Upgrading Buildings for Sustainable Standards
Over the past year, there has been a surge of interest in Environmental Social Governance (ESG) within the construction and property management sectors.
Given the UK government's target of achieving net zero by 2050 and the UN's recent warnings about the need to take action to prevent a climate catastrophe, it is evident that meeting rigorous ESG objectives is crucial for the construction and property management industry's future.
As a result, the industry's emphasis on ESG is expected to persist, with recent regulations that took effect on April 1 in England and Wales making it unlawful for landlords of non-domestic properties to offer a lease to new or existing tenants if their property has an EPC rating lower than E.
In addition to the recent regulations in England and Wales, the UK government has announced that by 2025, all commercial rental properties in England and Wales must achieve an EPC rating of C or higher. With these regulations in place, it is expected that Northern Ireland will also follow suit.
Given the growing legal requirements and the demand from businesses for sustainable workspaces to meet their ESG goals, property owners are increasingly seeking to improve their building EPC ratings to attract tenants and position themselves as socially and environmentally responsible landlords.
Many new commercial properties, such as Belfast's City Quays buildings, Erskine House, and The Ewart, have been constructed with ESG credentials as a top priority, boasting BREEAM Excellent ratings that make them highly desirable to potential tenants.
However, the majority of buildings in our built environment are older and require retrofitting to meet modern ESG standards. This presents a significant opportunity for landlords to update their existing properties and attract large companies. For instance, revamp projects like Urban HQ on Upper Queen Street and Custom House Square have been highly successful in this regard.
To begin, landlords should assess how their properties are currently performing and determine what needs to be updated or implemented using assessments such as BREEAM-in-use, which are specifically designed for existing buildings.
These assessments cover a wide range of ESG factors, including energy and water efficiency, materials and waste management, indoor environmental quality, biodiversity, transport, and community engagement. By demonstrating their commitment to sustainability and responsible corporate citizenship through certification, landlords and developers can improve the environmental and social performance of their buildings, gain a competitive advantage, increase building value, attract premium tenants, and reduce energy bills.
Learn more about the environmental benefits of green buildings here.
Property owners have various ways to improve their ESG performance and enhance their BREEAM score. For example, they can adopt energy-efficient lighting, HVAC systems, and building automation systems to reduce energy consumption or incorporate renewable energy sources such as solar or wind power to decrease their carbon footprint.
Effective water management practices, including water-efficient fixtures, rainwater harvesting, and grey water recycling, can reduce the impact of poor water management practices on the environment.
Simple waste management measures like recycling programmes and waste reduction during construction or retrofitting work can also improve the sustainability of a building.
Improving the indoor environmental quality of a building is crucial. This can be done by ensuring proper ventilation, air filtration, and the use of low-emitting materials. Biodiversity can also be enhanced by incorporating green roofs, living walls, and other features that support local flora and fauna.
Social performance is also important. Property owners can demonstrate their commitment to social responsibility by implementing social initiatives such as community outreach programmes and employee engagement programmes.
Overall, improving ESG performance requires a comprehensive approach that takes into account the environmental, social, and governance impacts of a property. By implementing these measures, property owners can improve their sustainability performance, reduce costs, and enhance their reputation as responsible corporate citizens.
To view and compare company ESG Ratings and Sustainability Reports across sectors, follow our Company ESG Profiles page.
Source: The Irish News