Our most significant impacts on the environment are primarily from the day-to-day operation of our buildings but also from our refurbishment projects.
Our environmental strategy is built on the principle of extending the useful lives of our heritage buildings. Reusing and enhancing existing buildings, rather than demolition and redevelopment, is fundamentally the most sustainable approach; increasing energy e ciency whilst avoiding carbon emissions and use of materials associated with new construction. Our recent refurbishment project at 50 Marshall Street exempli es this approach.
Through our programme of low carbon refurbishments, we preserve our buildings, protect the character of our areas and increase biodiverse green space.
We have continued to make good progress against our environmental targets in a year that has inevitably been signifcantly impacted by the Covid19 pandemic. A comprehensive report on our sustainability performance can be found in our Sustainability Data Report on our website.
In order to meet environmental standards for good building design and operation, we follow BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) principles when refurbishing a building. For all refurbishment projects with a value over £1 million, we aim to achieve a minimum BREEAM certifcation of Very Good. Since we introduced this requirement, we have had 20 schemes certi ed, extending to approximately 10% of the portfolio.
All buildings, other than listed buildings, are required to have an Energy Performance Certifcate (EPC) to demonstrate their effciency. Under the Minimum Energy Effciency Standards (MEES) regulations, all demised areas are required to have an EPC of grade E or above.
As at 30 September 2020, 83% of properties were A to E grade (c. 1,278 demises), an increase from 81% last year. All our residential properties now satisfy the MEES regulations. A small number of properties are exempted either because the buildings are listed or the costs of doing the works are prohibitive and would be too disruptive to occupiers.
For commercial properties, there is a requirement that all properties should be at least a grade E by 2023. As part of the ongoing refurbishment programme, when they become vacant, we will undertake works to improve their ratings or we will work with tenants to meet the requirements of the regulations.
Energy and water consumption and greenhouse gas emissions
Our direct energy consumption is relatively small as it only encompasses the common areas of our buildings. On a likeforlike basis, electricity consumption has dropped by 16% during the year, continuing our recent downward trend. This is due, in part, to the impact of our programme of refurbishments such as the installation of low energy lighting across the portfolio, but also re ects a reduction in usage as Covid19 has limited building occupation during the year.
We continue to purchase electricity sourced from renewables across all of our whollyowned portfolio, including our Carnaby Christmas decorations. Excluding the impact of purchasing renewable electricity, we have still seen our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions intensity drop by 7.7% from the previous year. These emissions relate to our direct combustion of gas, refrigerant losses (scope 1) and purchased electricity (scope 2). Further details are included in our energy and carbon statement on pages 116 and 117.
Our water consumption only relates to common parts and remains relatively low. Overall consumption has reduced by 24% during the year, much of which can be attributed to reduced occupation of our space during the pandemic.
The total volume of waste we collect across our portfolio has reduced by 42%, primarily due to lower footfall attributable to Covid19 restrictions. However, the percentage of waste recycled has reduced by 3%, most likely as a result of single-use products, such as coffee cups, making up a relatively larger proportion of waste in the year
The amount of waste from refurbishment projects is minimised by reusing materials whenever possible. Where this is not feasible, material is sent to waste transfer stations which operate a zero waste to landfill policy, where possible, achieving a combined total score of 88% diverted from landfill. This year, the majority of waste sent to landfill came from our 72 Broadwick Street scheme, which had an element of contaminated waste material.
Valuing natural resources
We significantly reduce our environmental impact by minimising the use of new materials in our refurbishment projects and responsibly sourcing, when new material is required. 98% of our timber is from sustainably certified sources and the remaining small amount is sourced in line with EU Timber Regulations.
Retaining and reusing buildings’ façades and primary structures is an important feature of our refurbishment schemes. During the year ended 30 September 2020, we achieved over 85% retention and reuse, across our schemes.
Action on climate change
We recognise the need to take urgent action on climate change, setting ambitious targets for reducing our carbon emissions and making sure that our business is resilient to climate-related risks.
The built environment accounts for approximately 40% of the UK’s carbon emissions and will play a signi cant role in the UK meeting its 2050 net zero carbon target and commitments under the Paris Agreement. It is also estimated that over 80% of current buildings will still be in use in 2050, and many of our buildings have been standing more than 150 years already. Therefore, the low carbon retrofit of current buildings will play a critical part in the process.
We have set annual carbon reduction targets for our own direct emissions (scope 1 & 2) and are calculating longer term targets (10 years)that reflect the emissions reductions that scientists agree are needed to limit the worst impacts of climate change. These are referred to as being ‘science based’ and we have submitted our targets to the Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTI) for external validation.
We are continuing to improve the energy efficiency of our buildings and have the opportunity to support and positively influence the behaviour of our occupiers and contractors. Therefore, we consider it important that our medium term targets include emissions relating to our occupiers’ energy use and those attributable to our refurbishment projects. These are scope 3 emissions.
Actions on climate change we have taken to date include:
- Setting operational carbon emissions reduction targets for our portfolio.
- Establishing a comprehensive carbon emissions baseline (2019) to include tenants’ energy use in our buildings.
- Purchasing renewable electricity for our own supplies. However, we don’t see this as a longterm solution as it is not increasing the overall renewable energy capacity of the grid.
- A rolling programme of energy efficient retrofits. We target a minimum of BREEAM Very Good rating on all projects with a value above £1m.
- Undertaking research into the embodied carbon of a typical refurbishment project to better understand our emissions and identify reductions opportunities.
- Undertaking an initial review of our climate change risks.
Greening our portfolio
Increasing green space across our portfolio has a wide range of benefits. Aside from supporting wildlife, integrating nature can help limit the impacts of climate change, improve air quality and make the portfolio more attractive. London is home to greater breadth of wildlife than many people realise, with an estimated 14,000 species having been recorded living amongst its buildings, streets and parks. Studies also show that connecting with nature can reduce stress and boost wellbeing.
We continue to seek every opportunity to increase biodiversity across our portfolio, this year achieving a further 9% uplift in area. We have already exceeded our 5year plan target (set in 2016), increasing biodiversity by 70% (target: 50%).
We have continued our partnership with other local landowners through the award winning Wild West End initiative. This enables us to share in best practice and play our part of creating wildlife corridors through the West End by connecting green spaces owned by different landowners. By working in partnership we can have a greater impact than working alone.
Improving air quality across our portfolio remains critically important to support people’s health, promote green transport and encourage visitors. We have partnered with other major West End landlords to consolidate deliveries, reduce vehicle movements and improve tenant engagement. In Seven Dials, we are working with community groups and the council to reduce tra c and improve the area for walking and cycling. At the start of 2020, a workshop with local groups identi ed a way forward, and Camden COVID Safe Travel initiative has seen the area experience lower tra c levels and improved air quality. We will continue our proactive work with all local partners and the local community in 2021 to drive longterm improvements in air quality across London based on what we have learned during the pandemic.
In the coming year, we have a number of strategic sustainability priorities:
- Develop our sustainability strategy to re ect the unique nature of our business and the positive impact that we can have on all our stakeholders;
- Set an ambitious and transparent net zero carbon target based on a comprehensive understanding of our portfolio and our emissions reduction strategy.
- Continue our focus on building reuse and a commitment to understand more about the embodied carbon benefits of retaining buildings;
- Continue to invest in green infrastructure and set a new mediumterm biodiversity target;
- Develop our climate risk reporting in line with the recommendations of the Task Force on Climate related Financial Disclosures (TCFD);
- Continue to improve data collection across our portfolio; and
- Take action to improve water management, where we have control.