Commentary by Agnieszka Krzekotowska, partner and director of the Property Management at Colliers International
Although since the outbreak of the pandemic sustainable development has not been a hot topic, it is still a relevant criterion for many tenants as well as property owners and managers. We expect this trend to intensify as many environmentally friendly practices generate savings.
Business sustainability is rarely a goal in itself. Instead, it is usually one of the elements of a comprehensive policy of an organisation. Its foundations, i.e. care for the natural environment, society and corporate governance, are embodied in the acronym ESG (Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance). All these elements should harmoniously form a whole.
The philosophy of sustainable development is easiest to implement in the areas where it can generate savings. Growing energy prices encourage businesses to reduce their consumption. LED lighting and energy-saving devices have become indispensable elements of the office, while organisations also strive for optimum use of natural light. Many tenants expect regular reports, including information on operating costs, and they carefully analyse such documents. Even the concerns related to COVID-19 do not impact this rational calculation. In the initial months of the pandemic, air exchange systems were working round the clock at full steam. Currently, a more reasonable approach prevails. At night, the building’s ventilation is limited, which generates significant energy savings in the course of months.
Sustainability in practice
At times it is the tenant, however, who gives an impulse for a major change – and they are ready to incur extra costs. In 2018, at the request of a major tenant, all cooling units in one of the office buildings in Warsaw that we manage were replaced for eco-friendly ones. In the new devices, propane is the cooling agent. It is a natural agent, which does not cause the greenhouse effect or depletion of the ozone layer, unlike freon used to-date. It was the first office building on the Warsaw market with such a solution, which is particularly important in the context of the ongoing climate change. Long and hot summers result in heavy use of air conditioning systems, which entails much higher energy consumption. Thus it is not a coincidence that August of 2018 and 2019 set new records for energy demand.
We are planning to install sprinklers on the cooling units in another office building managed by Colliers, which will improve their performance by reducing their operating temperature. This results in a significant reduction in energy consumption. Once the building owner accepts the proposal, the works can be started, and 2021 should see the benefits of such a solution.
Promoting eco habits
Improving the building’s infrastructure provides tangible benefits, although they might not be that clear for ordinary employees. However, the principles of sustainable development may be implemented in a more visible, and even spectacular, manner. This is possible thanks to new-generation materials, such as the carpet made of recycled fishing nets, which was installed in the showroom in the office building in Warsaw that we manage. The use of such untypical material results from acknowledging a major problem: fish, birds and marine mammals die in the damaged fishnets, whereas small-fibre suspension contaminates water.
Noticing the problem
Attitude to environmental issues has become an essential element of a company’s image. Such issues are important, especially to the younger generation. Implementing the principles of sustainable development is thus conducive to attracting clients as well as potential employees. In such a situation, it is difficult to overestimate the role of those responsible for putting in practice the principles of sustainable development. Property managers have an important role to play here. Introducing a system of signs encouraging eco habits, enabling waste segregation, or choosing proper lighting – these are only a few examples of available measures. Many possibilities are also provided by a BMS (Building Management System), which is an integrated system for managing all installations and automatic building control devices within the building. They will switch off the light for the forgetful, as well as to detect water losses or optimise air conditioning operation. However, without supervision, even the most “intelligent” program will not be enough. To a large extent, it is up to the managers to ensure that the care for the environment translates into specific efforts.
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