is a fair bit to think about, it can be managed in a straightforward and efficient way.

Don't panic! The transition to ISO 14001:2015 can be managed in a straightforward and efficient way.Click To Tweet

To date, we have helped numerous clients transition to the new standard, with limited fuss.  Effective environmental management systems are a force for good. For those organisations participating in GRESB, see my colleague and fellow director Ed Gabbitas’ blog on the benefits of an EMS for more information on this matter.

However, all too often, companies get bogged down in detail and procedure.  Updating your EMS to meet ISO 14001:2015 requirements presents the ideal opportunity to take stock and review how your approaches can be enhance to help deliver continual improvement.


For more information on updating your EMS to ISO 14001:2015, please don’t hesitate to contact us today.

GRESB Results 2017: How SIERA Delivered Immense Efficiencies

The GRESB Results 2017 are out and the EVORA team is eagerly reviewing the scorecards and reports to see how our participating clients fared. Early indications are that the news is generally excellent. EVORA will have a presence at the results event in London next week, so we look forward to joining the other attendees to get GRESB’s view on the overall direction of travel.

Visit our GRESB support service page.


As one of the members of EVORA’s GRESB delivery team, I’ve been reflecting on the journey we took over the summer months to get to this point.

From a numbers perspective, it’s interesting to me that the effort to collate, validate and aggregate many and often disparate data points gets distilled down to a handful of scores across the main GRESB Aspects. The process of data gathering is a necessary function and can take a lot of time, but it’s important that participants and their delivery partners allow for time to understand the materiality of the data in each of the Aspects in relation to their business strategies. However, this is easier said than done when delivery times can often get compressed near the submission deadline. So it’s even more important that there are tools that drive efficiency in the data gathering and validation process so that we can take a step back from the detail to understand what the data is showing us.

GRESB data gathering can take a huge amount of time. The good news is that much of it can be automated.Click To Tweet

For us as a delivery team, our system SIERA was vital in being able to provide the efficiencies we needed to be able to manage the sheer quantum of data that we were handling. The number of GRESB submissions that we were directly involved with delivering increased from last year by 57% to 36 in 2017. As many will appreciate, the sharp end of the data processing often relates to asset level data as this is more granular, so usually more assets means more data. To put this into context, in these direct submissions, we saw an 84% increase to just shy of 1000 assets collectively that without SIERA we would likely have found far more time consuming to manage.

New to SIERA? This video explains the software in less than 2 minutes.

SIERA is one of the systems that is helping with the shift away from manual entry to more automated transfer of data to the GRESB portal. Our Managing Director, Chris Bennett, wrote previously on how a more seamless transfer of data is welcome but it’s important we have visual clarity of the data being submitted. I’d like to explain a little more how SIERA helped provide both visual clarity but also massive efficiencies.

First of all, we had replicated GRESB’s Asset Level interface in SIERA so we could automate the transfer of not just the Performance Indicators but also a key set of qualitative asset level question responses and building characteristics. This meant that when we were happy with the data we could simply upload the SIERA template directly into the GRESB Portal and populate the Portfolio data, thus entirely removing the need to manually enter data into the GRESB Asset Spreadsheet.

This integration is only possible because SIERA’s database structure is fully aligned to GRESB’s data requirements. Even GHG calculations and waste volumes by disposal route are automatically calculated, which further reduces the chance of human error.

SIERA software significantly reduces the risks of human error when it comes to GRESB's data requirements.Click To Tweet

In 2017 we took SIERA beyond the Asset level interface to drive further efficiencies by automatically calculating the responses to a number of percentage coverage-related questions. Again, this was only possible due to SIERA’s ability to hold broad range of data types. For example, SIERA can store and profile EPC data for any EU region which meant that SIERA could automate the response to Q31, saving vast amounts of time using what would otherwise likely be spreadsheets. SIERA also replicated question RC 5.1 utilising the property characteristic information SIERA holds, which helped to align responses to the Performance Indicators.

The examples that I have highlighted in this post demonstrate how SIERA helped to save countless hours of data input which we typically estimated to be around a 70% time saving. EVORA is continuing to expand the question responses SIERA can auto-calculate and survey Aspects that can be more efficiently answered, so we look forward to being able to support on even more GRESB submissions in 2018.


Questions? Come and meet us at the GRESB Results 2017 Launch event in London on 13th September. To book a demonstration of SIERA, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

 


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.

2017 GRESB Results: Future developments for enhanced portfolio sustainability performance

I, like many others, will be excited to receive the 2017 GRESB results when they are released tomorrow, 6th September. The rating approach, often simplified by how many Green Stars have been achieved, veils the trials, tribulations and efforts undertaken over the past year (or longer in many cases) to prepare for and complete the survey.

Visit our GRESB support service page.


Whilst I eagerly await gratifying news on how our clients fared for their past efforts, I am certainly more enthusiastic about collaborating on future programmes that will deliver value to their portfolios through making buildings productive, profitable and resilient to change.

In a previous blog, I introduced how the framework of an Environmental Management System (EMS) structured according to ISO’s Plan-Do-Check-Act methodology, is central to implementing successful real estate sustainability strategies that also result in better than peer average GRESB results.

In this blog, I introduce how insights into future developments of the GRESB survey will also provide that same win-win result of enhanced portfolio sustainability performance and GRESB ratings.


The Performance Indicator – a three-layer approach

The Performance Indicator (PI) ‘aspect’ is one of seven aspects in the GRESB survey. It holds joint top weighting, at 25%, with the Stakeholder Engagement aspect. Arguably, it is the Performance Indicator aspect that can best portray (to investors) how portfolios are performing and, importantly, contributing towards meeting the ambitious international targets set in the Paris Agreement. The PI aspect allows participants to set out their long-term sustainability targets together with quantitative disclosures on data coverage, like-for-like change and intensity values (KPIs) for energy, water, waste and carbon impacts.

A concern, however, is that the current approach does not provide investors with sufficient comparability of portfolio performance. This concern is underpinned by the fact that the current GRESB scoring approach rewards data coverage more highly than like-for-like change (concerning only year-on-year change, which certainly has limitations), but moreover, that no points are awarded for long-term changes to portfolio intensity values, such as kilowatt hours per metre square of lettable space. Only the methodology used to calculate intensities is scored, rather than the change in intensity values over time. The reason for this is likely due to a lack of data transparency and potential accuracy issues that stem from portfolio level, rather than asset level, reporting.

Current discussions indicate that GRESB is willing to introduce an additional scoring element for participants that can disclosure transparent and accurate asset level data.Click To Tweet

GRESB recognises these issues and has set out to address them through a series of benchmarking committees, which EVORA participants in. Current discussions indicate that GRESB is willing to introduce an additional scoring element for participants that can disclose transparent and accurate asset level data. I expect GRESB to introduce their three-layer approach to Performance Indicator scoring in the 2018 or 2019 survey. This approach is set out below:

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  1. All assets are evaluated on Transparency, based on data availability
  2. Only assets with high transparency levels can be evaluated on data Quality, given the external forms of data assurance or internal capabilities of data analysis (asset level data checks)
  3. Only assets with high data quality can be evaluated on Performance, most likely driven by like-for-like and intensities values.

Enhanced scoring methodology

GRESB is seeking to enhance its scoring methodology with the objective that only assets with high quality data are benchmarked to ensure fairness. This strategic change may assist in providing investors with more certainty on sustainability performance and comparability between portfolios.

GRESB is seeking to enhance their scoring methodology with the objective that only assets with high quality data are benchmarked to ensure fairnessClick To Tweet

Requesting asset level data will undoubtedly increase the reporting burden for a number of participants – most notably those who painstakingly enter portfolio level data directly into the portal.

Data can already be submitted at the asset level, either via an API link or the Asset Level Interface. However, this function is not used by all participants and furthermore, if you do not have the benefit of a sustainability software platform, such as SIERA  (which seamlessly updates the PI sections using the Asset Level Interface), then data collection and analysis will remain a manual, laborious task.


So why bother?

As mentioned above, the reward of additional points will be a sufficient driver for many. However, GRESB aside, let’s not forget that to make any notable impact on the performance of a portfolio, it is essential to have asset level data (or preferably meter level data) available in a format that can be easily accessed, interpreted and communicated to Asset and Property Management Teams in order to effectively manage sustainability impacts across a portfolio.

For more information on using data management systems to enhance portfolio performance see here.

Whilst some may see this change as GRESB introducing additional challenges and reporting burdens, I applaud their ambition in seeking to drive change in the real estate industry through promoting the availability and disclosure of investment grade asset-level data.

I applaud their ambition in seeking to drive change in the real estate industry through promoting the availability and disclosure of investment grade asset-level data.

It is important to reiterate that reporting asset, or even meter level data, doesn’t have to be a burden. Many participants, including all our clients benefitted from using the direct interface provided by SIERA to seamlessly update the required field in the Performance Indicator section and additionally, to review opportunities to make their buildings productive, profitable and resilient to change.


What’s next?  Plan-Do-Check-Act

Reverting to the Plan-Do-Check-Act methodology, I recommend that Fund, Asset and/or Property Managers review if they can effectively understand and manage sustainability impacts at asset and meter level using existing programmes. Where there is any doubt, I encourage stakeholders to:

  • Plan – start early and identify what you can meter already and what you would like to meter
  • Do – implement an appropriate metering strategy according to the value proposition of doing so
  • Check – utilise the powerful Monitoring & Targeting, and reporting tools provided by SEIRA
  • Act – use the investment grade data obtained through SIERA to drive improvements across your portfolio(s)

If you’d like to talk to us about your GRESB results, or about SIERA, we will be at the London results launch on 13th September. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch to arrange a meeting or a demo.

 


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.

Health and Wellbeing Certification Standards 101

This post was co-authored by Oli Pye, Associate Director and Rhianne Menzies, Junior Sustainability Consultant

Momentum behind the topic of health and wellbeing in commercial real estate is building […no pun intended…] and we at EVORA are committed to expanding our expertise in this area significantly. We firmly believe that the health and wellbeing of building occupants is now a critical element of the wider sustainability agenda. Here we set out a post about Health and Wellbeing Certification Standards.

In support of this, we recently held our own wellbeing event in partnership with BRE as we were keen to bring operational assets into a discussion that has so far tended to focus on the new builds and major refurbishments.

Furthermore, and looking closer to home, we recently assessed the positive improvements to our own wellbeing in our office move earlier this year and published the results on our website for all to see.

As has been evidenced by the vast amounts of discussion around the WELL Building Standard, certification schemes have played and will continue to play a vital role in the evolution of the conversation around health and wellbeing. They not only provide standardised, third party-validated assessments that support performance benchmarking, but they are also used widely as key pieces of reference material for the industry.

Certification schemes have played and will continue to play a vital role in the evolution of the conversation around health and wellbeingClick To Tweet

So, which scheme(s) can be used to assess what type of building, at what cost, and to what level of rigour? And which scheme(s) should be consulted when developing an internal strategy to progress health and wellbeing?


Three key standards – Fitwel, WELL and Reset

As the number of certification schemes has recently begun to proliferate in earnest, we thought now would be an appropriate time to provide a brief introduction to the three front runners: WELL, Fitwel and RESET.

We have provided a brief introduction to the three front runners: WELL, Fitwel and RESETClick To Tweet

This blog forms the first in a series of health and wellbeing-related communications. Following this ‘introduction’ to the three dominant certification schemes, we will return to each scheme one by one and in greater detail. The next blog will take a detailed look at Fitwell, then we’ll tackle WELL and RESET.

(It is worth noting that established green building certification schemes such as BREEAM and LEED also cover aspects of health and wellbeing within their assessments. These schemes are not covered in this blog.)


Fitwel – Simpler, holistic, office-focussed, no mandatory credits, no onsite validation

Fitwel is a process for assessing the level to which a building supports the overall health and wellbeing of its users. It looks and feels like a normal building rating system – e.g. BREEAM or LEED – with its guidance document, assessment criteria and evidence requirements. It’s assessment process is more straightforward, with photos taken on a mobile device providing sufficient evidence for many criteria and an online portal that serves as a one stop shop for guidance materials, pre-assessment, assessment and verification.

In our experience, Fitwel has been ‘on the scene’ in the UK for roughly 12 months. From the beginning, it has been touted across the industry as being easier and more cost-efficient than other schemes. This is undoubtedly true though it remains to be seen whether it’s correspondingly less prescriptive approach is accepted by the industry as being sufficiently robust. As of March 31st 2017, there were three projects in the process of achieving certification in the UK.

Fitwell table


WELL Building Standard – Complex, holistic, robust, mandatory credits, onsite validation

Like Fitwel, The WELL Building Standard (‘WELL’) is an assessment routine that takes a holistic look at building-related health and wellbeing – the topics it covers ranges from indoor air quality to sleep. It also has all the hallmarks of a typical building rating system – guidance, criteria and evidence requirements etc. However, just 5 minutes with both manuals in front of you and it becomes very clear that they are quite different in their level of complexity. WELL assessment criteria are more prescriptive and unlike Fitwel they contain many mandatory performance standards that must be third-party validated.

WELL is undoubtedly the preeminent health and wellbeing assessment for buildings. With the first manual released in 2014 it has certainly been around the longest.

Despite its profile and the number of assets registering under the scheme, so far only a relatively small number of assets have seen it through to certification in the UK: 20 registered; 1 certified (as of 16th August 2017).

Costs taken from the WELL ‘Pricing Calculator’

WELL table


RESETAir quality, robust, flexible, onsite validation

RESET (Regenerative, Ecological, Social & Economic Targets) is a modularised certification programme, currently covering just ‘Air’ – i.e. indoor air quality. According to their website, new modules to assess ‘Comfort’ and ‘Environment’ are in development.

RESET Air is a sensor-based certification programme that requires ongoing measurement via real-time monitors and communication of results directly to users. It’s stated aims are to standardise and validate the quality of sensors, their installation and calibration. It also sets standards for overall performance and reporting the results to building occupants. RESET does not prescribe any routes to compliance (i.e. design criteria); instead it is entirely results-based. There are a number of completed certifications in Asia, although we are not currently aware of any completed certifications in the UK.

Costs taken from the RESET ‘Pricing Calculator’

RESET table


Health and Wellbeing Certification Standards – Concluding Remarks

Fitwel –  If you want a relatively quick and cost-efficient third-party verified stamp of approval for new or existing assets. Challenges may arise in conveying the relevance of the standard to prospective and existing tenants, however, it should provide an effective framework for discussions.

WELL – A belt and braces design, assessment and certification routine. Likely a higher cost option, when considering certification, consultancy and capital expenditure fees but correspondingly robust and well received across the industry. Certainly, one to consider for ‘lighthouse’ schemes going through construction or major refurbishment. The manual is freely available and so provides a useful reference guide for those wanting to benchmark and or update their strategic approach to health and wellbeing without going for full certification.

WELL provides a useful reference guide for those wanting to update their strategic approach to health and wellbeing without going for full certificationClick To Tweet

RESET – One to watch closely and in the short term. There is a real need for standardisation around sensor calibration and implementation and air quality is arguably the first health and wellbeing aspect that as an industry we need to get right. It is easy to imagine a procedure like this becoming a statutory responsibility in the near future, particularly in public (e.g. schools) and health/social-care related buildings. Forward thinking corporate occupiers are also likely to be highly interested in this scheme.


Interested in exploring health and wellbeing risks and opportunities relating to your portfolio? Don’t hesitate to contact us today for a free consultation with one of our expert consultants.

Six weeks in the life of an EVORA Data Analyst

The EVORA team has grown by 108% since May last year. Jenny, our new EVORA Data Analyst tells us what the first six weeks of EVORA life have been like.


Straight into GRESB deadline season

I joined as an EVORA Data Analyst at an extremely busy time of the year, it was the business end of the GRESB window, which resulted in me being plunged into the deep end from my first day. After my initial induction where I learnt more about EVORAs recent expansion I began on my first (of many!) GRESB tasks. GRESB was a completely new concept to me, and the amount of data which needed to be collected and analysed was mind-boggling, but thankfully we had SIERA to take a lot of the pain away. Whilst being given responsibility on the first day can be a little bit daunting it was great for me as the usual first day nerves didn’t have time to take hold. The main problem was the fact that it was the hottest day of the year and everyone in the office was melting!


CRC – allowances, annual reports and data audits

With GRESB behind us just a couple of weeks after joining, the CRC deadline was then looming. At University, I had briefly studied the CRC so I knew the basic principles and the intention of the legislation. However, I wasn’t aware of the amount of data which needed to be collated and the amount of money our clients pay for allowances in order to ensure compliance. Calculating the allowances, compiling annual reports and completing data audits resulted in me taking a lot on board in a short space of time – which was a steep learning curve. I was shocked to discover that following the 2018-19 reporting year the government are scrapping the CRC. Whilst it may be considered overly burdensome with regards to the time taken to collate the data and general administration – it at least keeps energy on the business agenda. Whilst adding extra monies onto electricity and gas bills (after 2019) is going to result in a similar amount of monies going into the government purses it doesn’t exactly have the same impact on business as ordering £200,000 worth of carbon allowances!

I was shocked to discover that following the 2018-19 reporting year the government are scrapping the CRC. Whilst it may be considered overly burdensome with regards to the time taken to collate the data and general administration – it at least keeps energy on the business agenda


SIERA – collate and analyse vast data sets quickly and easily

In addition to the GRESB and CRC deadlines, quarterly performance reporting has become a huge part of my daily life at EVORA. With the assistance of SIERA I collate and analyse vast data sets of electricity, gas and water consumption across various assets for multiple clients. The most rewarding part is when the performance reports we produce directly help to focus the facilities and building managers on the areas which matter. For example, we recently issued a quarterly performance report to a building manager which highlighted poor gas performance. Within an hour, emails had been sent to tenants asking about their heating requirements and the M&E engineer was investigating potential issues with the boilers. Without our reports – none of that would have happened, they might have just noticed that their bill was a bit higher for the quarter. I find this part of my job extremely fulfilling as these reports directly help our clients to discover their inefficiencies, improve the performance of their assets and ultimately save money.

The most rewarding part of this is when the performance reports we produce directly helps to focus the facilities and building managers on the areas which matter.Click To Tweet

When I mentioned at the start of this blog that I joined EVORA at a particularly busy time of the year I was wrong. I don’t think there ever is a quiet time of the year at EVORA! I have joined EVORA at an exciting time; the recent rapid expansion of the company demonstrates just how in demand our services are. I can’t wait to get stuck into the next task sent my way (potentially Environmental Management System work or shadowing an energy audit). Here’s to the next six weeks!


You can keep up to date with vacancies at EVORA on our social media channels: Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.