Poor efficiency imperils London’s offices
New research by global real estate firm Colliers has highlighted major issues for commercial buildings in London. The company finds almost 20 million square feet of London’s office space, equivalent to nearly 10% of the capital’s office stock, could become unusable by 2023 due to a low energy efficiency rating.
The story, reported widely in the property and energy press, reveals nearly 20% of central London offices can be classed as A and B on the EPC rating with an estimated 57% falling into the D to G categories.
Sustainability has been in the spotlight for London and indeed other commercial property hubs. The Covid pandemic has all but obliterated regular use of commercial office space in city centres.
A potential way to rebuild usage of such buildings at attractive cost can be through energy efficiency, which could not only reduce rental and other overheads, but also render such buildings more attractive through better comfort across lighting, ventilation and heating.
CNBC also covered this key story, arguing it raises questions about the future of these office blocks. “It is like a double-hit for these buildings,” Andrew Burrell, chief property economist at Capital Economics, told CNBC, referring to upcoming environmental regulations and the impact of the Covid-19 crisis.
Offices that do not comply with energy efficiency rules are at risk of becoming “obsolete,” he added.
The Scotsman reports that two flagship venues hosting the COP26 climate change summit have received the second lowest possible rating for energy efficiency. Work is yet to commence on a raft of legally binding improvements issued by assessors to reduce CO2 emissions.
The SEC Armadillo in Glasgow has been graded F by inspectors, who said its owners should “consider installing renewable energy sources plus new insulation and lighting” to curb its carbon footprint.
Cumulatively the venues, chosen by the UK government for the summit, along with Glasgow Science Centre, are pumping around 6,659 tonnes of CO2 a year into the atmosphere.
The reports are raising eyebrows because guidance for COP hosts stipulates the venue “should be an energy efficient building”, or have energy use reduction measures in place.
Green economy four times larger than manufacturing
The Guardian writes that the UK’s low carbon economy is now worth more than £200bn, almost four times the size of the country’s manufacturing sector.
Nick Molho, the executive director of Aldersgate Group, said that for the Net Zero transition to deliver jobs to local communities across the UK, the Government’s upcoming Net Zero strategy should include close collaboration with local authorities and community groups.
“We echo this logic,” comments Kevin Cox, our Managing Director at Energys Group. “All Net Zero and low carbon strategy needs to align nationwide and bring in the correct stakeholders.
“In this case, local authorities and community groups could highlight public buildings apt for energy efficiency upgrades, and engage with the private sector to get the work done through the knowledge and availability of funding.”
Pinsent Masons on Net Zero
Meanwhile, law firm Pinsent Masons has published a detailed guide to the legal drivers for Net Zero carbon real estate, arguably in response to customer demand on the drivers and regulations as they stand.
The firm notes Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) have come to provide a consistent basis for policy and legislative interventions and this is set to remain the case, and highlights the introduction of an in-use performance standard for commercial properties and of higher minimum efficiency standards on renting commercial properties by 2030.
It also says the Climate Change Committee’s sixth carbon budget and its June 2021 progress report included many policy recommendations.
Pinsent Masons argues: ‘This suite of consultations for England will, if passed into law, address carbon and energy reductions in new builds and, for England and Wales, will increase the requirements to make improvements to rented existing buildings.
‘They will also, through the performance-based rating system, achieve or provide a further platform to achieve the necessary improvements in energy by the most energy intensive owner-occupied commercial buildings.’
Negativity must go
Finally this month, the UK’s top climate adviser has pushed back strongly against “defeatist” criticism that the country’s Net Zero target is too expensive.
The Guardian notes that Chris Stark, the chief executive of the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), urged the debate over Net Zero to be framed in a more positive light: “It can be done,” he said. “It is worth it … I hope we can move away from thinking about the cost and see it as a mission to modernise the economy.”
Stark said the market would play a vital role and the private sector needed clear policy signals to support investment decisions that would decarbonise and upgrade the nation’s transport, heating, energy and building stock.
“We must keep a keen focus on decarbonisation – as our own work confirms,” comments Kevin Cox. “If anything, the pandemic has shown us the value of planning, foresight and sustainability principles in general.”
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