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A reflection on my first ever GRESB season

My first GRESB season was an experience. From the get-go, there is a lot to understand and take in – and in a very short space of time. Whilst GRESB aims to be a global ESG benchmark, I was still taken back by the scope of the questions and the level of data required. Without the use of SIERA, being able to manage all this information would have been extremely difficult and it just goes to show the value that the platform has – both to EVORA and our clients. Within the 2022 assessment period, EVORA has supported over 190 fund submissions.

To successfully complete a submission, the importance of planning cannot be underestimated. This is especially true when looking at the performance category, which is also the section that carries the most points. Through SIERA it is easy to prepare all this information and identify variances and gaps in data, which must then be remedied. This is where having strong client engagement is vital as it helps to make this process a lot easier. 

More broadly speaking, I am impressed with how GRESB is designed to constantly promote the real estate sector to improve its sustainability performance. This is primarily done through the design of the rating system in place. This splits all the entries into their quintile position relative to all the participants, with the top quintile receiving a 5-star rating. Having dynamic boundaries means that the sector is constantly having to improve and cannot rely on previous actions to guarantee a good score.

The preliminary results of this year’s assessment will be published on September 1st, and we wish all our clients the best with their submissions.

If you would like any support with your GRESB submissions, or any other sustainability issue, please reach out to the team at EVORA and we will be happy to help.

GRESB 2022 is almost here! Are you ready?

At EVORA we are already preparing our clients and ourselves for the next GRESB cycle. Because, like spring, it is just around the corner.

Every year, the GRESB portal opens its doors on April 1st and closes them on July 1st. During this time, the wires to Amsterdam run hot and there are many sleepless nights for some participants. “If it weren’t for the last minute, nothing would ever get done”, as Mark Twain said.

So, what are the challenges and key deliverables of a GRESB submission?

Data. Data. Data.

Data Coverage is a big deal at GRESB and nearly one-third of the points are linked to consumption data such as energy, carbon, water and waste data. Even if data collation sounds simple, it is not in real life. Data coverage on asset-level can be particularly challenging, especially in the absence of AMR (Automatic Meter Reading). However, data collection alone is not enough. It is crucial to understand the data and to identify inconsistencies. This is where our in-house developed software SIERA enters the scene; not only for GRESB submissions but generally to better understand how efficient buildings are within a portfolio.

SIERA was specifically developed for the real estate investment market. It is a platform that enables a highly effective collection of quantitative and qualitative GRESB data, including comprehensive automated verification and intelligent modelling to achieve accurate and transparent disclosure of asset-level performance data. The SIERA GRESB module enables direct submission to the GRESB portal.

GRESB started requiring asset-level performance data (in the sense of consumption data such as energy, water, greenhouse gases, and waste) last year. Previously, this was at the fund level, which of course means that the data reported to GRESB is now much more detailed. This has not changed anything for SIERA users. However, we at EVORA believe that this is not the end of the journey. Our gut feeling tells us that GRESB will increasingly cover the topic of resilience in the future. And here, too, the Net Zero Carbon Module of SIERA offers the opportunity to create simulations that are aligned with the science-based targets of the Paris Agreement, for example.

But GRESB is not only about performance data, and neither is SIERA. When it comes to providing data on efficiency measures taken in terms of water, energy and/or waste, SIERA offers another very helpful feature: the software collects data by using surveys specifically aligned to the GRESB question set. The surveys can be sent individually for each building to, for example, the responsible property manager who may answer the questions online. The responses are sent directly to SIERA so that the overall picture of the condition of an asset becomes more and more complete.

But coming back to the GRESB cycle.

The picture is as complete as possible, which means all available and relevant data is checked, prepared and verified and finally pushed through the GRESB portal. What happens next? The adrenalin level drops, and we wait until October. But do we really?

In fact, in October, the GRESB results are released, providing not only an overview of how the submitted fund is positioned from a GRESB perspective but – and this is where it gets exciting – also where the fund stands relative to its peers.

Additionally, strengths and weaknesses, as well as potentials, are made comprehensible not only through figures, but also through a series of descriptive graphics.

And what happens in the meantime? We at EVORA will provide our clients with an outlook of the predicted score (as far as it is possible) and an overview of the identified gaps and potentials so that the client has the chance to decide about possible improvement measures in terms of ESG at the half-year. It is important because the same applies to GRESB: standing still leads to falling behind.

However, an ESG strategy should not be a reaction to the GRESB results alone but should exist and be implemented across the board. The GRESB results will help to stay on track and SIERA can support your decision making.

So, the “plan – do – check – act” wheel for ESG measures ideally rolls on continuously and independently of GRESB deadlines. In this way, an ESG strategy can be implemented effectively so that it again has a positive impact on GRESB scoring.

As well as being a GRESB Global Partner, EVORA is also a GRESB leader. In the 2021 cycle, we were supporting over 150 submissions, which is equal to 20% of all Europe’s submissions.

We at EVORA are happy to support you in optimising the ESG & GRESB performance for your fund and your company, and in getting your ESG wheel rolling!

Interested in finding out more? Contact our experts today.

GRESB + SIERA = Success

Sustainability data can be complex. It can show many interesting patterns and insightful trends about energy usage, but at the same time be hard to manage.  The ability to use sustainability data to reduce energy usage by seeing the impact of actions is one of its most powerful features. Connecting those patterns and trends to actions leads to results.

GRESB provides a way of thinking about sustainability data which focuses effort on certain areas and types of energy consumption. SIERA is the sustainability software solution by EVORA for managing asset portfolio data to help achieve sustainability goals. SIERA provides a way of seeing those areas and types of energy consumption by organising consumption, meters, properties, and funds to make it easier to understand. That’s why EVORA sustainability consultants use it get the best out of the data, and easily see patterns which otherwise would be hidden.

But GRESB provides its own challenges. Submitting data to GRESB involves making sure the data is correct, accurate and above all reflects the performance of a property and ultimately a portfolio.

GRESB can be challenging to get right

For those who submit to GRESB, there’s a lot of data to prepare – a lot of ducks to get into rows if you will. One of the first hurdles is making sure that your asset data is correct, that floor areas add up correctly and that the consumption, waste or emissions make sense to GRESB. There’s wide range of categories and ownership to consider, and things like where emissions are generated and who consumes them.

In short, it can easily become somewhat of a mountain of information to organise. GRESB provide a website and a spreadsheet you can use to upload data. The website points out where things don’t add up correctly and you work through the errors until they’re all gone.

GRESB also provides the ability to use software to upload your data. This method is very similar to the website except errors are sent to the software instead of the GRESB webpage. SIERA uses this method to direct the wealth of asset data it contains about assets in the portfolios and funds managed by EVORA consultants.

This connection means SIERA can take advantage of its own intelligence to make it easier to prepare for GRESB.

SIERA makes things clearer

SIERA is a platform whose main aim is to make sustainability data more manageable and the intelligence within it easier to see. It shines at tasks like GRESB mainly because it already contains a lot of the data required for a GRESB submission. SIERA uses this data to show the patterns, monitor the impact of actions and to look for potential improvements.

SIERA has a wide range of different ways of showing the data, each taking a different slice of the data to show a pattern. Having so many different views on the data makes it much easier to understand the data which gets sent to GRESB.

Asset-level reporting becomes easy

This year GRESB changed how data is reported. Before it was fund-level, meaning the total consumption and usage of all assets in a fund was submitted. This year it became asset-level. This means the energy and performance of each individual asset is submitted. As you can imagine, this means much more detail is needed and a finer grain of accuracy than before.

Luckily for SIERA users this didn’t pose a problem. SIERA already recorded data at the meter level so this change didn’t cause a problem.

Qualitative survey answers add colour

GRESB doesn’t just focus on utility readings. It also asks a range of questions about the social initiatives, engagements and technical assessments done for each asset. This qualitative data helps to show how a building is being managed and what social programs are taking place to increase the sustainability of an asset.

SIERA captures this data using surveys. SIERA surveys capture exactly the qualitative data that GRESB asks about. Surveys can be sent out to building and property managers for each asset and contain a range of questions about the asset and its management.

SIERA automatically prepares the answers for the GRESB questions which focus on the building management. Where it can, SIERA also uses data it already has to save time for anyone submitting data to GRESB. For example, rather than ask every property manager if a building uses automatic meter readings, SIERA simply looks at the meters in the asset and checks itself.

No GRESB errors doesn’t always mean correct

Once the asset data has been checked for any updates, SIERA displays the whole GRESB submission in one page. This table makes errors or unexpected variances stand out so you can quickly correct any potential mistakes.

EVORA consultants use SIERA to prepare submissions for clients. On top of that, because they’re experts in their field, they use it to see where adjustments might be necessary.

GRESB show where data doesn’t add up using errors and outliers. This helps to make sure data like floor area coverage is correct, but it doesn’t highlight poorly organised data. EVORA consultants know to look for variances which may indicate problems like consumption data that has been incorrectly allocated to the wrong area of the building.

EVORA uses SIERA to achieve higher GRESB scores

Using these SIERA features make GRESB easier to get right, but they also make it easier to get higher scores. EVORA consultants use the fine-grain control of SIERA and the data visualisations and views to get the most out of the data, and correct issues before they get to GRESB.

Whilst other sustainability software can also prepare submissions for GRESB, SIERA ensures that the data is both in its best form, and used to get real results. Once the GRESB period is over EVORA consultants use the data to feedback to clients to help guide which actions will achieve an asset’s sustainability goals.

This combination of EVORA + SIERA explains how EVORA helped a number of our clients achieve GRESB global sector leadership and Hines Europe to achieve 100% in its Resilience score.

If you are interested in finding out more, get in touch with the team at contactus@evoraglobal.com.

GRESB 2020 Scoring – Headline Changes

Along with the announcement that the deadline for GRESB submissions this year has been shifted back until the 1st August, GRESB have also released the scoring methodology for this year’s submission. The headline changes are outlined below:

Total Score

The scoring has reduced from 130 credits available down to 100, meaning that each credit is worth more in 2020 relative to 2019. The reduction to 100 credits overall makes it easier to evaluate and review impacts of certain questions. It is important to understand that although a lot of questions have seen a reduction in number of points available, the percentage contribution to the overall survey has in most instances remained the same. Key changes to scoring contribution from individual questions are summarised below.

Data Assurance

Points awarded for the assurance of energy, GHG, water and waste data has increased from 2% in 2019 up to 6% for the 2020 submission. This is a big shift in emphasis on the quality of utility data reported, and presumably in support of GRESB and the wider industry’s increasing focus on ‘investment grade’ ESG data.

Disclosure

The relative importance of disclosure,  for example via an entity level sustainability report,  has increased 22% compared to 2019.

Energy & GHG data

Points have increased regarding energy and associated greenhouse gas emission data from 15% up to 21%. This means successful efforts to collect energy data, preferably sourced via renewable contracts, across the whole portfolio will return a higher reward. It’s important to note that the amount assigned to energy has actually decreased but GHG has increased by a greater amount.

Water & Waste data

The contribution of water and waste was previously 3% and 2%, respectively. These have increased to 7% & 4%. This mirrors the importance being placed on data coverage and compliments the increase in Energy and GHG points.

Environmental/social risk assessments

This question has decreased from contributing 3% to 1% in 2020 which is likely the result of high marks being achieved in previous years and therefore the relevance of this question to ESG benchmarking reducing.

If you would like to understand more regarding the scoring methodology and key implications for your upcoming submissions, please get in touch.


EVORA are perfectly positioned to provide GRESB support after supporting 73 funds to submit to GRESB in 2019, including 25 funds located outside the UK. View our official Global Partner profile.

We can work with you to complete the submission and understand your scoring, as well as develop a sustainability plan that will improve your future GRESB performance and align with your organisation’s key environmental objectives.

Contact us to see how we can help you.

GRESB 2020: Three Key Changes

Each year, GRESB works with its members and key industry stakeholders to update the assessment and address the material issues within Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) performance of real estate investments.

Below we outline three of the key changes following the release of the 2020 GRESB Real Estate Reference Guide ahead of the GRESB assessment portal opening on the 1st April.


1. Structure

For 2020, separate components have been introduced to the Real Estate Assessment for Management, Performance and Development. The Management and Performance components replace the Management & Policy and Implementation & Measurement components from previous GRESB iterations.

The core component of Management is required for all participants, with the type of investment (standing or development) influencing the secondary component required. Separate benchmark reports will be issued for standing investments and development investments. As shown below:

GRESB Real Estate Reporting Structure
Figure 1 – GRESB Real Estate Reporting Structure. Source: GRESB 2020 Real Estate Reference Guide.

The 2020 inclusion of the Development component is a result of a merger of the previous ‘New Construction and Major Renovation’ module and the separate ‘Developer Assessment’ module. GRESB participants with development projects will now have a better understanding of their ESG performance and be able to compare with their peers.

Previously, the Development Benchmark only included developers, however funds with both standing investments and development projects will be included in both the Standing Investments Benchmark and the Development Benchmark – receiving two Benchmark Reports to reflect their performance in each component. The component weighting for each category in 2020 is outlined below for standing investment and developments:

GRESB Real Estate Assessment Scoring Methodology

Figure 2 – GRESB Real Estate Assessment Scoring Methodology. Source: GRESB, 2020 Real Estate Indicator Summary.

2. Assessment Review Period

GRESB has also introduced a Review Period into the assessment timeline with the aim of strengthening the reliability of participant responses and the subsequent benchmark results. The review period will begin on the 1st September when all participants will receive their preliminary GRESB results for 2020. Participants will be able to submit a review request before 15th September to GRESB using the Review Form. Final results are released to participants and investor members on the 1st October.


3. Asset Focus

GRESB has continued to develop further sector definitions to enable accurate and relevant comparisons with peers. Additional property types have been introduced for 2020 which will allow in the future for more granular benchmarking of asset performance. In addition, the terminology of ‘direct’ and ‘indirectly’ managed assets has also been removed.

The timeframe for asset energy, water and waste efficiency initiatives and technical building assessments has also been reduced from four to three years. This change has highlighted the importance that GRESB places on continual improvement.

Another major change is the removal of intensities calculations, which will be a relief for many parties who have previously had to manually calculate these figures! 


EVORA are perfectly positioned to provide GRESB support after supporting 73 funds to submit to GRESB in 2019, including 25 funds located outside the UK. View our official Global Partner profile.

We can work with you to complete the submission and understand your scoring, as well as develop a sustainability plan that will improve your future GRESB performance and align with your organisation’s key environmental objectives.

Contact us to see how we can help you.

EVORA Insights: GRESB and Data Quality

Interview with Ragnar Martens, Director IT and Analytics

With GRESB submissions now over for another year, many of us in the industry can breathe a (small) sigh of relief.

EVORA Associate Director, Nick Hogg, took some time to talk with Ragnar Martens, Director IT and Analytics at GRESB about GRESB and data quality.

With ESG influencing ever more investment decisions, it’s more important than ever that stakeholders can continue to rely on the ESG benchmarks they engage with. Listen to Ragnar’s insights on why he thinks it’s incumbent upon participants and data partners to work together to define the standards for reporting and how this could be achieved.

You can watch the full video here:

EVORA is a recognised leader in the provision of ESG strategy and professional sustainability services to the real estate investment industry across Europe.

Contact us today to discuss your sustainability needs.

EVORA Insights: The future of GRESB and the real estate industry

Interview with Roxana Isaiu, Director Real Estate, GRESB

With GRESB submissions now over for another year, many of us in the industry can breathe a (small) sigh of relief.

EVORA Director and co-founder, Ed Gabbitas, took some time out to speak with Roxana Isaiu, Director Real Estate, GRESB to chat about the future of GRESB and what the real estate industry should be focussing on.

Listen to Roxana’s insights on what the big issues are for the industry, why a shift towards performance is going to be essential and whether GRESB should be leading the industry or just capturing what’s already been done.

You can watch the full video here:

EVORA is a recognised leader in the provision of ESG strategy and professional sustainability services to the real estate investment industry across Europe.

Contact us today to discuss your sustainability needs.

GRESB 2019: Are you ready for the portal to open?

With just two weeks until the GRESB portal opens for 2019, the EVORA consultancy team is gearing up for our eighth year supporting clients through their GRESB Real Estate Survey submissions. We are experts in GRESB and that is why at least 80 funds have put their faith in us to manage their submission.

GRESB is by no means a walk in the park, that said with sufficient preparation and ensuring the right stakeholders are engaged from the beginning there is no reason why the process should not be straightforward. EVORA provides clients with an end-to-end service to take the pain out of GRESB.

Top Tips for a smooth journey through GRESB 2019

  1. Start [and aim to finish] early.
  2. At the start of the process and if you responded last year, remind yourself what went well and less well during the 2018 submission – consider both the process and individual question responses.
  3. Review changes to the survey questions (available from mid-February) and the guidance/scoring document (available from 1st March), as soon as they are released. Review these changes in the context of your entity/entities and its/their ability to maintain/improve GRESB scores. These changes may also create possible logistical challenges in gathering the necessary evidence and data in time for survey completion – so the earlier the better!
  4. Engage and educate those that will support you in delivering GRESB. Keep in regular touch with them throughout the process to make sure everyone is on track and is aware of their responsibilities.
  5. Although the survey closes on the 1st July, 5% of all submissions are selected for a Validation Plus interview so there is still a chance you may be called upon. The interview is a detailed review of your responses and the supporting evidence provided. Validation takes place from 1st June – 31st July.
  6. Automate data collection – Our propriety software, SIERA, delivered 65 GRESB submissions in 2018, helping clients to seamlessly acquire and report asset-level sustainability data into the GRESB portal.
  7. Seek external support/advice – Our team of sustainability consultants are experts in sustainability, real estate and [most relevantly] GRESB.

And lastly, GRESB 2020 will come around quickly. The results are released in early September and it is worthwhile putting some time aside to digest them. However, if you can’t wait that long, we provide clients with indicative scoring ahead of submission. This helps with future planning and managing expectations on current scoring.

We work with our clients to put in place a roadmap that aligns with their ESG strategy and which will enable them to continue to improve their GRESB score in the following and future years. If you’d like to speak to a member of the team, please contact us.

Download our GRESB eBook here.

GRESB 2019 pre-release: a review of the tweaks and refinements

GRESB has broadly taken a “don’t fix what ain’t broke” approach to the 2019 survey, with the pre-release revealing that only minor changes to the reporting framework have been made from last year.

This is perhaps a sign that, after ten years of development, GRESB are settling on a long-term formula for the majority of the questionnaire. This consistency will enable real estate funds and sustainability professionals to focus more on delivering improvement programmes and less on dealing with shifting reporting expectations, thereby maximising the benefit that GRESB participation will bring about.

Steps have also been taken to reduce reporting burden, with evidence requirements removed from ME2 (data management system) and SE8.1 (tenant satisfaction surveys) where past evidence acceptance rates were high. While EVORA generally supports attempts to reduce reporting burden, removing evidence requirements is potentially an integrity risk, particularly in this instance regarding SE8.1. Open text boxes removed from RO5/6/7 (implemented measures), PI1.2/2.2/3.2 (intensity calculations) and NC7.2 (net zero buildings) where the information was not considered to be adding sufficient value for the effort required.

While EVORA generally supports attempts to reduce reporting burden, removing evidence requirements is potentially an integrity risk

Despite the pursuit of consistency, GRESB is still recognising the real estate industry’s shifting goalposts by introducing two two-part questions to the stakeholder engagement section (SE12 and SE13) on the implementation of programmes for the promotion and improvement of health & wellbeing. These are at organisation (i.e. your employees) and asset level respectively. A selection of other references to health & wellbeing has also been introduced throughout the survey, acknowledging the growing importance of this theme in real estate.

The Resilience Module is also entering its second year, and we await further details of this with intrigue. This topic continues to gain significant momentum amongst our clients and in the industry as a whole, and we expect GRESB will acknowledge this through its updates to the Module and the subsequent introduction to the main survey in the coming years.

If anything, I would argue that it’s the “checked” and “verified” categories that could be merged

Perhaps the most controversial change to the Survey is that “verification” and “assurance” of data will be scored equally. Having been through the assurance process with clients in the past, I can vouch that it is extremely thorough and, in my view, warrants the additional points it receives. If anything, I would argue that it’s the “checked” and “verified” categories that could be merged, as the lines of definition between these two are generally more blurred.

Overall, EVORA supports GRESB’s approach of striving for consistency whilst acknowledging new industry themes, and we look forward to continuing to drive innovation and transformation through its delivery in 2019.


EVORA Global GRESB Premier PartnerWe are perfectly positioned to provide GRESB support. View our official Premier Partner profile.

We can work with you to complete the submission and understand your scoring, as well as develop a sustainability plan that will improve your future GRESB performance and align with your organisation’s key environmental objectives.

Contact us to see how we can help you.

GRESB 2019: What are your limiting factors?

It feels like not too long ago, the GRESB reporting season reached its climax and our consultants breathed a sigh of relief, dubbing last year as one of our busiest GRESB periods yet.

Ironically, it’s set to get even busier for us this year with our team expected to support close to 90 submissions, quite a leap from the 70 submissions we supported on last year.

But how do we manage to accurately support all these submissions you may ask?


EVORA has had a close working relationship with GRESB over the last six years and has been supporting clients with the survey ever since. The depth of experience we’ve gained over this time enables us to support first-class submissions for our clients. To a large extent, our efforts are powered by our proprietary sustainability software, SIERA, which seamlessly transfers data into the GRESB portal reducing what we well know is a time-intensive process.

Getting outstanding results (where targeted), which is the much coveted five-star rating, comes with being recognised as an industry leader and speaks highly of you to investors and stakeholders. However, to achieve GRESB success we often find that there are limiting factors that can hold participants back from reaching their end goal.

With our experience in supporting clients right from the early stages through to market leadership, we seek to address common limiting factors that get in the way of achieving high GRESB ratings.

Have you identified areas where you can improve scoring opportunities?

“It’s the little things that matter!”

To bridge the gap between where you are and where you want to be, spend some time reviewing/analysing last year’s scores and define an action plan for this year’s survey aligned with your fund’s sustainability strategy and objectives. If this is your first GRESB assessment, consider each of the sustainability aspects within the survey and review the availability of sustainability performance data such as utility data, technical audits, and stakeholder engagement programmes. Allocate roles and responsibilities within the business, a timeline for completion and track progress.

Don’t forget to review changes to the survey questions within the pre-release document, which is available now!

Is there a coordinated approach within the organisation for submitting supporting evidence?

As we well know, a lot of supporting evidence that broadly covers ESG (Environmental Social & Governance) topics is required throughout the survey. It gets even trickier if you have an international portfolio and you work with multiple stakeholders.

Put a structure in place for collating and preparing evidence required early! Engage with internal and external stakeholders to ensure they understand what is required of them to ensure a smooth submission process.

Are there efficient processes in place for collating and submitting PI (performance indicators) data?

Collating asset level data can be quite a challenge for organisations with large portfolios, however, the PI aspect of GRESB accounts for 25.6% of the overall marks; the highest weighting of all seven aspects.

As we always say, focus on transparency, quality, and automation as much as possible. For example, with our software SIERA, we support clients to collate asset level data, provide verification, analyse and support submissions.

To provide an even more streamlined process to the GRESB survey we are set to release exciting updates to our SIERA software prior to April 2019 – keep your eyes peeled.

How would you respond to new ESG trends included within the survey this year?

The GRESB 2019 survey includes select questions from the previously optional Health & Wellbeing module. Prepare in advance by studying the pre-release document which sets out the key changes and will let you draw up an approach your organisation may take in responding to these. Keeping an eye on the weighting will help you to take a strategic view when identifying key focus areas for GRESB 2019.

Health and wellbeing is a broad topic and as such we recommend you engage with a variety of key stakeholders (considering internal programmes and what’s happening within your portfolio) to draw out key considerations. This could be across health, safety, crime, wellbeing, accessibility and inclusivity.

Implement a monitoring procedure which you can easily report on, that reflects these activities such as tenant satisfaction surveys, IEQ (Indoor Environmental Quality) assessments etc.

Final thoughts

With each limiting factor that you eliminate, you accelerate the rate at which you progress towards enhanced fund performance and GRESB success. EVORA can offer advice on overcoming any of these factors that are limiting your potential.

Read our GRESB eBook here for a comprehensive guide on how to prepare your assets and portfolio for success in the GRESB 2019 reporting cycle.

To make it easy on yourself and others, get in touch and our team of experts will be happy to help.

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