Green Building Certification for Operational Buildings: which to choose?

Since the first green building certification standard, BREEAM, was launched in the UK in 1990, the number of sustainability related certification initiatives for the built environment has grown. There are now hundreds operating around the world. While the early certification standards focused on the design and construction of new buildings, there are now a plethora of standards that assess the operational performance of existing buildings. Indeed, the 2021 GRESB Real Estate Reference Guide lists over 70 “operational green building certification schemes”.

From an asset owner’s perspective, there are various drivers for targeting green building certification. One of the most significant aspects is the increasing body of evidence that demonstrates the business case for and value of green buildings, including reduced operational costs, improved occupant productivity and increased asset value.  Results from a recent RICS Global Commercial Property Monitor survey showed that around 75% of global respondents believe that green certified buildings achieve a rent or price premium over comparable non-certified buildings, either through a green premium or a brown discount.

As the demand for green building certification continues to grow, asset owners and investors are now faced with an overwhelming choice of certification standards. The scope and applicability of certification can vary significantly between the different standards. Some can be applied internationally, while others are country or location specific; some provide a holistic consideration of sustainability issues, while others focus on a particular topic (e.g. energy or health and wellbeing); and some can assess a range of asset types, while others cover a single sector (e.g. housing).

To help the real estate sector navigate this diverse green building certification landscape, EVORA has recently published a new guide that provides an overview of four of the leading green building certification standards for operational buildings used in Europe:

While there are various similarities between the four certification standards, there are also considerable differences between the four approaches both in terms of the certification processes and the technical requirements. As such, it is very difficult to compare the merits and value of a specific certification rating for one standard against a rating from one of the other standards. Consequently, the selection of the most suitable certification standard will be project specific and should be informed by the project team’s sustainability aims and objectives for each asset. Location and local market factors may also steer the choice of certification.

Regardless of the differences between the standards, all set requirements that aim to reward performance above standard practice for existing buildings. Therefore, any rating achieved against any of the standards would demonstrate a level of sustainability performance beyond that of an average building of a similar type. Achieving any of the higher ratings would demonstrate projects as being high performing buildings with excellent sustainability credentials.

In a post-pandemic world and with the urgent need for the built environment to decarbonise to meet net zero carbon trajectories, there will be an increasing demand for asset owners and investors to demonstrate the value of their assets, with an asset’s sustainability performance a key factor in this. As such, third party assessed green building certification will continue to be regarded as good evidence that an asset’s sustainability impacts are being appropriately considered as part of its operations and management.

EVORA can advise clients on the most appropriate green building certification for their individual assets or wider portfolios and has in-house experts that are able to deliver BREEAM, DGNB and LEED certification for operational buildings across Europe. If you would like to know more, please contact our experts at

EVORA supports Schroder Real Estate Investment Management (SREIM) to achieve the first ‘Fitwel for Workplace: Multi-Tenant Whole Building’ Certification in Europe

The Schroder UK Real Estate Fund office asset, Battersea Studio 1, was officially awarded the first ‘Fitwel for Workplace: Multi-Tenant Whole Building’Certification in Europe. As official Fitwel Ambassadors, EVORA supported in the completion of the assessment.

As a ‘Whole Building’ assessment, the Fitwel certification applies to the entire asset and all building users (including tenants), not just the base building and building management staff. The building achieved 97 Points and was awarded a ‘One Star’ rating.

Read more about EVORA and Fitwel here.

In addition to validating the existing health and wellbeing credentials of the building, the certification process also identified several ‘quick win’ improvement opportunities, which have all now been implemented, including:

  • conducting an occupant commuter survey to better understand active transport requirements for building users (e.g. bike storage and shower provision);
  • establishing an indoor air quality management policy;
  • installing point-of-decision signs promoting use of staircases rather than lifts; and,
  • assigning a meeting room for out-of-hours ‘wellness activities’ (e.g. book club, yoga).

Committed to continual improvement, SREIM, EVORA and Battersea Studio 1 are already actively working on progressing further enhancements to the asset and will aim to target a ‘Two Star’ Fitwel rating when it’s due to recertify.

Oli Pye, Associate Director at EVORA commented, “We’re really chuffed to have supported SREIM to achieve this certification for Battersea Studios 1. It’s was already a great building with lots of strong health and wellbeing features, however, through the certification process, we have been able to make it even better, as well as identify opportunities for further enhancement. We look forward to helping deliver these additional improvements for the benefit of all of the users of the building.”

You can read the full SREIM press release here.

HQE (Haute Qualité Environnementale) certification for buildings in operation: how does it compare on health and wellbeing?

Although many may not be overly familiar with it (in comparison to the likes of BREEAM and LEED), HQE certification has the strongest presence in Europe by area, with buildings totalling approximately 85 million m2 certified at the end of 2017[1].

While HQE was first developed in France, the new international platform Cerway has brought it to an international audience.

Overall, HQE certification presents comparably comprehensive coverage of sustainable construction to BREEAM In-Use and LEED certifications, with a major focus on overall quality and assurance of the result. Additionally, HQE certifications present a non-prescriptive nature, which aims to rely less on application standards and specific thresholds, and rather account for local context and conditions, therefore providing a flexible, yet clear guidance.

HQE’s non-prescriptive focus addresses primarily:
1) Environmental and Energy Performance
2) Health and Comfort

In the first category, attention is focused on sustainable practices and management, with a particular distinction drawn between on the one hand, the intrinsic environmental quality of the asset, and on the other hand, the effectiveness of environmental practices.

The second category focuses upon the assets’ qualities that contribute to the health, comfort and wellbeing of its occupants.

So where does health and wellbeing fit in?

While BREEAM In-Use and LEED allocate substantial coverage to the environmental and energy aspects of a building, their coverage of health and wellbeing is to a lesser extent in comparison to HQE. HQE embraces both equally and provides an approach that aligns with current trends in the real estate sustainability sector. In my opinion, HQE has adopted a proactive approach which has foreseen and been able to react to the increasing need for stronger health and wellbeing monitoring. HQE’s direction aims to ensure that the assets will benefit equally from a reduction in energy consumption, good management of resources and better health and productivity for the occupiers. Hence, it has the potential to deliver long-lasting value for real estate investors and tenants, whilst providing enough flexibility on the “how” to achieve them through its non-prescriptive nature.

EVORA Global HQE image one

GBC, F. (2015). International Environmental Certifications for the Design and Construction of Non-Residential Buildings. Paris: France GBC, p. 4

Approximately 50% of the HQE certification focuses on health and wellbeing, whereas in BREEAM In-Use the scoring is split is 17% in part 1 and 15% for parts 2 and 3, respectively, based on the proportion of the overall available points.
BREEAM’s definition of health and wellbeing encompasses a wider range of aspects (outdoor rest space, active lifestyle options, safety and security); however, the percentage coverage dedicated to health and wellbeing in the BREEAM In-Use certification is smaller than in HQE. LEED puts less emphasis upon health and wellbeing, with a focus on general indoor environmental quality, and a more limited weighting coverage for comfort.

Out of the fourteen categories, the HQE rating system requires an asset to perform highly in at least three categories and achieve a basic level for a maximum of seven categories. Categories are not weighted, as they are considered to be equally important to obtain the certification[2], which further strengthens its duality in its coverage of energy and comfort.

Is HQE for you?

If you wish to challenge your assets with a new certification, HQE offers a balanced assessment of both energy and environmental factors and health and wellbeing features. This being said, certifications are continually evolving to remain relevant. All certifications will likely be aiming to grow their coverage of health and wellbeing factors as the topic begins to become more of a mainstream consideration in real estate sustainability. In my opinion, at some point it will become as equally important to ‘sustainability’ as energy currently is. Additionally, there is a growing realisation that these aspects are heavily interlinked. Working on one aspect will benefit the other, which will help to achieve greater sustainability overall.

All in all, HQE provides a useful, comprehensive and straightforward evaluation of an asset regarding management and performance, with equal attention paid to sustainable construction and, management, comfort and health & wellbeing, which would secure a comprehensive and solid assessment of your assets. Irrespective of whether the certification is being obtained for identifying improvement opportunities, benchmarking between assets, marketing or GRESB, the end output should be a certification which meets your needs and expectations. If those expectations include a good balancing of energy performance and health and wellbeing, then the HQE certification may be more suited to your needs than the more widely known certifications of BREEAM and LEED.

If you would like to receive more information about which certification would be most relevant to your assets, do not hesitate to get in touch with our consultancy team here at EVORA.

  1. HQE, Ceerway (2017). HQE Certification: Whom for? What for? How?. Paris France, p.6
  2. Bernardi, E., Carlucci, S., Cornaro, C., & Bohne, R. A. (2017). An Analysis of the Most Adopted Rating Systems for Assessing the Environmental Impact of Buildings. Sustainability, p. 10.

Fitwel: Five ways Fitwel could benefit you and your buildings

Fitwel was introduced in pilot form in 2014 and officially launched in November 2017. Current uptake statistics are impressive:

  • 95 buildings certified;
  • 620 projects registered;
  • 942 users; and,
  • 661 Fitwel ambassadors in over 22 countries.[1]

The concept of health and wellbeing has evolved over time and progressively broadened to incorporate a huge number of issues and considerations within the real estate sustainability sector. Certification schemes like Fitwel [and WELL] are commensurately wide-ranging, and cover factors related to the indoor environment as well as aspects such as healthy foods, outdoor amenities and green spaces, among others.

Critically, these schemes weight different issues according to their level of scientific evidence and their degree of impact on health. With its 63 evidence-based strategies, Fitwel enables recent research on health and wellbeing to be practically implemented in our daily lives, whether it is in our offices or homes. Its research background is robust, with over 3,000 scientific studies incorporated and input garnered from multiple stakeholders.[2]

Fitwel enables recent research on health and wellbeing to be practically implemented in our daily lives, whether it is in our offices or homes

I have personally embarked upon the health and wellbeing journey by initially qualifying as a Fitwel Ambassador. I have started in this way as I believe that health and wellbeing certifications offer several multidimensional benefits towards people, the environment and have the potential to materially contribute towards securing a better future for both.

Five major benefits of certifying your assets through Fitwel:

  1. Occupant health, wellbeing and productivity
    A healthier building improves occupants’ wellbeing, productivity and satisfaction, increasing employee retention rates, company attractiveness and reputation.
  2. Tenant attraction, retention, longer lease terms and capital value
    We have arrived at a time where location, aesthetics, condition [etc] are not the only ones that will influence and determine your building’s attractiveness. Fitwel could be a tool to improve your building’s facilities, efficiency and even originality, following sometimes only very minor changes.
  3. A framework for a stronger strategy for the future
    Fitwel helps you to verify your approach to health and wellbeing, incorporating health and safety procedures, procurement and supply chain, sustainability and transparency. Additionally, through recertification every three years, Fitwel ensures that your building performance is not only maintained but also [and ideally] continually improved.
  4. Better practices and behaviours contribute to wiser asset and resource management
    Fitwel could push the boundaries of your overall management strategy at the asset level, resulting in the delivery of not only health and wellbeing-related infrastructure improvements, but also general improvements in tenant engagement/management practices, which may ultimately lead to increases in tenant satisfaction. These can benefit the overall performance of the building and increase the property and facilities managers’ consideration and awareness of tenant needs.
  5. Science-based and continuously evolving
    Fitwel’s strategies follow the latest research on health and wellbeing. Aligning to Fitwel therefore provides a way to ensure that your buildings meet the current and future health and wellbeing related requirements of its occupants.

Finally, we all love better looking, more efficient and pleasant cities. Each building resembles a piece of a puzzle for a healthier and better looking future. Fitwel is a way of contributing to the wider community and be at the forefront of future innovation.

If you’d like to know more about health and wellbeing and the Fitwel certification, do not hesitate to get in touch with our consultancy team.

[1]The Business Case for Healthy Buildings: Insights from Early Adopters. Washington, DC: Urban Land Institute, 2018
[2]Reference Guide for the Fitwel Certification System. Center for Active Design. New York, NY. Version 2. July 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

[clickToTweet tweet=”This means that assets which had their EPCs prepared prior to this date could be at risk even if they were E rated” quote=”This means that assets which had their EPCs prepared prior to this date could be at risk even if they were E rated”]

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

What implications will this regulation have on your assets?

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to manage MEES (our previous 10 step guide)

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

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

Our expertise

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

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

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

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

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

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

Neil Dady, Director, EVORA EDGE

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

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

12 months to transition to ISO 14001:2015 – A Systems Approach

Last week, our Director, Paul Sutcliffe, blogged on the transition to ISO14001:2015. Paul’s blog highlighted the main changes and opportunities associated with the new standard.

As a follow-up, I provide below, a deeper delve into the new standard requirements. It’s now just a year to go until the transitional deadline on 15th September 2018, at which point certificates for the 2004 standard will no longer be valid. Is it time to hit the panic button? Certainly not, but now’s the time to take action, especially since the deadline for many will likely be much sooner.

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Prioritisation is crucial – focus on integration

At this stage, prioritisation is crucial. Focus first on any changes to existing organisational processes; get this ball rolling from the outset. The key to be able to best demonstrate many of the new requirements is integration. In my experience, as both a consultant and an external lead auditor, integration of environmental management controls with existing business practices always proves to be the biggest hurdle but once achieved, the full benefits of the environmental management system (EMS) are realised.

As such, section 5.0 of the new standard – Leadership – is where initial efforts should be focused, particularly as this may involve changes to company processes which can often take time to embed. A conversation needs to be had with senior management to emphasise that they are not necessarily expected to do more, but they are expected to know more. This is best achieved through the incorporation of EMS requirements into existing business processes. For example, the introduction of environmental performance progress updates into management meeting agendas. Complying with the other requirements (known as clauses in the standard) will be made significantly easier with this approach. Clauses such as 7.0 Support, 9.0 Performance Evaluation and 10.0 Improvement heavily rely on management and so it’s important these areas are targeted in the first instance.

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Prevent scope confusion – concentrate on context

Next, concentrate on the clauses where there is less of an impact on embedded company procedures, such as 4.0 Context. This clause does certainly require some thought and its importance is often overlooked. If applied correctly, it ensures continuity, clear boundaries and a sense of direction, preventing scope confusion and making everyone’s life, especially the auditor’s, much easier. Providing the previously discussed clauses have been addressed appropriately, the final two clauses left to mention, 8.0 Operation and 6.0 Planning, should be relatively straightforward to comply with. Of course, the industry type certainly makes a difference to the level of work required, particularly with the new ‘life cycle’ requirement under Operation. The ‘life cycle perspective’ sounds a lot more resource intensive than it needs to be, especially for office based companies. Remember, auditors are still finding their feet with the new requirements and will often be satisfied with evidence that this has at least been thought about, seismic changes to the company’s procurement policies are not going to be expected!

[clickToTweet tweet=”If applied correctly, it ensures continuity, clear boundaries and a sense of direction, preventing scope confusion” quote=”If applied correctly, it ensures continuity, clear boundaries and a sense of direction, preventing scope confusion”]

Practical solutions for tight deadlines

This blog is designed to provide more information on transition planning. EVORA are well versed and experienced in the transitioning process, so please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have any questions.

Of course, it should also be mentioned that certification is not always necessary and many of our clients operate environmental management systems aligned (but not certified) to ISO 14001.  Regardless of certification status, the new ISO 14001 standard is a tool that if implemented correctly, provides a robust and effective framework that operates throughout the business, not alongside it. As a result, those with aligned systems should also consider changes introduced by the new standard, that will help deliver benefits.

[clickToTweet tweet=”ISO 14001 is a tool that if implemented correctly, provides a robust and effective framework ” quote=”Regardless of certification status, the new ISO 14001 standard is a tool that if implemented correctly, provides a robust and effective framework”]

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