Reaching for Net Zero: New BCO report says office landlords should make major changes to reach targets

New report is calling for greater collaboration and data-sharing between office building owners and occupiers.

A new report produced by University College London for the British Council for Offices (BCO) is calling for greater collaboration and data-sharing between office building owners and occupiers.

Titled, Delivering Net Zero Carbon in the Workplace, the BCO’s report has identified the barriers that businesses are facing as they strive to drastically reduce their workplace carbon footprint. The BCO is the UK’s leading member organisation representing the interests of all those who occupy, design, build, own or manage offices in the UK.

Informed by over 100 office occupiers and building professionals, this report outlines the measures that can be taken to overcome these barriers – at low or zero cost.

These include:

  • Greener and longer leases, with office occupiers having more say over refurbishments
  • Greater collaboration and data sharing between building owners and occupiers
  • Submetering and the use of sensors to measure exactly where energy is used
  • Use of pre-fabricated, re-used and recycled materials and furniture

Achieving net zero carbon emissions is a major component of Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) strategies in the commercial real estate sector, driven by a growing expectation from businesses, their customers and ultimately the public, to respond to the effects of climate change. The current energy crisis that began in 2022 is also focusing minds and investment on improving energy efficiency.

Yet improving the energy performance of offices is challenging, particularly as 50% of the office building stock in the UK is tenanted – meaning there is little consistency even within single buildings as to how workspaces are designed and used.

According to the BCO, only 12% of building professionals and office occupiers consulted for the report believe that operational carbon targets are currently being achieved by those involved in designing and developing office buildings. The BCO believes there is: “… an urgent need for robust benchmarks and verifiable data, as well as government requirements and incentives to support businesses’ ESG objectives and facilitate the transition to net zero.”

Gavin Holvey General Manager / Sales UK & Ireland at Priva UK says: “At Priva UK, we echo the BCO’s view that it is vital to assess carbon emissions associated with the complete lifecycle of a building in order to strike the right balance between operational carbon and embodied carbon when refurbishing buildings.

“We also share the Report’s view that energy management and the energy efficient operation of a building need landlords and FMs and the smart building technology sector to work together,” he says. “This relationship is made easier where digital building technologies in place, for example our cloud-based digital services. Smart building technologies make it possible for building owners and ad operators to get a grip on energy use through real-time insights, historical trends analysis and easy identification of issues, faults and energy waste.”

The BCO says: “It is difficult for occupiers to measure their carbon emissions accurately because targets for energy use intensity do not differentiate between different types of office. In addition, dysfunctional metering strategies do not allow for a breakdown of energy use between communal and occupier areas. Energy wasted through under-utilisation of office space since the COVID-19 pandemic, as shown in the BCO’s recent The Future of Office Densities report, remains a concern that can be alleviated through using smart sensors and responding to demand.”

Any commercial landlords, FMs or building management firms looking for help to weather the storm of energy prices and Net Zero challenges are welcome to drop us a line. Our team will be happy to chat through your challenges and see how we can help.

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