Quality air and daylight is no longer a nice-to-have for office workers, according to ISPT’s Alicia Maynard, who says tenants now expect health and wellness in the workplace.
Maynard, who heads the sustainability and technical services team at the company, says when looking to sign a new lease, tenants want to “make sure the owner cares about them”.
It also helps with retention and recruitment, with many employees looking to work in a healthy, comfortable office.
Maynard told The Fifth Estate that the growth of the NABERS Indoor Environment (IE) tool, which measures indoor environment quality standards such as air quality, natural lighting and thermal comfort, is evidence of this trend in the commercial sector.
Like most other major landlords, she says achieving high NABERS IE ratings is a priority for the property fund manager. It announced this week that it has the most 6 star NABERS IE certified buildings, and one of the highest average IE ratings in Australia – 5.3 stars across its portfolio of 26 properties. The national average is 4.7 stars.
Since the company did its first NABERS IE in 2012, what’s changed is the focus on asking customers what they want.
Healthy, comfortable buildings have long been a priority for the company, but until more recently, it was a technical offering. Now what the company provides is a more bespoke service built around the need of the occupants.
Maynard says new technologies and initiatives to gain real-time insights and feedback to improve building conditions have
played a key role in achievements on indoor environment.
“For example, we’ve partnered with the likes of TAL and Sustainability Victoria on live dashboards and instantaneous feedback processes respectively to increase and improve the dialogue between properties and those operating within them.
“Through this, we’re collecting rich data which then informs how we can continue to improve.”
High performance IE buildings paid off during the bushfires, with the company switching off outside air supply in its buildings and making sure any harmful particulates were filtered out.
“That’s a process that we’ve had in place as part of good building management.”
She says the bushfire crisis has reinforced how important it is for every property owner to show the they care about the health and managing the wellbeing of their customers.
Wellness for everyone, not just office workers
NABERS IE only applies to commercial buildings but ISPT also assess the air quality of its shopping centres. Worker health and wellness is starting to catch on in the industrial sector but because the company has triple net leases for its logistics and warehouse facilities, it doesn’t have control over worker conditions. (Triple net leases mean tenants pay for outgoings such as taxes, building insurance, and maintenance in addition to normal outgoing such as utilities.)
However, Maynard says the company will look at opportunities to engage with its logistics and warehouse assets on health and comfort.
New year, new sustainability strategy
The company is coming up to the expiry date of its most recent sustainability strategy, with the revised version expected to launch around August.
Maynard expects work on climate risk and resilience to continue, as well as its work on building efficiency and renewables, with a major solar rollout starting in 2018.
The sustainability team also has a waste workstream that’s doing “a number of cool things”, including piloting a worm farm in one if its commercial buildings.
Momentum is building
Maynard is observing climate change rise to the top of c-suite concerns at the biggest property companies. In more recent times coronavirus has also started to dominate.
She says the property industry in Australia has typically been leaders, as evidenced in GRESB results, but there’s still a long way to go.
“We actively need to invest in this space, we need to be proactive.”