The importance of technology in achieving net zero

The importance of technology in achieving net zero 11 November 2021

With 80 percent of the buildings that will exist in 2050 already built, and 40 percent of carbon emissions coming from the built environment, creating more sustainable places and spaces and achieving net zero is front of mind for real estate decision makers.

The best outcomes are achieved when asset owners, occupiers, communities and our own employees work collaboratively to realise the full potential of their building or estate. It is paramount that we support our investor, developer, landlord and occupier clients to create healthy, productive workplaces for employees, be part of developing cities that are centres of prosperity for their citizens, and build spaces and places that create a net benefit to the economy, the environment and the community.

We are committed to harnessing talent and the role people play in creating better outcomes for clients, and are genuinely excited by the opportunities and expertise that global intelligence platforms bring to improving not only the state of our assets and estates, but also empowering our people.

We understand the impact technology has in making buildings work smarter, improve efficiency and reduce costs, but with the net zero targets being set by government alongside the increasing ambitions of building owners and occupiers and the challenges the built environment has in achieving those, within older stock particularly, the need for innovative technology has become increasingly important.

We work with a number of innovation tech companies whose platforms revolutionise the buildings we manage. We are able to select the best suited product to the size, scale and age of the building, and appropriate to the investor or occupiers’ objectives for the asset.

Brindleyplace in Birmingham, an exemplar mixed-use site, has adopted software that provides live intelligence on energy consumption in two of the estate’s largest buildings with the support from our real estate management team. Originally piloted in October 2020, the project was so successful a third building was added and a review of the wider portfolio undertaken to see where this software would benefit elsewhere. The success is not only the adoption of software to achieve their carbon ambitions but also the £60,000 in annual energy savings, the return on investment being made in four months and saving 22 tonnes of carbon, with a potential of 200 tonnes annually being cut, and this is all in addition to the improvements being felt by occupiers in their workforce’s productivity and wellbeing.

In London for a different investor with a very different building and using an alternative technology platform, our client has adopted a product and a platform that will deliver an industry leading data driven maintenance regime at One Curzon St. The OMNI analysis of live BMS (building management system) data identified assets in need of attention and delivered impressive reductions in energy consumption and engineering resource to carry out planned maintenance. The benefits of this investment have been instantaneous for both landlord and occupier with energy savings of over £65k within the first six months of installation, extended life expectancy of plant through reduced workload and a further saving of over £50k as a result of reducing plant run times. This has a positive impact on the service charge budget in multi-let buildings, and on cap-ex required from investors for large scale works.

These technologies are opening the door to different conversations with occupiers, and enabling a more collaborative approach to reduction of energy usage, and clarity over impacts of the nature of work or behaviours in specific areas of a building. The additional analytics provide a real tangible evidence base that can be shared with occupiers and users of the space to help define what is a priority for them and their workforce, and at what cost.

They say good things come in threes, but in this example of technology game-changers for real estate, we are turning to Unit 9’s Energy Open Piazza, digital twin software. Digital twins have historically been used to look at building plant but we have been working with another innovative tech business to progress a battery storage technology that looks at the optimisation of energy requirements for a building. Focusing on solar PV and battery optimisation to provide optimum energy performance, something that is new to real estate.

These technological upgrades do come at an initial financial cost, and the question everyone is asking is, who pays for it?

To date, the focus on reducing carbon emissions in the built environment has been firmly pinned on landlords but it’s time we looked at an even more collaborative approach to reducing our carbon footprint and bring occupiers into the spotlight as well.

Through effective carbon reduction strategies for occupiers, we’re supporting that collaboration by helping our occupier clients influence and engage with their landlords. Providing them the opportunity and data they need to discuss green initiatives and sustainable changes they want to see at the buildings they occupy. Many landlords will already have initiatives which are currently under consideration, but understanding what occupiers want will undoubtedly help to succeed and make the most impact in these changes.

Working together with our occupier clients, we are able to use data to establish strategic progress in many areas of carbon impact, our most recent being a review of Electric Vehicle (EV) Charging points, we were able to engage with the occupier and landlords to discuss plans about increasing the EV charging capacity in their buildings and installing points at sites where there is currently no provision. The data set we collected was included as part of this clients COP26 document.

Change and action is needed now, ensuring occupiers are part of the conversation and engaged in the plans that will affect their future is crucial especially when such important upgrades and changes have an impact on service charges. We can not tackle climate change in isolation, now is the time for open and transparent communications, for all parties to be heard and make a change for the better.

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