Last week, I went on a sustainability course and was impressed by the numerous case studies that demonstrated clear and positive links between green buildings and increased employee productivity. In these times of doing more with less, sustainability policies and green buildings present an opportunity. Corporate occupiers ignore this at their peril.
Take, for example, our new 27,068 sq ft office in Hong Kong. We selected a green-designed building with high levels of natural daylight, an efficient layout and an adaptive control scheme to optimise energy consumption. We have been delighted with the resulting healthy, productive and low-cost office. We have achieved a 13% reduction in energy consumption per square foot.
We carefully selected low-toxicity materials to improve air quality in the office. A 32% reduction in absenteeism during the first 7 months suggests that this contributed to a healthier working environment.
This and similar case studies suggest there are real gains to be made by corporate occupiers ‘going green’. However – there may be costs attached. Occupiers moving to new green design buildings may incur higher rental premiums although this will depend on the asset (as sustainable buildings usually cost more to build, and developers and investors will seek recoup these costs).
In my opinion, the opportunities for occupiers outweigh the risks. Integrating sustainable solutions within corporate real estate strategy can add value at a number of levels: enhanced employee well-being; increased creativity and productivity; stronger ethical reputation and therefore competitive advantage; lower operating costs due to energy efficiency; and potential gains on tax and other incentives by adapting to changing regulation.
Given the wide ranging ‘green value’ which can be achieved, it is clear that sustainability needs to feature highly on corporate real estate agendas. For some it already does, but there are still a number of “fence sitters” out there waiting for legislation or incentives to drive change. It is definitely in their interest to take note and act now. With an enlarged vision, a clear plan and sufficient willpower – substantial benefits are possible.