The built environment is one of the world’s largest emitters of carbon dioxide. But this isn’t news to anyone.
Particularly important, by virtue of their everyday and near-unanimous use, is addressing the energy efficiency of our workplaces.
Rapidly transforming this sector into a carbon-neutral one is the most important challenge landlords face.
Pressure to deliver comes from many directions: everchanging regulation demands that the operational energy use and efficiency standards meet new standards; heightened market competition risks becoming an environmental pariah; tenants are increasingly selecting offices that align with their own sustainability goals; and landlords are also driven by a personal desire to play an active role in reducing climate change.
With a push toward a greener office sector coming from so many directions, there can be no doubt that the majority of landlords are wanting to make this a reality.
Yet, this isn’t a matter that can be solved with a click of the fingers. It was against this backdrop that infinitSpace, in partnership with the Instant Group, surveyed 250 commercial landlords with office buildings in the UK to understand the current uptake of sustainable policies within the UK office market as well as the hindrances to implementation and adoption.
Almost half of the landlords (47%) told us that they believe the office market is falling behind other areas of the property sector in regard to adopting environmental policies.
Equally, the same number said they need help in shaping environmental policies in place.
Meanwhile, landlords are facing existential challenges over occupancy, with 84% reporting a vacancy rate of 30% and above.
Fortunately, having robust environmental policies is attractive to tenants, helping to improve occupancy as well as reducing day-to-day operational costs.
Nonetheless, a key question remains: why do landlords think the office market is falling behind other areas of the property sector?
Firstly, this is complex stuff.
Understanding the commercial real estate market is one thing, but understanding the changes in infrastructure and operations required to reduce carbon emissions is another entirely.
Implementing technology and software is essential to cutting emissions, yet with so many options and both vehicles in a constant state of evolution, it is difficult for non-experts to select the right tools for their properties and identify which deliver the best value for money.
For example, sensor-controlled lighting, waste reduction plans, double glazing, paperless access platforms and implementing flexspace are but some of the many options available to landlords but not all are immediately suitable for every landlord.
Furthermore, it is particularly difficult for landlords to assemble the necessary funds to implement new sustainable measures.
This is particularly important as the cost of delivery is not only high as an upfront fee but also due to the loss in rental fees such changes may require.
Perhaps even more complex, setting the right targets becomes completely arbitrary without the technical expertise to understand realistic goals.
For example, aiming to recycle 90% of waste means nothing without the correct instruments to measure this, nor without a strategy to achieve it.
Even simple questions such as who is going to put the signs up to showcase the correct waste bins are often left unanswered.
Ultimately, landlords shouldn’t shy away from the fact that support is needed to shape the environmental policies within UK offices.
Of course, the government must assist by clearly outlining the regulations and standards it expects from the sector.
However, landlords should recognise that they don’t have to go it alone, workspace operators are able to help develop environmental policies that will help boost tenant appeal and remain within budget.
Additionally, the office market should begin embracing the adoption of new environmental policies as an investment rather than a cost.
For example, one simple measure landlords can take is implementing sensor-controlled lighting.
While this does come with an upfront cost, the energy saved from a decrease in light usage will eventually pay for itself.
Likewise, introducing an element of flexible workspace naturally requires design and management fees but, in addition to increasing overall floor space efficiency, it meets greater market demand and increases the overall value of an entire commercial building.
Of course, landlords must develop sustainable policies that are within their means. Finding a workspace partner is key to achieving this and making a financially prudent judgement.
But with the global climate crisis at a crunch point, landlords should seize the opportunity to make an environmental investment in their workspaces today.