What the UK can learn from Australia on the operational performance of a building


There are parallels between the ways in which the UK and Australia approach sustainable property management, yet there are some exemplar practices in Australia which the UK could learn from. Crucially, the focus and importance which is placed on the operational sustainability of a building.

In the UK, building regulations, local area policies and new-build certification schemes such as BREEAM ensure new builds are scrutinised on sustainability before construction. However, once built, the focus on the ongoing impact of a building can be lost. With so many buildings in the UK already constructed, equal focus should be placed on the ongoing sustainable impacts of their operations, reducing environmental impacts, proving value to the community and optimising the tenants’ experience.

In the UK, new Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES) come into force in April 2018. Most lettable space will be required to have an EPC rating of E or above for new leases and lease renewals. However, apart from instances where a Display Energy Certificate is required, actual energy consumption data is not used to create the EPC rating. The methodology estimates consumption based on a number of physical parameters and measures. It could be argued that this approach disincentives the focus on actual energy decrease in operation.

By contrast, in Australia a National Australian Built Environment Rating System (NABERS) rating is required for most sellers or lessors of office space of 1,000 sq m and above. This assesses the ongoing performance of a building using actual utility consumption data, normalised by hours of operation, area and location. The resulting NABERS rating is represented by 0-6 stars and is often displayed in the office. Good NABERS ratings are recognised as synonymous with high quality buildings that can result in higher rental yields. There are also versions of NABERS ratings for waste, water and indoor environment, all similarly focussed on operational performance.

So what comparable tools do we have in the UK?

While the NABERS scheme is now being trialled in in India, Indonesia and Hong Kong, it’s still not widely known here. We do, however, have other tools available such as BREEAM In Use, a performance-based assessment method and certification scheme for operational non-domestic buildings. The assessment process reviews performance against nine key sustainability categories: energy, greenhouse gas emissions, water, waste, air quality, noise, lighting and health and wellbeing.

We can also increase the level of utility, waste and indoor environment reporting and analysis undertaken on our buildings, and utilise international management certifications such as ISO 14001 and 50001 at a building level.

From a health and wellbeing stance, the WELL assessment requires elements of measurement and verification of the indoor environment, and Fitwel includes requirements to interrogate policies and procedures which can be adapted to an operational building. Some Savills clients are also beginning to investigate methods for analysing the social value bought to local communities through operational buildings.

The integration of sustainable principles at planning and design stage will always be critical to the success of a sustainable scheme. However, just as critical, is monitoring and improving the operational impacts of a building, to confirm that it is operating as designed, or highlighting opportunities for improvement. To property owners, operational focus on sustainability has many benefits including increasing occupier satisfaction and tenant retention, reducing running costs, improving asset value and meeting investor requirements. Mastering both design and operational sustainability will see the UK transition earlier towards its carbon reduction targets.


This article was originally published in the Savills website here