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Top ten takeaways for embedding sustainability across a large estate

Published on : 5/24/21
  • At the recent Government Property Conference 2021, Rebecca Vowles, Head of Energy & Sustainability for Sodexo’s Integrator property management team, joined Tim Saxon, Estates Utilities, Energy & Sustainability Lead Manager for the Department for Work and Pensions to share the joint approach being taken to embed sustainability across an estate of over 850 properties.

    Rebecca Vowles

    With the new Greening Government Commitments (GGC) and targets due to be published soon, Rebecca and Tim provided examples of projects, plans and considerations for others property managers to support the UK’s commitment to Net Zero Carbon by 2050.

    The estates related GGC targets cover carbon emissions, waste reductions, recycling and diversion targets, water conservation, consumer single use plastics, nature recovery, climate change adaptation, staff travel and sustainable procurement.


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    Top ten takeaways for property managers

    1. The Net Zero Carbon requirement will need significant intervention.

    Changes to the way the GGC targets are calculated, as well as the more ambitious Net Zero Carbon requirement, means that continued good performance is not assured without significant intervention. Failing to meet the targets carries significant reputational risk.


    2. Renewable Energy Guarantee of Origin REGO backed renewable power cannot be used to reduce emissions for reporting purposes

    When looking to achieve the carbon target it is not as simple as purchasing renewable power to reduce reportable carbon emissions. The GGC’s require emissions to be reported on total energy consumed from the grid at the standard grid emissions factors, therefore you cannot use REGO backed renewable power to reduce emissions for reporting purposes.

    The new GGC’s will also include specific targets around direct emissions (gas and oil) so decarbonisation of electricity supply can no longer be relied upon to help meet the requirements. The targets are also absolute, which brings particular challenges for any estates which may need to expand temporarily to meet public demand on services due to Covid-19.


    3. As part of your planning, test and verify your assumptions using available tools.

    By gathering data and undertaking modelling, calculations and assumptions can be tested and verified using the Office of Government Property’s Carbon Trajectory Tool (NZC Tool).  This will enable you to test the investment required for carbon-related projects against the benefits to be derived.


    4. Understand factors outside of your control which may impact your organisation’s ability to meet the GGC targets

    Considerations should include:

    • Impacts of Covid-19 on your estate.
    • The BEIS Green Book published carbon emissions factor forecasts for grid electricity which indicate a reduction of 72% will be achieved between 2017-18 and 2024-25. This is not guaranteed, and actual reductions may be less or more than this.
    • Expected lifecycle works e.g. heating, ventilation and lighting system, which you would expect to reduce electricity and gas consumption.


    5. Know how your buildings performBuilding performance index

    When making strategic decisions about investment into a large estate, it is important to fully understand how each building performs.  Sodexo has developed a Building Performance Index which assesses 21 different performance measures categorised into four groups: efficiency, quality, operations and sustainability.

    We use this tool as a key component in developing the estates strategy and lifecycle investment plan. It is data-driven and eliminates subjectivity, making it a very effective prioritisation tool.

    The original design of the Building Performance Index placed equal focus on the four category measures and produced a single percentage and letter score for each building, like the energy efficiency rating applied to white goods. However, it can also be tailored, dependent upon the categories of greatest importance, or it can solely focus on particular building-types.

    The sustainability measures look at:

    • Display Energy Certificate (DEC) Score
    • Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) Score
    • Electricity consumption
    • Gas, oil heating
    • Water, sewerage and Carbon


    6. Work hand-in-hand with your Asset Team

    It is critical that your Energy and Sustainability team works in collaboration with your Asset Team to understand and influence the planning and budgeting for the forthcoming years, By working together we have incorporated an uplift in the funding pool to help fund energy-saving projects. This provides decision makers will clear information offering them the option to stop replacing like for like gas consuming assets and to invest more for a lower carbon alternative.


    7. Assess projects from an environmental perspective

    By assessing previous projects for energy and carbon reductions it was clear that not all replacements that occurred had the same positive impact on energy efficiency. There were three measures of success for the projects that were reviewed – comfort of the environment, sustainability and cost. The key difference between those sites that had achieved all three measures of success and those that hadn’t, was the inclusion of Building Management Systems (BMS) optimisation within scope of the project.


    8. Ensure design standards include sustainability as an overarching principle, and BMS optimisation is included within the project scope

    Within one case study we developed gas consumption reduced by 42%, when comparing the 12 months before versus the 12 months after the boiler exchange project. It was calculated that a 5% saving was made due to the improved efficiency of the new boiler but the remaining 37% came from BMS optimisation. BMS control strategy must be part of your strategy.


    9. Measure to manage

    Energy and water usage cannot be managed effectively unless it is measured. It is therefore imperative to have a good metering strategy that collects accurate and timely energy and water data. Where appropriate, we believe this should include Automated Meter Reading (AMR).

    This data can be used to identify trends and spot wastage, to assist with the accuracy and validation of utilities invoices, to inform decision making and to confirm post-installation performance of energy and water conservation measures as well as identifying opportunities for reducing utilities consumption and cost.


    10. Data, reporting and insight are king

    In summary achieving any targets around decarbonisation of an estate is complex, it is important to start with data gathering and modelling and prioritise reducing consumption first. Adapting your processes and procedures to maximise energy efficiency is key, whether this is looking at setpoints to strategising lifecycle replacements. By doing these steps first the benefits when you move towards for larger scale capital investment will be amplified.


    Helping our clients overcome their challenges

    We support our clients in their aspirations to be more sustainable, driving the achievement of organisational targets and furthering environmental and social advancement. Our property management professional services are available to support all aspects of the property cycle from strategy and planning, to capital programmes and real estate, to operational asset and property management. Learn more about Sodexo's Integrator Services.


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