Property industry launches first common approach to measuring sustainability

15 Oct 2010

Policy area: Sustainability

Leading property organisations today launched the first industry-wide guide on how to measure and report on the sustainability of buildings.

The Green Property Alliance report Establishing the Ground Rules for Property today gives investors and tenants the first ever set of industry-agreed metrics that can be used to measure and compare energy use – and its associated greenhouse gas emissions – water use and waste generation in commercial buildings.

The report is a call for clarity, intended to encourage property owners and occupiers, advisors, sustainability framework providers and government, to converge around a common language of measurement and reporting that is seen as vital to driving greater sustainability from commercial and non-domestic buildings, which account for almost one-fifth of UK carbon emissions.

Progress is currently hamstrung by the lack of consistency around the way the sustainability performance of buildings is measured. Research from the Green Property Alliance suggests there are over 100 different measures of sustainability currently used in the UK.

The report, the result of a years work by the Green Property Alliance, will also be fed into standard setting by the RICS through their New Rules of Measurement programme. (

Common metrics are vital to enable like for like comparisons of property to be made, whether it be for corporate reporting, identification of cost savings, compliance with government regulation or even for the undertaking of valuations.

Reaching agreement on a common set of metrics is seen as crucial in generating:

  • A better understanding of how buildings operate and perform in practice
  • More soundly-based public policy initiatives by making comparable data available on building energy performance
  • Greater comparability of sustainability performance across and within portfolios over time
  • Data which can highlight areas where Government interventions should be made, and where the market is best placed to deliver improvements

The paper also makes recommendations on how companies can report both the total and the relative change in the sustainability performance of property portfolios as they grow and contract over time.

The Green Property Alliance, an offshoot of the Property Industry Alliance, comprises the Better Buildings Partnership, British Council for Offices, British Council of Shopping Centres, British Property Federation, British Retail Consortium, CoreNet, Investment Property Forum, Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors and UK Green Building Council.

Each organisation has endorsed the use of these common metrics by its members, which comprise the bulk of leading companies and practitioners involved in developing and investing in commercial property, and a significant tranche of the occupier community.

Paul Edwards, Head of Sustainability at Hammerson, Chair of the British Council for Offices Environment and Sustainability Group and Chair of the Green Property Alliance Working Group said: “Accurate, meaningful measurement of sustainability impacts is vital if its performance is to be effectively managed.  A vast array of sustainability tools and frameworks are available to the industry with subtle variation between each.  The publication of today’s report will hopefully encourage convergence in the basic building blocks of the main frameworks the industry uses so that buildings can be compared no matter which framework they use.  We hope it will also provide some simple guidance to organisations who have yet to report, and that it will encourage them to do so.”

Liz Peace, Chief Executive of the British Property Federation said: “It has traditionally proven difficult to clearly articulate sustainability performance in rented offices and shopping centres due to the split responsibilities of landlords and tenants.  The publication of today’s report sets out some helpful ways that landlord and tenant performance can be measured, improvement can be motivated and achievements articulated.’

Dan Cook, Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors said: "Sustainable practices need to be underpinned by common methods of measurement. The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) has commenced its New Rules of Measurement (NRM) programme of construction measurement standards. RICS will continue to work with the Green Property Alliance to embed common sustainability metrics within the next volumes of NRM, which are currently in development: ‘Procurement - Build and Maintain’ followed by ‘Whole Life Costing - Operation and Environmental’ measurement standards.”

Matthew Tippett, Upstream Sustainability Services, Jones Lang LaSalle said: "The GPA metrics are simple - but hopefully not simplistic - which is a big step forward. We are very pleased to have contributed to the working group. In helping clients measure, monitor and improve their sustainability performance over the last 13 years, we have seen sustainability measurement become more and more important. The industry is increasingly keen to have the same confidence in sustainability measurement and reporting as they do in financial measurement and reporting - and we are getting closer to this goal now."

Paul King, Chief Executive of the UK Green Building Council said: “There has been an explosion of activity in green building over recent years. You won’t hear me complaining about that, but it has brought with it certain challenges. One of the most significant is the need to speak a common language with respect to how we measure sustainability in our commercial buildings and set targets to improve it. This work establishes consensus across a diverse range of organizations and is an important step in the right direction.”

Louise Ellison, Research Director of the Investment Property Forum, said: “This set of common metrics brings welcome clarity to the process of monitoring sustainability at a time when property investors are increasingly aware of the need to measure and monitor sustainability performance of their assets alongside investment performance.”

Keith Bugden, Programme Director of the Better Buildings Partnership, said: “This work marks a key step in the property industry's quest to achieve global agreement on sustainability metrics. Clearly there is more work to be done, but this significant achievement should not be underestimated."

Stuart Bowman, Vice President for Sustainability, CoreNet said: The key to the success or failure of performance improvement initiatives is the availability of accurate, consistent, relevant and universal data and accurate benchmarking that can help occupiers highlight opportunities for saving, and best and worst practice. This paper hopefully marks the new beginning of an approach that has been a long time in coming.