By James Fisher, Existing Buildings Lead & Principal Consultant, BREEAM
Investors and owners of large commercial property portfolios throughout Europe are constantly on the hunt for a distinctive edge that will set them aside from the competition. The never-ending battle for an increase in rental yield, lower management costs, fully leased properties and happy tenants is something that we are all too familiar with.
Couple that with some of the wider global challenges on-going at present and you can see that how it would be easy for a property fund or asset manager to lose a little sleep at night. Luckily for them, there are some new techniques and tactics being adopted by the most forward thinking property companies that are helping them maintain their commercial advantage.
Citycon Oyj, based in Helsinki, has recently launched a project to introduce BREEAM In-Use (BIU) certification to 75 per cent of its properties by 2017. As the leading owner, developer and manager of urban grocery-anchored shopping centres in the Nordic and Baltic regions, Citycon clearly see BREEAM In-Use certification as a cost-effective way to manage their EUR 5 billion portfolio.
According to Nils Styf, Citycon’s Chief Investment Officer, BREEAM In-Use certificates provide Citycon with a comprehensive overview of the environmental performance of their portfolio and a useful platform to identify improvements.
Cost and carbon win-win
As a result of their recent environmental focus, Citycon have reduced their reliance on purchased heating energy by an impressive 30 per cent in 2015 for one Centre by using renewable energy. This also positively benefits their carbon footprint. A cost and carbon win-win, these benefits can be realised in many more of their properties over time.
The Swedish example
It is not only private commercial organisations that are seeing the opportunity presented by using BREEAM certification. The methodology has also been widely adopted recently by the City of Stockholm. Stockholm’s public sector administration responsible for managing the majestic Swedish capital, is fully adopting BREEAM In-Use as part of its asset management strategy.
As part of their commitment, Stockholm is also taking part in a new pilot project aimed at creating a more cost-effective volume assessment route for BREEAM IN-Use across its portfolio. Focusing on a parcel of 50 public buildings, the objective is to establish a cost-effective methodology for certifying and maintaining certification of asset portfolios against BREEAM In-Use International 2015.
The pilot project will look at the type of evidence common to a large asset portfolio and how it can be supplied, collected and verified in order to minimise the need for additional site visits. Working to pre-defined criteria, it will focus on ascertaining the type of evidence that applies to buildings with similar characteristics or properties – asset clusters – and on establishing whether an assessor can review this evidence and accept it as applicable to all.
The project is a partnership between BRE Global (BREEAM), the Real Estate Administration of Stockholms Stad, engineering consulting firm PQR Consult AB and BREEAM In-Use assessor Piacon AB. Taking place over a one year period, the process will inform future years of the BREEAM In-Use recertification cycle.
To date, the City has 100 of its buildings assessed or in progress under BREEAM In-Use in total. It’s also worth noting that these assets represent a broad spectrum of architectural styles, building ages, uses and building services designs. In fact, even the historic City Hall building where the Nobel prize-giving ceremony takes place each year has also been assessed. If the method can help to improve the sustainability of such a prestigious landmark building, then it can definitely work for across more modern assets too.
Investors broadly in favour of sustainability
The fact that both commercial and public sector property owners are now choosing BREEAM to set them apart, only adds weight to the case for sustainability to be considered as a matter of course in everyday business. This is borne out by the findings from the recent CBRE EMEA Investor Intentions Survey 2016 explored in more detail in an article authored by Rebecca Pearce, Senior Director, EMEA Head of Sustainability for CBRE published recently by the Better Buildings Partnership.
The evidence is loud and clear, the market now understands the compelling reasons to buy asset certification. In the CBRE survey just 11 per cent of respondents now view sustainability as an insignificant factor during due diligence. Even more compelling is that 39 per cent of the institutional investors surveyed cite sustainable asset selection as ‘critical’ or ‘one of the most important criteria’ when selecting properties to acquire.
In a complicated commercial property market, at least the road ahead for asset managers is becoming clear with solutions like BREEAM providing a tangible route to create sustainable property management. After all, if Citycon and the City of Stockholm can see the benefit, there must be something in it right? London, Paris, New York – we’re ready if you are.