By Tina Perinotto
20 December 2012 – Investa Property Group has introduced continual reporting on its investment portfolio and promoted two of its sustainability managers to fill the role recently left by Craig Roussac.
Former sustainability manger Beck Dawson is now head of corporate sustainability and Shaun Condon is now head of environment and safety.
Dawson says, “we’ve effectively distributed some of what Craig was doing to both of our roles,” but she is adamant that the passionate commitment to sustainability in the team will continue. Besides, Roussac will maintain the relationship with Investa through his agreement to supply the company with the Pulse tool he developed within the group and is now running from his new company, Green Buildings Alive.
Dawson will set the corporate sustainability strategy, oversee sustainability strategy for the company’s land holdings and work more closely to embed sustainability into the investment side of the business.
The role also covers the reporting and engagement programs, including, continual reporting and tenant engagement.
Dawson says the continual reporting regime provides a “new level of transparency and timely information for tenants, investors and industry”.
Key is that the reports are published quarterly on the Investa website so information can effectively be shared with stakeholders nine months ahead of the usual framework of yearly publication.
This will improve performance, Dawson says.
“Open and timely reporting encourages scrutiny and engagement from tenants and occupiers,” she says.
It’s also a way to allow investors to “make more informed decisions about what they invest in.”
For tenants, the impact can be significant since they typically use half of a building’s energy consumption.
Chief operating officer Jason Leong backs the strategy by pointing to market demand for office buildings with strong environmental performance.
“In recent years, both new and existing tenants have increasingly looked to us for information and tools on how to create more energy efficient, environmentally friendly workplaces,” Leong says.
Guides such the Green Lease Guide, Ecospace and the Greenhouse Guarantee are internal responses to this demand.
Industry wide, Leong points to the “Low Energy High Rise” report from Sydney University’s Warren Centre, which found that energy performance could be easily improved by better management and the “Building Better Returns” report and the PCA/IPD Australian Green Property Index, which proved an investment case for better performance.
In addition to responsibility for the continual reporting, Dawson is currently managing the company’s current crop of programs, including preparing for the Green Star performance rating tool from the Green Building Council, which is still in development, a green leasing guide, and a host of other performance hurdles expected of a modern property portfolio.
The green lease program is interesting. Some landlords are fearful of demanding too much from the tenant and must watch in anguish while their highly rated NABERS and Green Star buildings are subjected to fitouts that just don’t make the grade.
Dawson says that early on Investa had some strong goals in relation to tenants. These included to educate the tenants on the difference between a strongly performing building and a poorly performing building, and the kind of impact that would have on their operation, including the enjoyment of the space.
There’s also participation in the City of Sydney’s Better Buildings Partnership and use of the Lease Lifecycle tool on the BBP website.
Shaun Condon says his role in the safety area overlaps all areas of the business.
“Safety is absolutely critical,” he says. “It impacts on our reputation, on our workforce, if someone is injured.”
There are operational programs for health; there is auditing and there is the development of operations procedures that fall under his domain.
The most vulnerable part, says Condon, is contract management, with the company managing between 1.5 million and 2 million contract work hours a year.
This means making sure all stakeholders are up to speed with the company’s requirements “and making sure we’re picking up data on how things are being completed.”
Investa’s AU$8 billion portfolio includes AU$7 billion in office buildings, 10,570 residential lots, and more than 580 hectares of industrial land. It also has AU $4.6 billion of funds under management.
Dawson says one of the most interesting areas to watch will be a master planned community Investa in undertaking with Defence Housing Australia, Breezes Muirhead in Darwin, of which Dawson doesn’t mind saying, “we’re extremely proud”.
The reason is a masterplan that reintroduces a tropics-appropriate design with a modern interpretation that steps away from the trend in recent years to build southern style homes.
Key is the configuration of the layout of the estate to capture prevailing breezes.
That’s important in this area that is expected to experience soaring numbers of days with temperatures over 35 degrees Celsius and very high humidity.
The first release in the 1100 lot development, she says sold, “very rapidly.”
Masterplanned estate, Breezes Muirhead, Darwin
Some of the key features are a bigger diversity of housing typology, brick block construction because that’s how a lot of houses in this area are built because there are not enough skilled builders in the area and only six weather-friendly months of build time.
DHA did much of the ground work, Dawson says. “We overlaid how we implement a lot of that.”
Coinciding with the development is a “tropical home buyers guide” that steps potential owns through the items to look for, or look out for.
It includes how to deal with your builder, solar panel installation, and to focus strongly on cross ventilation, which in the tropics can provide the majority of cooling.
“People are interested,” Dawson says. “They’ve indicated they would pay more for this type of development and that’s helped guide our communications around that.”
The Tropical Home Buyer’s Guide was prepared by the Institute for Sustainable Futures at UTS, with input from Northern Territory building companies, Killarney Homes, Finlay Homes and Build Up Design.
Ipswich and Cranbourne West
At Brentwood Estate in the City of Ipswich south-west of Brisbane there has been extensive rehabilitation of a degraded creek, wetlands, and inclusion of a wildlife corridor.
At Cranbourne West, south-east of Melbourne, Investa is delivering the latest off the plan concept – industrial work/live units.
The units are being marketed off the plan to businesses that are “outgrowing their shed or garage”.