Beck Dawson

14 November 2013 — According to Beck Dawson, who yesterday delivered her first sustainability report for Investa Office, the single line item she is most proud of in the report is that during the hottest summer on record her team has continued to drive down greenhouse gas emissions.

The company delivered an 8.5 per cent reduction in electricity intensity and a 10 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emission intensity across the group’s $7.4 billion office portfolio since 2011.

How hard that is becomes clear when she says that on the hottest days energy consumption easily doubles.

It’s been a hard slog to keep the trajectory going she said in a phone interview on Thursday, and it’s required everyone in the entire team to work harder.

The whole industry will be working harder, she notes.

Next, but probably equal first given the tone of her enthusiasm, is a kind of fundamental transformation that Investa has achieved in the way it’s managing its business. Put simply, it’s about tenant engagement, finding out what tenants want, especially in terms of sustainability, and then delivering it.

It’s early days but some of the methods that will be used will include offering a sustainability component in tenant incentives, which are used as a sweetener, to entice tenants to a property.

It’s called the Investa Sustainability Incentive.

“We’re using some of our cash as part of the funding incentive. Instead of giving the full proportion as cash, a proportion will be earmarked to be spent on improved energy efficiency,” Dawson says.

An example of this approach has been to offer lighting controls in a tenancy that can automatically respond to occupancy (and yes, this is still a new and emerging concept for office buildings in Australia).

Dawson says that in one example it worked out to a cost of $23.95 a square metre in rent incentive value.

“That will enable those tenancies to control the lights when they’re not there. Or on public holidays. It makes it much easier without having to consider the people [in the tenancy] and how that works for them.”

The landlord benefits too.

“We’re making sure the tenancy is more sustainable from a whole building picture and in the long run the light loads left on for periods of time increase heat load.”

Yes, the tenant pays for the airconditioning, but there are implications over the base building and the owner needs to maintain the plant.

Other works vary and the scope will grow as the program develops.

They include collaboration with CitySwitch and it new Vertical Communities program, which is designed to stimulate dialogue and sharing of know how in sustainability related matters.

“It’s getting tenants a picture of the whole building,” Dawson says.

This collaboration with the CitySwitch and Vertical Communities programs can also take the tenants through a dummy NABERS rating to see how that compares to the owner’s base building NABERS rating. Some are surprised on the downside and the result can stimulate a “we should do better” response, Dawson says.

Other tools include Investa’s green lease guide, the Leasa app, which reveals some of the running costs over a tenancy, and facts sheets.

Yet another tool is the “Ecospace”, which provides tenants with a base tenancy that has a low emissions healthy work space, includes a lighting incentive plus a manual to guide a compatible fitout.

Beck Dawson at a Better Buildings Partnership workshop

Changes and more changes

Dawson’s sense of relief at having completed the report was palpable.

She joined the team in January 2010, taking over her newly created role a year ago after the departure of the highly regarded Craig Roussac, who has now established his own company.

They were big shoes to fill.

Dawson’s strategy was to concentrate on her strengths in communication and public education, underpinned by a science degree and a background that included 10 years in London, including six years working on the sustainability team for the Science Museum in London and then leading it.

It was the public education and communication bows that appealed to Roussac when he hired her, to complement the team’s strong technical capability.

It was also a good fit with the new strategy.

For Investa, Dawson says, the big change has been engineered by chief executive Campbell Hanon, who set a new course for the company early last year, splitting the office and land components of the portfolio, but also creating teams that would be responsible for a particular batch of office buildings rather than specialists who work across the entire portfolio.

The result is a greater sense of engagement with tenants and deeper understanding of the assets.

It has also meant collaborations with outside organisations that are designed to help with a sustainability transition, such as CitySwitch or the Better Buildings Partnership of which Dawson is an active member.

“The process of engaging with the people and the tenancy has not been done so much before, but it’s not just me now, it’s our new structure.

“It’s driven very much by our new CEO Campbell Hanan.”

But it’s new.

“The change happened since the new financial year but the change officially happened on 1 April”.

Industry trend

Dawson says this is a trend that will take hold with other companies – a kind of natural progression with other major property companies.

She agrees the industry has been slammed by the GFC; there’s been a big shift in “CEO-land”, as Dawson put it and now the (green) arc lamp is turning to find the next source of major sustainability gains.

At the same time, she says, the easiest and most impressive environmental gains have now been made.

“Where there’s been a lot of change already made and effort in environmental performance the focus at the big end of town has moved.

“The big gains in the future are going to be a lot more difficult to make now, so where are those extra gains going to come from?

“Maybe it’s more the social or rounded aspects of sustainability and most of those are about partnership with tenants, investors or with other organisations to help deliver those services.”

“At Investa we say sustainability is really proxy for really good management.”

A huge part is finding out what the tenants want in terms of sustainability.

So what do tenants want most of all?

Top of the list unquestionably is end-of-trip facilities, Dawson says. She adds that four buildings have already been retrofitted to provide these and more on are on the way.

Tenants also want information on what the owner is doing. And they seem to like being able to look up performance of buildings online.

“We’ve got information on every single building in our portfolio so tenants can look them up.”

And why do they want to do this?

“Increasingly, they’re using it for their own corporate reporting.

“Generally there’s recognition and more understanding in more organisations that they should effectively match the performance of their tenancy with the building they are in.”

This comes through strongly if they run through a NABERS Energy rating, Dawson says.

“They’re recognising there’s a gap and a mismatch and it’s driving them to think harder.”

So who’s listening inside the tenancies?

Dawson says it’s a mix, but increasingly it’s moving up the management chain.

“Generally it’s the office manager, or the person who handles the machinations of the office space in the building.

“Usually when we’re talking about what to do next we usually end up with an MD or an operations manager and occasionally a CEO.

“It’s less about something that someone else has done and more on what the organisation as a whole is doing. And that’s the maturation of the industry.”

Highlights of the report:

  • An 8.5 per cent reduction in electricity intensity and a 10 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emission intensity across the group’s $7.4 billion office portfolio since 2011
  • Weighted average NABERS energy rating across the portfolio is 4.32 stars, without the use of Green Power, up from 3.99 stars the 2011
  • Key programs include Investa Sustainability Incentive encourages tenants to invest in upgrades to office lighting controls to reduce energy use within their tenancy. This also reduces the heat load and burden on airconditioning for the building as a whole, thereby reducing overall operating costs and contributing to enhanced financial performance of the buildings for investors
  • Tenants have access to Ecospace, which is designed to educate tenants on how to create a more sustainable office fit-out when they are refurbishing their work space, through the use of low emission paints and carpet tiles, waterless urinals and efficient lighting and controls
  • In 2013, for the first time, Investa achieved 5.5 Star NABERS ratings on four buildings, with three of these being assets built more than 18 years ago

Sydney:

  • A building at 260 Elizabeth Street, Sydney, a 24 year old building, was one of the most efficiently operated base buildings in the City of Sydney during 2012-13. It has now achieved a 5.5 NABERS energy rating, without use of green power, against an industry average of 3 stars

Brisbane:

  • In Brisbane, despite the buildings in this portfolio averaging 29 years of age, there was a 17 per cent reduction in emissions intensity for the year, in addition to a 4.5 stars weighted average NABERS energy rating and 4.1 stars for NABERS water

Highlights at a glance:

  • NABERS Energy portfolio weighted average – 4.32 Stars
  • NABERS Water portfolio weighted average – 3.67 Stars
  • 8.5 per cent reduction in electricity intensity since 2011
  • 5.8 per cent reduction in total water use since 2012
  • 10 per cent reduction in portfolio greenhouse gas emissions intensity since 2011
  • 82 per cent of buildings achieved NABERS Energy Ratings of 4.0 Stars or higher, without Green Power
  • GRESB Greenstar 2012 awarded to IOF and ICPF
  • 97.2 per cent score from the National Safety Council of Australia.
  • 44 per cent of Investa workforce are women, with 37 per cent at senior management level
  • Cleaners employed in Investa buildings earn above award wages under Clean Start