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British Land has secured planning approval for an ultra-low carbon logistics hub in Paddington, London. The 121,000 sq ft facility will provide inbound access to HGVs with outbound deliveries via smaller electric vehicles and electric cargo bikes.

The UK real estate investment trust says the new facility will remove around 100 large vans from Paddington’s roads every day, leading to a substantial reduction in emissions compared with the infrastructure previously needed for the deliveries it processes. 

BL has also commissioned two recently-published studies, from UCL and the Centre for London, on urban logistics. Smaller developments, such as the Paddington project, can receive deliveries on a few lorries each day and then deliver on zero emissions vehicles. Such ‘microhubs’ do not need to store goods, only relatively small EVs. 

As well as lowering emissions, use of smaller EVs for last mile delivery reduces noise and congestion and should also cut delivery times. 

Mike Best, head of logistics at BL, said: “The post-pandemic demand for ultrafast deliveries comes with major impacts on emissions, air quality, congestion and road safety, which urban logistics hubs can combat. 

“Replacing traditional vans with sustainable electric vehicles and bikes can deliver carbon savings of up to 90% per parcel alongside the wider positive impact on air quality and wider environment for local communities.”

ESR Group has opened a Japan logistics centre with features designed to boost staff wellbeing.

The ESR Higashi Ogishima Distribution Centre is a nine-storey, 349,000 sq m logistics facility in Tokyo, located approximately 10km from Haneda Airport.

The project incorporates a number of amenities for workers which are unusual for logistics facilities, such as a free day care centre, outdoor green space and a number of recreational spaces, such as a bowling alley. 

Warehousing tenants in Japan increasingly look for such amenities in order to attract and retain staff and to boost wellness and productivity. 

The facility has also achieved CASBEE S rank and BELS five stars accreditation. ESR plans to install 2.5MW of solar PV panels to the building. 

New research from Savills has identified the leading global cities in the CleanTech and ClimateTech sectors.

The broker’s Tech Cities research identifies cities around the world which are succeeding in the battle to host growing technology companies. Two growing subsectors, which are also leading the fight against climate change are ClimateTech, which is focused on reducing CO2 emissions, and CleanTech, which has a wider environmental remit.

Savills ranks tech cities on a number of factors, including the business environment, the available talent pool and liveability. The ability to attract venture capital funding is important.

There are also factors specific to certain technologies. This throws up some interesting results for CleanTech and ClimateTech. Many of the top cities, such as Boston, London and Silicon Valley are leaders in tech more generally. However, some cities, such as Helsinki, Oslo and Accra, are particularly notable for their leading role in CleanTech and ClimateTech. The Nordic cities also benefit from high levels of investment in renewable energy and are leaders in sustainability.

The difficulty in scaling up ClimateTech businesses means smaller, university cities often take the lead. Cities such as Charleston and Denver in the US and Hamburg and Cambridge in Europe are taking a lead.

Savills Tech Cities CleanTech and ClimateTech Index

What makes a ‘Tech City’?

Real estate developers in Australia are beginning to use mass timber – engineered wood construction materials – to accelerate building times and reduce emissions. Mass timber offers superior weight-to-strength performance compared to steel or concrete and suits offsite prefabrication. 

The adoption of mass timber has been accelerated by recent changes to Australia’s national construction code, which streamlined approvals for structures up to eight stories. Last year, the Australian government introduced the A$300 million ($204 million) Timber Building Program to promote the use of mass timber construction in the office sector.

Projects include Hines’ T3 Collingwood (pictured above) in Melbourne, its first timber building in Australia. The new development uses Hines’ proprietary T3 development blueprint, which prioritises the use of timber, access to public transit and active use of technologies.

Hines predicts the new building will have 40% less embodied carbon from construction compared with a typical building of the same size. It is targeting net zero carbon from operations. 

Meanwhile in Perth, Western Australia, Grange Development is building C6, a 183-metre residential tower, using mass timber. It will also feature solar PV, rainwater harvesting and green walls and is intended to be carbon negative in operation. 

One of the first commercial real estate developments to use timber construction and still the largest timber building in Australia, is 25 King Street, Brisbane, developed by Lendlease and owned by Impact Investment Group. Construction of the 10 storey building involved a 74% saving in embodied carbon. 

Laura Jockers joined M&G Real Estate last autumn, as global head of ESG, tasked with guiding the UK-based investment manager, which has close to £40 billion ($49 billion) of assets under management in Europe and Asia Pacific, towards its 2050 net zero target. She joined from the Howard de Walden Estate, a London property estate and has more than 15 years’ sustainability experience. Sustain spoke to Laura, about her priorities and challenges in the new role.

What did you feel was your most immediate challenge on joining M&G?

There was already a lot of work happening in M&G when I arrived, as we manage a vast global portfolio, so we need to think carefully about where we put our effort so that it pays off. And you can't really make those decisions without good data. So we have been working on a major drive to improve our data across all our geographies, particularly through performance benchmarks, like GRESB.

Our net zero programme depends on really good quality utility data, particularly with regard to tenant energy use, which is around 90% of our carbon footprint. While we are doing exceptionally well - in some portfolios we have 80% data coverage -, the time and effort it takes to get that data is exorbitant. What struck me as the most urgent challenge is, how do we automate this process and streamline those data flows. So, we are rolling out smart meters across our portfolio and working with providers of innovative and highly intelligent building solutions which utilise third party integrators and direct connections to automate utility data uploads. 

It is really quite boring stuff, but it's the foundation of everything! We are now seeking the right partners across all our regions to introduce automated data systems so we can harvest tenant data in a more efficient way.

What is M&G doing to decarbonise the portfolio?

The backbone of our refurbishment and new development schemes is our sustainable development and refurbishment framework, which we're working with technical consultants to refresh at the moment because the standards are evolving all the time. That sets out our minimum expectations for any works or development carried out and also aspirational targets across all environmental themes including net zero.

For standing investments, we work really closely with the asset managers to understand which assets, over the next five years are likely to be core, which are secondary, and which need to be redeveloped, so that we can really be mindful in terms of the ESG goals we're setting. We have established long-term goals but now we are working on the granularity.  Practical measures we are undertaking include solar PV feasibility studies for our UK retail and industrial portfolio and looking at operating partners to help commercialise that, which is quite an undertaking. 

How do the challenges vary across M&G’s global portfolio? Do you see ESG regulation around the world converging?

There's nothing uniformly easy in any country. In some, solar is a more obvious opportunity, in other data collection is easier. We definitely see regional variations. What I think is complex in, for example, the Asia Pacific markets is the regulation around things like the adoption of solar PV, which many studies have suggested is hampering that market. In the UK, the regulatory framework is there, but it's still a lengthy process to find the right operating partners.

Legislation is absolutely converging if nothing else because occupier demand for ESG-compliant buildings is on the rise globally. However, regulation, even when it's well intended, does not always fix the problem. So it's definitely a long-term game. But for us, it's identifying the right opportunities at the right time. So we move forward regardless.

Is it easier to make the ‘bottom line’ argument for sustainability improvements today?

If you look at valuation data and rental values, we're at a point where it is indisputable that green buildings carry a rental premium and a capital value premium. That's coming through in the data for the first time. In the past year, there’s been a number of studies pointing to the same sort of uplift; in some markets, you're seeing 20-25% gains. 

So the conversation isn’t around the business case but more about how we concentrate our efforts given that we have a global portfolio and the potential to reduce carbon is not equal at every building. So we need to work out how to reduce the greatest amount of carbon for the least amount of cost. To do this we are working with the fund and asset managers to get a greater understanding of the portfolios and the potential for carbon reduction.

Brackmills Industrial Estate, Northampton

What is M&G doing about the social aspect of ESG?

As we manage a wide variety of asset types, there is a wide variety of initiatives. For example on the residential side, we are working with social impact consultants The Good Economy, to help our residential funds understand where they can have an even greater social impact. As well as producing good homes and being a good landlord, we also contribute through community events, recycling facilities, clothing and food banks. We also do a lot of events and community work in the retail sector, which gives us a lot of opportunities to link with the community and support local charities. 

We also work to have a social impact with industrial developments. For example, at the Brackmills Industrial Estate in Northampton (above), we went well above the planning requirements, to ensure that local businesses were supported and jobs created. As part of our approach to social impact we also seek to support the wellbeing of customers within our buildings through good design.  For example, our 40 Leadenhall office scheme will provide best-in-class health and wellbeing amenities including fitness studios, an auditorium, a gym and spa, as well end of journey facilities and multiple terraces. 

What other ESG initiatives are you working on?

Green leases are a frequent topic of conversation in the industry but the frameworks for what constitutes a green lease are a bit ropey. Last year, we undertook a project to establish which clauses would go into a green lease and how they would be rolled out across the different geographies. So the priorities are data sharing, so that we can work with tenants to improve the energy performance of our buildings and check in to make sure that nothing is being done to reduce the performance of our buildings. 

When I look at the marketplace, it's still an area that I think perhaps, is talked about, but the nuances around it are quite challenging and the frameworks difficult to apply globally.  As well as looking at provisions within the lease, we can also encourage collaboration on ESG in different and softer ways. For example, in the UK any new residential customers or those that have renewed their lease receive a Green Lease Charter. This aims to encourage customers to better manage their energy use and make greener choices. The Charter is not binding but seeks to reinforce ‘environmentally aware’ behaviour at our assets and provides tips and information to residents.

Sustainable projects featured heavily in the list of MIPIM Awards winners, announced yesterday in Cannes, France.

Winners included Amsterdam waterfront apartment development Sluishuis (pictured above), a zero energy building developed by Beisx RED and VORM Ontwikkeling, which won the best residential development prize.

Other winners included Atelier Gardens, a regeneration of a former film studio site in Berlin, which features a "radical" greening and diversification strategy, and Lanserhof Sylf, a German health resort which reuses on-site buildings and features the largest thatched roof in Europe. Best mixed-use development went to Morland Mixité Capitale, the redevelopment of a city block on the banks of the River Seine in Paris, designed by David Chipperfield, where new buildings have been woven into existing structures.

MIPIM Awards jury chairman, François Trausch, CEO of PIMCO Prime Real Estate said: “The judges were highly impressed by the significant strides made in sustainability across the majority of the projects presented at one of the world’s most prestigious real estate competitions. With so many outstanding entries, selecting only 12 winners proved to be a challenging task”

Embodied carbon in new buildings could be halved with existing construction techniques, a new report claims.

The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and development consultancy Arup released the report Net-zero buildings: Halving construction emissions at MIPIM in Cannes, France this week, focused on reducing upfront embodied carbon in construction.

Embodied carbon comprises emissions released during the production and transportation of building materials as well as the construction process. The report states that as much as 50% of a new, energy-efficient building’s emissions come from embodied carbon. Arup and the WBCSD estimate that less than 1% of building projects currently calculate and report their full carbon footprint.

The report provides property developers with key strategies which the authors say can bring the changes required to meet the United Nations High-Level Climate Champions’ Race to Zero goals for the built environment industry to halve carbon emissions by 2030.

Key recommendations include:

The report offers practical suggestions for building designers, owners, and construction firms to use these principles to reduce the carbon in buildings they are creating. For example, reducing the space between columns or supports on the floor of each building – as the engineering solutions required for large spans are typically carbon-intensive – or reducing building height to reduce the need for thicker core walls, bigger columns and larger foundations.

“This report shows that property developers, and their appointed teams, can achieve significant carbon reduction targets now. It is possible to at least halve embodied carbon emissions in construction by better using what is already available,” said Chris Carroll, building engineering director at Arup.

The full report can be found here.

This week, a new report by the Climate Change Commission warned that the planning system is one of the primary obstacles to the UK hitting its net-zero targets. 

While the commission was talking primarily about the need to accelerate the delivery of green energy infrastructure, policymakers should be aware that a lack of clear planning guidance is also severely hindering efforts to decarbonise older offices, shops and other commercial buildings that do not meet today’s sustainability standards.  

This is a major challenge in London and across the UK, with projects stalling as developers and planners debate a fundamental issue, to retrofit or redevelop? 

A number of recent cases, including the ongoing inquiry into planning proposals for the Marks & Spencer store on Oxford Street, show there is no easy answer or one-size fits all approach. The commercial property sector is united behind a ‘retrofit first’ approach, which means adapting and updating an existing building for future use, limiting the amount of embodied carbon - but what happens when this approach isn’t feasible? 

It is becoming clear that architects, developers and planners alike need clearer guidance on how to determine the most carbon efficient way of futureproofing older building stock. That is why the London Property Alliance, which represents the capital’s leading developers and property owners, published a study late last year, Retrofit First not Retrofit Only, which examines in detail how we can sensitively adapt and upgrade London’s older buildings. 

Our report includes a number of case studies that illustrate the range of interventions that can be successful, including deep retrofit, sustainable redevelopment and a mix of the two, with some original facades and structure retained as part of essentially new buildings. 

However, the worry is that a lack of clear planning guidance and an increasingly politicised debate could lead local authorities to default to a ‘retrofit only’ position, and we end up with a de facto ban on redevelopment, leaving poorly performing and carbon-intensive buildings ‘stranded’. 

The situation is becoming increasingly urgent. It is estimated that in the City and West End three quarters of office buildings will need to be upgraded by 2030 to meet sustainability standards and avoid obsolescence. Moreover, if we want to attract leading businesses to London and other UK cities it is vital we provide best-in-class, sustainable office space that supports their ESG goals and helps attract talent. Indeed, according to Knight Frank, 60% of all space leased in London in 2022 was for new or high quality refurbished space with strong sustainability credentials, and there is a clear ‘green premium’ for the best space. 

So what can be done?

Government recently published its new draft National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), which could have been an opportunity to provide clear guidance on how developers and architects should assess the relative merits of retrofit and redevelopment. Unfortunately, it was an opportunity missed, with the proposed amends largely focused on housing delivery and little new guidance included on how developers and local authorities alike should balance the NPPF’s three principles of sustainable development; economic, social and environment and assess the relative merits of retrofit and redevelopment. 

There is expected to be a more fundamental review of the NPPF next year, but any changes to planning guidance must be accompanied by more funding for local authority planning departments. London councils alone are facing a £600 million funding shortfall in the next financial year which makes it all but impossible to provide planning departments with the skills and resources they need to make judgments in increasingly complex cases. After years of local authority budget cuts, it is critical that Government looks at this as part of this week’s Budget. 

And underpinning this, there must be a uniform methodology for measuring whole life carbon. As it stands there is simply not enough data available for developers, architects and planners to form a clear view on what approach will maximise the environmental performance of a building over the long term. 

The industry awaits the outcome of the public inquiry into the plans for M&S on Oxford Street, but we cannot rely on ‘test cases’ such as this for clarity on how to move forward – we need clear and decisive action from policymakers.  

Charles Begley is chief executive of the London Property Alliance 

Hong Kong can be the next experimental hub for developing smart green buildings, a new report from InvestHK and Arcadis claims.

The City of Smart Green Buildings report says Hong Kong has a unique blend of core competencies which could make it a prime location for global companies to launch their smart green building businesses.

These include:

Tanya Uppal, director of business advisory, Hong Kong, at Arcadis, says: “Riding on our traditional strengths in building construction and unique advantages in smart technologies and sustainability, Hong Kong is poised to lead the development of smart green buildings in the Asia-Pacific region.”

Construction directly or indirectly contributes around 25% of total greenhouse gas and 40% of CO₂ emissions from fuel combustion globally. The delivery of new infrastructure and buildings can bring significant carbon emissions and inefficiencies from powering plant and equipment, undertaking demolition or the transportation of materials and waste. As decarbonising the built environment grows in urgency, with the recent COP27 looking to renew international commitment to translating the ambitions set at COP26 into action, it is critical to boost energy efficiency pre and during construction.

Additionally, with the World Bank predicting energy prices to be around 50% higher compared with 2021, construction costs will continue to be affected, making energy savings even more of a priority. The industry has great scope to improve energy efficiency as well as its environmental impact, but this requires a whole supply chain approach.

Key trends and solutions

Typically, construction sites relied on fossil fuel-based energy but regulations are tightening and governments are setting targets to reach net zero and make harmful energy sources obsolete by 2050. Some contractors have started to shift away from diesel-powered machinery and generators to alternatives that utilise and generate electricity from green energy sources. Off-grid hybrid power and battery storage systems, for instance, offer a seamless transition between harnessing renewable energy from wind and solar power and switching to generators only when necessary.

Apart from construction work, sites include temporary offices, portable units, shower facilities, internet connections and more, with some masterplans requiring them to be in place for up to fifteen years, creating an overwhelming demand on the grid. Again, converting to hybrid power can lead to substantial energy savings over time. The use of ‘green’ hydrogen to run generators with fuel cells is another option and adoption is growing. 

Greater use of renewables in construction aligns with wider objectives – from the US working to transition to clean energy, to the EU’s plans to accelerate the expansion of solar and wind, and the UK government’s Energy Security Strategy – and goes a long way to driving energy efficiency, alongside the use of biofuels and more hybrid or electric vehicles.

Focusing on whole life energy efficiency

The potential to improve energy efficiency not just during construction but for the entire lifecycle of a project is strongest before work kicks off, at the design stage. This is when key decisions are made and where contractors and developer/contractors can have more influence over wider supply chain methodology and approaches. It is also wheremeasuring and monitoring can bring the biggest benefits to the project’s environmental credentials.

Construction monitoring can support leaner designs, such as those that use fewer materials with a high proportion of embodied carbon like steel or concrete. It can mitigate the risk of using thinner concrete, check tolerances, and potentially reduce the number of props required. Further, initial baseline surveys can help mitigate any adverse impact on the environment and, for these, we use renewable technology to power monitoring equipment – a huge benefit where development is proposed on brownfield sites as it provides months of continuous power at a specified voltage.

As technology continues to advance, particularly in the fields of AI, automation and machine learning, this will offer new ways to inject more efficiency into developments, from precision surveying and design choices, to materials and construction methods. 

Every project inevitably brings its own challenges but the focus must be on making the whole supply chain as sustainable as possible. If minimum emissions are at the heart of the end-to-end approach, we can achieve improved energy efficiency and a greener looking industry.

Tony Selwyn is head of environmental planning at Plowman Craven