Sustainability makes good business sense in property

Friday, 03 February, 2006

The Investa Property Group, the largest listed owner of commercial property in Australia, was recently recognised for its investment in sustainability practices including an innovative new scheme that focuses on its tenants.

While many property investment companies are setting standards in sustainability and energy efficient building design, Investa has taken this approach a step further by offering all occupants of its properties the chance to contribute to achieving better performance.

With more than 1200 tenants, Investa saw an opportunity to extend the kinds of standards used in the design of its base buildings into spaces occupied by tenants in a way that is risk-free and cost-effective.

By applying its mantra, that sustainability makes good business sense, the team at Investa created an idea that was to become the Investa Greenhouse Guarantee - the scheme that was awarded the Green Power Leadership Award at the 2005 Energy and Water Green Globe Awards.

It helps tenants to minimise consumption in the areas that they're accountable for, such as lights, computers, and water - changes that could mean the difference between $25 per square metre in energy costs and $8 per square metre.

This approach is most effective for CBD service-based companies, whose biggest environmental impact is their accommodation - people sitting under lights and operating IT rooms for instance.

However, the scheme offers Investa a point of difference in the commercial property market, by giving distinct value to a space through a sound environmental management program.

If the management of a building isn't delivering sound environmental management it's likely there are a number of other things they're not managing as well - that affects the whole relationship.

After six months of consultation with major tenancies within the group, the scheme was launched in June last year - a first for the Australian property sector.

The first organisation to take up the guarantee was NSW Health who occupy almost a whole building in North Sydney, and several other major companies will be announcing their participation shortly.

With existing tenants, Investa conducts an audit with its exclusive partner Energy Conservation Systems (ECS), which is free to the tenant and identifies opportunities where different practices or technologies can be introduced.

As part of the scheme ECS provides a financial and an energy-saving guarantee. The client can pay for the installation or take it as a loan. After the stipulated time period, if the financial savings exceed the forecast the tenant keeps these, and if they fall short the tenant is reimbursed. The tenant never has to pay more than the guaranteed amount and the scheme is based on roughly a four-year payback period.

Having just produced its third Annual Sustainability Report, Investa has been committed to sustainable frameworks for several years. Its decision to position buildings that are ahead of the market in terms of investment in sustainability have been ratified by the office procurement decisions of Government departments and major corporations.

For instance, the NSW government's policy to show preference for buildings that have an Australian Building Greenhouse Rating (ABGR) of three or higher, whereas the industry average is 2.5 stars.

Investa is also setting new standards with it own office tower, located at 126 Phillip Street, that is due for completion in February - an example of integrating a sustainability framework from the early planning stages.

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