A sustainable Internet: What is the cost of our current use?

When people hear about sustainability, typical thoughts circle around travel, consumerism, buildings,  the physical world. Conceptually,  the web and the devices that allow us access to it, appear clean in their usage, far removed from belching power plants and noxious fumes.

But the reality is that every search performed on Google, every Netflix show watched, every Spotify song listened to, triggers servers somewhere to process and output data and then more servers to transmit it, consequently consuming electricity and burning fossil fuels.

Global electricity consumption by the internet is considerable, accounting for 1% of all emissions from burning fossil fuels (aviation accounts for 2.4%) the irony isn’t lost that the man who gave this stat is the brother of the “inventor” of the Web.

The industry is taking steps to reduce CO2 emissions. New movements encourage designers to consider sustainability in the web site design phase. Internet behemoths such as Google, Facebook and Amazon have made promises to go net-zero. Some have found novel ways to consume less by submerging data centres or building data centres in cold environments (a lot of electricity is consumed by just cooling the servers)

But there are actions we can take as users that will also help reduce those emissions:

  1. Drop the quality. Video streaming accounts for the biggest volumes of data sent over the internet. Watching something in HD makes everything super-realistic but consider the impact. Go for the SD version and you can still enjoy the content, but drastically reduce the data streamed.
  2. Do you need to search? When you know the web address to go to, open your browser and type it in. Or save it as a bookmark. Entering a keyword into the browser’s address bar (such as “BBC”)  will provoke a search. Each search consumes some electricity. Cumulatively, those searches have a massive impact.
  3. Download rather than stream. Is something on heavy rotation on Spotify? Then download it. This will also save your data.
  4. Unfortunately, emails harm the environment, accounting for a huge carbon footprint. Consider not sending that email. Could you just phone? If you need to send it, just take a moment to think does everyone cc’d need to read this?
  5. Change to a more sustainable search. There is a greener alternative to Google. Ecosia.org plant trees from the money they make through you using their search and claim 100% renewable energy usage. And they appear to be true to their word.  
  6. Switch off. The ultimate sustainable method!

Of course, the Internet has brought huge benefits to a more sustainable world. Online meetings have reduced the need to travel. The consumption of the written word has moved more online, reducing the number of books and newspapers printed.  But it’s just a conscious move for everyone to recognise that their Internet use still consumes fossil fuels. And as Berners-Lee says,

“When we take a small action to cut carbon, it’s a message to yourself that you care about the climate emergency.”

Addressing the social impacts of climate change: What if we unlocked the social value hidden in the UK’s industrial and logistics assets?

In the discourse on social value and the built environment, we most often hear about infrastructure, multi-residential developments, and office spaces. However, 15% of the UK’s real estate market value is held in logistics and industrial parks [1]. These sites support many business types, with e-commerce businesses now taking up a larger proportion of tenants than in previous years. In fact, the manufacturing, transport and storage industries support just less than 4.6 million jobs in the UK alone [2].

In 2018, the manufacturing, transport and storage industries generated an estimated 30% of the UKs carbon emissions. Carbon emissions are a direct driver of climate change. Climate change is a global process which, carries with it significant social impacts. This short article makes the point that we should be considering the social value potential of all asset classes, especially those with greater environmental impacts.

What are the social impacts of climate change?

Impacts such as rising temperatures and poor air quality have the ability to affect the physical and mental health of the population, as well as their wider quality of life. By 2020, sustainability-conscious landlords are already familiar with monitoring consumption data to reduce their emissions. This often translates to prioritising initiatives focussed on energy usage. Although these activities are vital to reducing the extent of the climate crisis, sustainability programmes should continue to address the existing environmental, but also social impacts of climate change. This can be done by undertaking social initiatives at the asset level.

Taking Action

Individual assets have the scope to improve the lives of their occupants, visitors and surrounding communities. To address the social impacts of climate change, social value initiatives should seek to improve the physical and mental health of these people, as well as their wider quality of life.

There are a number of practical ways to implement social value and social impact improvements at individual assets.

  • Tenant engagement can kickstart a productive, bottom-up approach to establishing specifically what these actions might be. For example, tenants may identify that due to rising temperatures or extreme weather events, their work environment is sub-optimal.
  • Valuable, quick-win opportunities include provision of facilities to increase public transport use or cycling/walking, encouraging use of the stairs for building users and making healthier food options [3].
  • Access to the natural environment both internally and externally can both improve the mental and physical health of tenants, as well as supporting climate adaptation through green infrastructure.
  • Due to the location of buildings within logistics and industrial parks, there are opportunities at the wider estate and public realm level, managed by landlords to provide social benefits to tenants.
  • In the longer term, employment and community initiatives can look to support education, work placement or employment opportunities for members of the community.

It is possible to quantify and report the positive impacts of the above. For example, certification schemes BREEAM and FITWEL have resources to assess and certify health and wellbeing aspects of buildings in multiple asset classes [4]. Whilst BREEAM encompasses most asset classes, FITWEL currently covers office, multi-residential and retail buildings.

Assessing the social value outcomes for occupants and visitors to buildings can also be done through quantitative social value metrics. EVORA has used HACT in past projects to assess outcomes of community engagement programmes.

To let us know your thoughts, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

[1] Statista. (2020). Commercial property investment value UK 2017 | Statista. [online] Available at: https://www.statista.com/statistics/747082/commercial-property-investment-value-in-the-united-kingdom/ [Accessed 12 Feb. 2020].

[2] Ons.gov.uk. (2020). EMP13: Employment by industry – Office for National Statistics. [online] Available at: https://www.ons.gov.uk/employmentandlabourmarket/peopleinwork/employmentandemployeetypes/datasets/employmentbyindustryemp13 [Accessed 12 Feb. 2020].

[3] Fitwel.org. (2020). Fitwel. [online] Available at: https://www.fitwel.org/ [Accessed 12 Feb. 2020].

[4] BREEAM. (2020). BREEAM In-Use – BREEAM. Available at: https://www.breeam.com/discover/technical-standards/breeam-in-use/ [Accessed 12 Feb. 2020]

SDGs: Answering the Big Questions for the Real Estate Industry – What, Where, Why and How?

With a new decade upon us, there is now a call more than ever to address the proliferating global challenges facing our planet.

Governments can no longer fight this battle alone and need individuals and businesses to take action and deliver an agenda that provides a sustainable path for both the planet and society. 

Clearly, this is no easy task – so how can real estate connect with and relate to global challenges? What is the motivation behind the bigger picture? And how can real estate owners, operators and occupiers oversee their potential impact in the long term?  

Let’s begin to unpick the ‘Big Questions’…. 


In 2015, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was put forward with world leaders setting out 17 goals with 169 targets aimed “to end poverty, fight inequality and tackle climate change”. The breadth of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) aims to provide sustainable development for all persons and aspects of businesses and look for them to fully immerse into a new way of thinking that will positively impact the people and planet. 

Figure 1: SDG goals (UN Framework: 2015)


Given that the real estate industry accounts for half of global wealth, 40 percent of the world’s consumption of primary energy and a third of all anthropogenic CO2 emissions there is no mistaking that the industry can contribute to achieving certain Global Goals… As the real estate industry is chiefly responsible for the development and management of assets and is also vulnerable to the impact of climate change, it goes without saying that the industry should be one of the main leaders fighting the cause of environmental stewardship.  

So, why is it that the sector has barely scratched the surface of the SDGs since their deployment in 2015? 

An agenda centred on 17 SDGs does run the risk of simply being too broad, complex or immaterial for businesses to address. In fact, a study conducted by PwC found that only one percent of companies stated they would assess their impact across all 17 goals. But are targets on No Poverty or Zero Hunger achievable or even relevant to the wider real estate industry?

Our own research conducted among 25 real estate companies achieving at least one five-star GRESB rated fund identified commitment to 13 of the 17 SDGs to some extent. Carbon and energy covering SDG13 (Climate Action – 70% adoption) and SDG7 (Affordable and Clean Energy – 52% adoption) proved the most common for actions relating to the operation of real estate assets. SDG5 (Gender Equality – 52% adoption) proved the most popular actions that are internal to each organization. Fewer than half of the sample group aligned with any other SDGs despite the notable impact real estate can have on SDG3 (Good Health and Wellbeing) and SDG 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities). 

Figure 2: Proportion of the sample committing to selected SDGs (real estate)


With global frameworks, it’s all about scalability – with 169 sub-targets to consider, it is difficult to pin-point what impact your business could specifically make. However, many activities and initiatives within your business may well align to SDGs already – whether this be indirectly or directly. The key here is to break down the goals into more manageable and understandable objectives that relate specifically to how you as a business operate. 

First, ask yourself…

What is material and what are the relevant impact categories you want to address? 

Reflect on your activities and the risks to people and the environment, as well as on beneficial products, services and investments. While doing so, consider both operations and the broader value chain. One way to make this simple is the use of a materiality assessment. In short, a materiality assessment is an exercise in stakeholder engagement designed to gather insight on the relative importance, and impact, of specific environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues.  The key to getting real value from a materiality assessment is starting with a clear understanding of what information you are looking for, choosing the right stakeholders and applying the appropriate methodology to present the information effectively and make informed decisions. 

Breaking down analysis into environmental, economic and societal factors allows you to understand the impact your activities have, and the programmes needed to mitigate adverse risks or exploit beneficial opportunities. Consider not only your objectives but your audience and who is involved. What topics are of most importance to your stakeholders? Who needs to take responsibility?

By this point, you will have developed a sense of what impacts you as a real estate business could have and their overall importance. Now, you must define objectives that could contribute to your SDG priority targets, including identifying the indicators used to measure progress against then. 

Now for the ‘How’ 

Outcomes of a materiality assessment should be channelled into a structured framework, such as an environmental management system (EMS), to ensure programs are managed through a coordinated strategy. Building the SDGs into the strategy is a way to stop isolated work or seeing the global goals as somewhat as an additional task. 

The strategy should define what metrics and indicators can be used to set appropriate targets, defining the outcome from each impact areas. It is important to consider how progress will be tracked and communicated. High-quality data is essential for making informed decisions and prioritizing action. Take, for instance, SDG13 Climate Action – here you may wish to monitor and report on energy usage and carbon dioxide emissions. The use of dashboards to easily convey current performance (at asset and portfolio level), track against historical periods, and importantly, communicate progress to stakeholders is a vital step in achieving climate goals.

Figure 3: Energy and Carbon Dashboards (SIERA)

Final Thoughts  

An EMS provides a framework to increase focus within your business’ strategic planning process and understand the context and scope of impacts. Essentially, it answers the bigger question of ‘Where’ you can make an impact as a business.  The key here is to be straightforward! No matter how big or small the change, it is important that you know your objectives and communicate them in a way that is both easy to understand and relevant to who you are targeting.

The SDGs can be perceived as global goals that are difficult to relate to the industry, let alone a business itself. However, they can act as a powerful tool in shifting the conversation to the bigger picture. Given the degree of involvement the real estate industry plays in these global challenges today, there is no denying that you as a business can play a significant role in contributing to these goals. However big or small, the time to act is now.

This article was originally published on GRESB Insights

UN Environment (2017), “Towards a zero-emission, efficient, and resilient buildings and construction sector”, Global Status Report, URL: https://www.worldgbc.org/sites/default/files/UNEP%20188_GABC_en%20%28web%29.pdf 

Anne Huibrechtse – Truijens (2018), “Sustainability Goals: A Business Perspective”, Deliotte,  URL: https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/nl/Documents/risk/deloitte-nl-risk-sdgs-from-a-business-perspective.pdf

Seeing the Value in Real Estate Supply Chain Sustainability

Do the companies you partner with – your supply chain – understand your approach to ESG issues, and can work with you to meet your goals?

Supply chains can often be global, highly complex and of significant scale. Historically, technical quality, cost-effectiveness, speed of delivery and reliability has been the focus. Sustainability has now been added to the procurement and sourcing criteria because of operational, financial, regulatory and reputational risk drivers.

Real estate organisations are encouraged to embrace resiliency and responsibility in their supply chain management to adapt to externalities such as geopolitical conflicts, changing weather patterns and new legislation in areas such as modern slavery; and to improve their impacts on the workforce, local communities and the environment in the places where they develop, manage and invest. By improving ESG performance throughout their supply chains, organisations can enhance processes, save costs, uncover product innovation, achieve market differentiation and have a significant impact on society.

As organisations apply a sustainability lens to the design, development, management and marketing of their buildings and services, the inputs, construction methods, labour conditions, workforce health and safety practices, and environmental and community impacts of these processes will be under growing scrutiny.

The continuous improvement process expands supplier relationships significantly beyond auditing and monitoring, investing in training and incentivising top performers. Organisations share commitments with suppliers in order to achieve their sustainability goals. Procurement process preference is given to suppliers who can help them achieve these goals.

Leading organisations recognise that the sustainability attributes of their assets can offer market differentiation, resulting in increased lettability and stronger and long-term relationships with tenants.

They achieve competitive advantage in the supply chain through establishing meaningful, collaborative dialogue between themselves and their suppliers, alongside technology innovation, greater efficiency and supplier diversity. Suppliers are viewed as an extension of their business with a shared sustainability ethos integrated seamlessly throughout.

Maturity model - supply chain
Figure 1 – Maturity model supply chain

EVORA provides consultancy support for the development and implementation of an effective strategy to endorse sustainability within supply chains, including:

  • Assessment of materiality to focus on the most pressing issues
  • Development of sustainability criteria and alignment with the procurement process
  • Providing training and knowledge sharing capabilities across the organisation and with suppliers
  • Stretching existing sustainability goals beyond direct operations, to include tiers of the supply chain
  • Advice on deploying technology to increase accountability and transparency through comprehensive supplier performance metrics
  • Guiding participation in industry collaborations and initiatives to leverage buying power and influence towards supply chain sustainability
  • Disclosure of supply chain information within integrated reporting, beyond stand-alone sustainability reporting mechanisms.

Contact us to speak to a member of the team.

Getting to (Net) Zero

In June of this year, the UK became the first major economy in the world to pass laws requiring net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

‘Zero carbon’ is an ambitious challenge and one that we at EVORA Global is well-poised at untangling.  

So what do we mean by ‘zero carbon’?

Though there are two important contributors of carbon emissions in a building – embodied carbon and operational carbon – the focus of this article is on operational carbon. An operational zero carbon building is one that generates or purchases enough renewable energy to offset emissions from all energy consumption in the building over a year.

Does your project have a zero carbon goal in mind but is stymied with uncertainty of where to begin? Consider the following strategies:

Go all-electric

Going all-electric is a key to unlock zero carbon buildings – it enables the installation or purchase of renewable energy to offset the building’s total energy use.But what are the common barriers inhibiting this paradigm shift from conventional gas-fired heating to electric heat pumps?  The legacy of gas-fired heating has, in part, been enabled due to historically low natural gas prices compared to electricity.  Further, many facility management teams have inherited training to maintain conventional gas heating systems.  As a result, it has been a challenging transition for facility managers to learn to maintain newer electric heat pump systems.  

Yet times are changing.  In contrast to trends seen in previous decades, the World Bank forecasts that natural gas prices from 2020 to 2030 will steadily increase [1].  Moreover, the UK government predicts wholesale electricity prices flattening in the next decade, likely due to the concurrent greening of the electricity grid and the falling levelised cost of renewable energy [2]. Hence, an all-electric building does not solely unlock the potential for achieving zero carbon – it also minimises financial risks by reducing reliance on ever fluctuating fossil fuel commodities. 

Furthermore, legislative drivers like the UK gas heating ban for new homes by 2025 are further facilitating maturity of the electric heat pump market and improving contractor familiarity with electric heating technologies.

Deep retrofits and passive design strategies

Zero carbon buildings will require retrofits deeper than “simple lightbulb savings” and operational quick wins.

The deep retrofits required will ultimately need to include improvements to the building fabric, defined as everything that separates the interior from the exterior of the building.  To meet operational zero carbon goals, it will be necessary to consider high performance window glazing and installation of external or internal insulation to reduce heat loss through the building fabric.  A tighter building fabric will not only help reduce heat loss in the building – the overall size (capacity) of the required HVAC systems will also be smaller, garnering additional energy savings and carbon reductions. For tenants, a tighter building fabric also results in a more thermally comfortable space to work in.

As mentioned previously, HVAC systems with gas-fired heating should be retrofitted with efficient electric heat pump systems. One replacement option is a variable refrigerant flow (VRF) system that can provide heating and cooling. A VRF system is highly efficient and, with proper controls installed, can even provide simultaneous heating and cooling to different spaces. For example, if a perimeter space (say, an office receiving solar gain from the windows) requires cooling and an interior space (say, desk cubicles where the sun does not reach) requires heating, it is possible for a VRF system to capture and redirect the heat from the perimeter space to the interior space.

Additionally, lighting retrofits should extend beyond installing energy efficient LED lighting. It is recommended that spaces maximise natural daylighting opportunities by installing controls to dim or shut off artificial lighting where there is enough natural light in the space. Studies have shown that providing indoor access to daylight can improve tenant satisfaction and productivity, while also conferring health and wellbeing benefits by aligning occupant circadian rhythms with the natural day and night schedule.

Clean, renewable energy

With a highly energy efficient building in hand, the remaining carbon emissions associated with operations should be offset by carbon-free renewable energy.

Although achieving zero carbon can be achieved using either on-site or off-site renewables, it is encouraged to prioritise on-site renewable generation. 

On-site generation brings many benefits. In addition to alleviating pressure on the national grid, on-site generation also benefits tenants by providing resilience against power cuts to ensure business operations continue to run as usual.

If on-site renewable generation is not possible at the building, or is insufficient to offset the building’s operational carbon emissions, then purchasing off-site renewable energy should be considered. Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) allow for the purchase of electricity directly from a renewable energy generator. For landlords, this provides a path to zero carbon without incurring large capital expenditures.

Zero carbon is set to be the gold standard for sustainable real estate. The EVORA Global team of experts are ready to discuss strategies to get your project on the path to zero!

[1] http://pubdocs.worldbank.org/en/598821555973008624/CMO-April-2019-Forecasts.pdf

[2] https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/802478/Annex-m-price-growth-assumption_16-May-2019.ods

Climate Resilience: Why we should care

Climate Resilience has been the buzzword in the market for some time, but what does it mean and why should you care?

Climate Resilience is ‘the capacity of companies and funds to survive and thrive in the face of social and environmental shocks and stressors’ [GRESB]. By shocks, we mean short term acute events like fires and floods. Stressors are the longer-term chronic vulnerabilities such as increasing heat days and precipitation levels.

Why should we care?

The need to disclose climate resilience is not going to go away. Momentum is building globally for companies to identify, manage and disclose their climate risks and opportunities.

Investor demand

You only need to open a paper, watch the news or even look on the streets to see that climate action is gaining momentum. The public and society as a whole are becoming more literate and conscientious about the issue and this, in turn, is influencing the investment community.

As the effects of climate change on economic activity become more significant, there is increasing demand from investors, trustees and other fiduciaries for consistent, comparable, actionable information in company reports. Investors increasingly expect Boards and Executives to actively assess and respond to climate risks.

In May 2017, a shareholder resolution at Exxon Mobil called on management to produce a report detailing the implications of a 2 degree scenario and received 62% support[1]. This, along with similar results at other oil and gas companies’ AGMs, signals that the majority of investors in the world’s biggest fossil fuel producers see value in having this information. This is likely to extend to the real estate sector as the climate change agenda continues to gather momentum.

Physical risk

35% of REIT properties globally are geographically exposed to climate hazards, including inland flooding (17%), typhoons or hurricanes (12%), and coastal flooding and sea-level rise (6%)[2]. Investment managers and investors for directly held assets currently use insurance as their primary means of protection against extreme weather and climate events. However, insurance will cover damages from catastrophic events; it will not cover higher capital expenditure and operational costs and loss in value from a reduction in the asset’s liquidity.

Litigation risk

A pattern is emerging of activist shareholders filing resolutions against corporations, particularly major energy companies, demanding increased transparency surround climate change risks and company policy [Norton Rose]. For example, in Australia in 2018, 23 year old Mark McVeigh filed legal action against Retail Employees Superannuation Pty Ltd (REST), seeking information regarding what the trustees know about the impact climate change will have on its investments and what they are doing in response to this knowledge.

Fiduciary responsibility

A fiduciary duty is a requirement that informs investment and management practice in a similar manner to aspects such as costs and investment returns. A failure to take account of ESG issues could be seen as a breach of their fiduciary duties. Fiduciaries, therefore, need to show they have identified and assessed the risks to companies and to their portfolios.

Increasing disclosure on climate resilience

The driving force behind more effective disclosure in climate resilience is the TCFD – the Taskforce on Climate-related Financial Disclosure. TCFD is a global voluntary disclosure framework launched in mid-June 2017 to allow organizations to identify the climate risks and opportunities they expect to face, and ultimately to disclose the financial impact of these in their annual reports. As of May 2019, 648 organizations have shown formal support for the TCFD, including 118 asset management organizations.

TCFD is a global voluntary disclosure framework launched in mid-June 2017 to allow organizations to identify the climate risks and opportunities they expect to face, and ultimately to disclose the financial impact of these in their annual reports

Stockland an Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) 50 organization and Australia’s largest diversified property group, has been an early adopter of disclosure in alignment with the TCFD framework. Stockland has been identifying risks and opportunities relating to the impact of climate change for over a decade. The business response to these is guided by a Climate Change Adaptation Plan which is regularly reviewed, and a detailed Climate Adaptation Strategy, as well as business unit sustainability strategies. Whilst Stockland did not disclose the actual or potential financial impact of their identified climate risk and opportunities (which is of specific interest to investors), in February 2018, the organization lodged “Stockland’s Climate-related Financial Disclosures” on the ASX as part of their half-year reporting suite. This made Stockland the first Australian property company to disclose its climate risks and opportunities to the ASX in accordance with the Task Force recommendations.

In 2018 GRESB launched the Resilience Module within which the Climate Resilience Indicators are aligned to the four pillars of the TCFD framework, namely Governance, Risk Management, Strategy and Performance Metrics and Targets. The Resilience Module was unscored in 2019 but is expected to be integrated into the wider GRESB framework in 2020.

What next?

It is now widely considered industry best practice that organizations should consider climate change in the context of their strategic and operational risk management. As a first step, organizations should conduct a gap analysis against the TCFD reporting framework with a view to identifying and addressing the gaps across the Governance, Risk Management, Strategy and Performance Metrics and Targets pillars.

If you’d like to learn more, please do contact one of our experts.

This article was originally published on GRESB Insights

[1] 2 degrees of separation: Transition risk for oil & gas in a low carbon world – Carbon Tracker; UN PRI [page 11]

[2] http://427mt.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/ClimateRiskRealEstateBottomLine_427GeoPhy_Oct2018-4.pdf

Biodiversity: enhancing the built environment

EVORA support many of our real estate clients to develop sustainability strategies and management systems.  The overriding objective of approaches developed is to establish plans that help our clients understand their impacts, manage risks and, perhaps most importantly, drive performance improvement.  Often, and unsurprisingly we focus on energy, carbon, water and waste.

However, there are wider opportunities. Biodiversity can often be pushed down the agenda.  Real estate owners can develop programmes designed to positively contribute to biodiversity.  As you will see in the rest of my blog, I consider this to be very important.

So what is Biodiversity?

Biodiversity, in simple terms, means the variety of life, in all its forms and at all levels. This ranges from genes to species to ecosystems – everything that collectively forms the biological diversity on Earth.

In short, biodiversity is a good thing.  It is essential in maintaining a healthy environment and therefore, has an impact on our quality of life.

The decline of biodiversity has serious consequences and its protection and enhancement is essential if we are to achieve a sustainable future. We depend on biodiversity for food, health, natural resources and a range of ecosystem services such as air and water purification, soil fertility and plant pollination. Maintaining biodiversity is also crucial to the development and discovery of new medicines.

The variety of life, in all its forms and at all levels. This ranges from genes to species to ecosystems – everything that collectively forms the biological diversity on Earth.

Increasing urbanisation is contributing to the decline of biodiversity due to the loss and division of natural habitats. Providing opportunities for biodiversity in our built environment is one way that it can be protected and enhanced.

Development schemes can utilise a number of approaches including Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) – a quantitative, stepwise methodology that aims to enhance biodiversity after development. However, we are increasingly being asked for advice on how Biodiversity can be implemented into strategies, by clients who manage standing investment funds.

Several BNG principles are valuable for application to existing real estate assets, notably: to achieve the best outcomes for biodiversity, to optimise sustainability and to be transparent.

Biodiversity in action

Implementation of approaches to support these aims will result in greener, more biodiverse assets that not only offer homes for wildlife but can also provide wider benefits for people, such as improved air quality and health and wellbeing. It also gives asset managers positive news stories to tell and helps to create great places for people to live and work.

[click_to_tweet tweet=”Biodiversity will result in greener assets that not only offer homes for wildlife but can also provide wider benefits for people, such as improved air quality and health and wellbeing.” quote=”Biodiversity will result in greener assets that not only offer homes for wildlife but can also provide wider benefits for people, such as improved air quality and health and wellbeing.”]

So, in simple terms, what can be done?

Real Estate Organisations can raise the profile of biodiversity within the workplace by:

  • Assessing the material risks and opportunities associated with biodiversity across portfolios;
  • Ensuring staff have understood these risks and opportunities;
  • Raise awareness amongst suppliers;
  • Implementing practical approaches – suitable for assets in question. If you are struggling to contextualise, think;
    – Green walls
    – Beehives
    – Indoor and outdoor planting regimes
    – Although many more opportunities exist
  • Report publicly on organisational performance with regards to biodiversity.

Organisations, wishing to progress further can:

  • Develop site-specific Biodiversity Strategies or Action Plans for managed assets, with the aim of achieving enhancements for selected species and/or habitats identified in the Local, Regional or National Biodiversity Action Plan;
  • Incorporate specific biodiversity objectives within asset management plans;
  • Collect biodiversity data e.g. number of plant types considered pollinators;
  • Where handing over the asset to new owners, work to “pass on” commitment to biodiversity at the asset, potentially through a handover manual;
  • Report to local authorities and, where necessary, other bodies, based on the data collected.

Finally, we positively encourage the reporting of progress, through new or existing routes – highlighting positive steps such as:

  • Measures taken to collect biodiversity information;
  • Key Performance Indicators, such as % of assets with Biodiversity Management Plan, % of direct employees with biodiversity awareness training;
  • Records of sightings of endangered/rare/protected species;
  • Reporting on habitats under threat;
  • An account of how and where operations have led to the achievement of targets in Biodiversity Action Plans;
  • Case studies to highlight what has been learnt from biodiversity mitigation and enhancement.

In short, Sustainability is not just about energy, water, waste – Biodiversity often presents an opportunity to progress significant improvements.

For more information, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Social Value Part 2: Five Key Challenges for Social Value in Real Estate

In 2015, the United Nations set as part of their Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 11—[to] “Make cities inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable”[1].

When talking about resilient cities, most of us probably think of our physical environment, rising sea levels and thermal comfort. However, the built environment can be a great enabler of community growth and strengthening social resources.

UN Sustainable Development Goals logo  United Nations Sustainable Development Goals Goal 11

Source: United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, 2019
[SDG guidelines for use]

Social Value strategies are as important for the built environment as they are for businesses in achieving SDG 11. In this article, we discuss the five key challenges of implementing Social Value in real estate.

  1. Determining a strategy focus – A valid ‘one size fits all’ approach is non-existent in Social Value. Although there is a consensus on the wide range of factors contributing to Social Value, what may be in or out of scope at organisation or asset level should be subject to an intelligent and tailored vetting process. Focus can be determined by aligning the values of your organisation and the socio-economic needs of the area for the strategy in question.
  2. Temporality– The design phase of our built environment projects has so much scope for influencing Social Value outcomes, that this might cause clients focusing on Social Value in constructed assets to feel restricted. Whilst physical factors can be used to influence the way building users work, play and feel, there are many aspects of building management which can influence the same Social Value outcomes. Start by scoping in which outcomes you can and can’t influence, this will also help to focus on what means the most to your building’s users.
  3. Measuring outcomes – Measurement is the most commonly questioned aspect of Social Value. The response can vary largely depending on what your Social Value strategy prioritises. Whilst qualitative approaches to recording Social Value are useful in capturing full social impact, it is important to use Social Return on Investment (SROI) [ED1] to calculate numerical evidence to validate outcomes against[2]. There are a number of SROI calculation tools available to facilitate this. Research carefully which one is right for your organisation.
  4. Social Value Across Borders – Interest in Social Value is quickly becoming a concern of organisations and investors operating both inside and outside of the U.K. It’s encouraging to see businesses taking an interest in creating socio-economic benefit to society. Their interest is a testament that pursuing Social Value brings wider benefits on an organisational level. SROI requires each action to be allocated a value[3]. In the U.K, we benefit from a wealth of existing research and valuation banks. These values have been thoroughly researched, tried and tested based on regional and national socio-economic research. The next challenge is to look closer at making SROI calculation accessible through similar research outside of the U.K.
  5. Balancing commerciality with social impact – The built environment is a largely for-profit industry[4]; therefore the commercial aspect of Social Value will always be important. The key thing for clients to remember when communicating their Social Value to investors will be that the figure next to the £ sign represents value to society. Value to the investor is predominantly delivered through improvements to the assets commercial profile. The rapid development of resources to support Social Value in industries and nations further afield is active proof of its benefits.

EVORA is now supporting our clients to develop and deliver Social Value programmes.  You can read more about this topic in our blog in the article ‘What is Social Value?‘ Alternatively, please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you would like to discuss Social Value in more detail.

[1] United Nations. 2015. Sustainable development goals – United Nations. [online] United Nations Sustainable Development
[2] Watson, K. & Whitley. T, 2016. Applying Social Return on Investment (SROI) to the built environment, Building Research & Information, 45:8
[3] NEF. 2017
[4] Mulgan, G. 2010. Measuring social value. Stanford Social Innovation Review, 8(3), pp.38–43

*The content of this publication has not been approved by the United Nations and does not reflect the views of the United Nations or its officials or Member States.* Visit the website.

Soft Landings: Better Buildings, Better Real Estate

One topic I am very passionate about is that of ensuring that the buildings we build and operate are fit for purpose. In my mind, this means providing users with an environment to deliver their work in sustainable, efficient buildings that do not impact their wellbeing. For building owners, it is about ‘getting what you paid for’ in terms of efficient design that leads to sustainable operation.

We often find that existing buildings do not operate as they should / could due to age, refurbishment changes, historical maintenance practices and/or BMS set up. This may be shown through high energy consumption, plant equipment impacting asset performance as well as substandard occupant wellbeing and comfort.

Reasons why this is happening need to be understood so that we can adapt and learn for future situations, and in particular, refurbishments. The existing building stock isn’t going anywhere and refurbishments within these properties is going to be important in delivering both sustainability performance (including those aligned with Paris targets) and occupier wellbeing.

Soft Landings – bridging the gap from design to operation

A tool that addresses these issues is Soft Landings. I hear many people refer to Soft Landings as commissioning and handover. This is a misconception. These are critical components of implementing Soft Landings, but it is much more than that. It’s a mindset and approach that should begin at project inception and embed through the whole building’s life cycle. Bridging the gap from design to operation is essential to ensure the building delivers as intended for the end user.

By thinking about the end use at the outset, measurable KPI’s can be established along with roles, responsibilities and ownership. These KPI’s can be championed throughout, with agreed reviews and meetings to understand changes, manage re-occurring problems and capturing the required information to ensure a smooth hand over and aftercare in those early stages of occupancy. Communication and engagement are critical and must play an integral part to ensure information is shared at the right time and interpretation for all level of users is provided where required.

The BSRIA Soft Landings stages and how they align with the RIBA Plan of Work are shown in the diagram below.

Source: BSRIA Soft Landings Framework 2018 (View full-size Soft Landings Map)

BSRIA Soft Landings Map

Adopting this approach, I believe is a firm step forward in addressing the challenges faced across the built environment. Having honest discussions around what works and why things have gone wrong helps us to build and manage better buildings. This, in turn, helps move towards a sustainable built environment to ensure the real estate industry mitigates its climate change impacts.

It’s not a perfect world and things can go wrong during any stage of a project. Soft Landings is not a silver bullet to solve this.  However, it does help identify why and how a problem occurred, providing context and understanding. This is then built into ‘lessons learned’ to improve future project delivery. This in itself is a success story and requires an open approach to project delivery and building operation.

A framework approach

Where possible, Soft Landings should be fully embedded and deployed throughout the project. Not applying the framework in its entirety increases the risk of operational problems, user issues and/or failure in sustainable operation further down the line.

EVORA & EVORA EDGE recognise that this is difficult across many situations. In order to establish the vision of ‘delivering better buildings’, we can support our clients in navigating through the six phases of Soft Landings through the following ways:

Phase 0 & 1:

  • Act as the nominated ‘Soft Landings Champion’ on behalf of the client.
  • Carry out surveys of existing building to help support key project decisions and KPI’s.
  • Define ESG / sustainability objectives, targets, KPIs and responsibilities

Phases 2 to 4:

  • Co-ordinating and managing the Soft Landings ‘Gateway’ meetings.
  • Providing concept and technical design input to support and advice with regards to building services.
  • Ensuring data capture infrastructure is in place e.g. meters and sensors.

Phase 5:

  • Facilitating engagement with Stakeholders to identify solutions to impacts on occupant satisfaction and sustainability performance.
  • Co-ordinating with the project and operational teams to establish building user guides.

Phase 6 & 7:

  • Develop aftercare programmes, including building analytics and utility performance to support ongoing KPIs and performance measurement.
  • Conduct Post Occupancy Evaluation surveys
  • Providing BREEAM In Use, RESET & Fitwel assessments and certification.
  • Providing technical reviews on building system issues to fine tune performance.

Get in touch with our experts if you’d like to hear more about Soft Landings

Social Value Part 1: What is social value?

Social Value is the quantification of positive public benefits and outcomes. It originates from a collection of principles aiming to improve health, wellbeing, quality of life, and communities[1].

Social Value is considered in a variety of industry sectors, but recent uptake in the built environment has been sharp, and the future is focused on developing implementable social value strategies for commercial real estate.

Key factors for Social Value in the Built Environment

Social Value has been brought to the forefront of planning requirements by The Public Services (Social Value) Act (2012).  The Act gives no official definition or guidance on what process could be followed to implement Social Value. However, research from the U.K. Green Building Council (UKGBC) into Social Value provides comprehensive guidance into the most relevant aspects for development projects.

EVORA Global Social Value blog table Source UKGBC

How do we measure Social Value?

The most asked question in Social Value is ‘how do we measure this?’ Answered simply, Social Value is typically measured by the following 3 methods.
·     Fiscal, including Social Return on Investment (SROI)
·     Numerical quantification e.g. = number of people affected x outcome of action
·     Qualitative (storytelling)[2].

Social Value: Nice to have or must-have?

The rising global population means that the 3.5 billion people currently living in the world’s urban centres is set to increase. By 2030, this number set to rise to 4.9 billion. As the population grows and our cities become ever closer together, the challenges of living and working comfortably alongside each other are increasing. Understandably, government, the public and investors now expect more from those shaping our built environment. Unforgotten though, is that the built environment is a for-profit industry. It is therefore important to many that sustainability actions can be quantified with financial returns[3]. Social Value reporting gives us an updated set of sustainability principles and a way of quantifying them.

EVORA is now supporting our clients to develop and deliver Social Value programmes. You can read more about this topic in our next blog post in the series ‘5 key challenges for Social Value in Real Estate’.

Alternatively, please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you would like to discuss Social Value in more detail.

[1]Baldwin, C. and King, R. 2018. Social Sustainability, Climate Resilience and Community-Based Urban Development. 1st ed. London: Routledge.
[2] Maas, K. and Liket, K. 2011. Social impact measurement: Classification of methods in Environmental management accounting and supply chain management (pp. 171–202). Dordrecht: Springer.
[3]Emerson, J. 2003. The blended value proposition: Integrating social and financial returns. California Management Review, 45(4), pp.35–51. doi:10.2307/41166187