The Sustainable Workplace – what do Occupiers want?

May 11, 2015
Posted by in Energy Efficiency, Non Residential Property | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , |

the sust workplace

Rebecca Pearce, our EMEA Head of Sustainability explains that occupiers are now becoming more sophisticated about their approach to sustainability.

Sustainability is more important than ever for the built environment. The pace of new legislation is increasing, prompted by public debate, scientific evidence and gatherings such as the critical UN Climate Change Conference in Paris in 2015. In the UK, further guidance on the Energy Act 2011 recently provided greater clarity about the Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards which will apply in 2018. The Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme is also full swing with large organisations preparing for the deadline in December 2015.

Legislation is driving owners and investors to manage and mitigate risk in their property portfolios. The adoption of responsible property management strategies is now more common, from sustainability due diligence at acquisition stage to detailed audits of existing portfolios. For investors and ratings agencies the management of environmental, social and governance (ESG) risk is increasingly seen as an essential part of good fund management.

There is anecdotal evidence of property values being impaired where sustainability performance is poor (the brown discount). Whilst we await hard evidence of enhanced rents and values being achieved for more sustainable buildings, there are certainly instances of price chipping where buildings fall short of standards. Owners that fail to address sustainability issues could find their buildings out of consideration. The 2015 CBRE EMEA Investor Intention Survey revealed that for 70% of respondents sustainability is either ‘critical’, ‘one of the most important criteria’, or ‘definitely matters’ in the asset selection process.

Despite this, the results of CBRE’s 2014 European Occupier Survey showed occupiers ranking sustainability lower than previously in the criteria used to make property decisions. This needs to be considered in conjunction with other results. 67% of respondents reported that their workplace strategy was primarily driven by the need to attract and retain talent –moving this above cost savings as the key driver. The second most important criterion was the desire expressed by 46% of respondents to increase employee productivity. Our survey revealed that 65% of companies look for quality office space with excellent transport accessibility and proximity to amenities such as shops, restaurants and gyms. The high correlation between the indoor environment quality (e.g. air quality, lighting, acoustic qualities and thermal comfort) and human performance means that buildings that provide enhanced environments will be in demand.

Clever companies are choosing buildings which provide good air quality, access to natural light and views, facilities which promote physical activity and proximity to public transport. These features are all recognised by building certification labels such as BREEAM, LEED, DGNB and HQE as advantageous “green” features. Occupiers are not ignoring sustainability, they have simply become more sophisticated in their demands, focusing on the way buildings can sustain and enhance the performance of their businesses.

The supply side needs to respond to this evolving occupier need but not at the expense of more commonly recognised sustainability measures. Operating costs and corporate responsibility reporting are still important factors. The skill required of designers and building managers today is to balance the people-centric features of a sustainable building with energy and resource efficiency through the use of technology and maintenance practices. This applies equally to new and existing buildings. A holistic approach to refurbishment, for example, can achieve good environmental performance, regulatory compliance and renewed occupier appeal, creating a truly sustainable asset.

The convergence of human wellbeing, increased productivity and government policy on energy efficiency and carbon emissions leads us closer to the point where sustainability in property is synonymous with quality.

Rebecca Pearce
CBRE Head of Sustainability – EMEA
T: +44 20 3257 6232