Declining standards of air quality in the UK are a major challenge for property managers. Scrutiny of localised air pollution levels is higher than ever before and the Air Quality Strategy for 2020 enables local authorities to determine thresholds of operations for commercial property owners. With most air quality zones in the UK breaching legal limits, the attention is now on the built environment and how emission-producing activities from both new developments and existing buildings can be addressed.
In order to encourage energy efficiency within real estate the Government has introduced The Green Lease Toolkit, an initiative which aims to encourage property owners and occupiers to establish carbon, energy and waste reduction strategies to minimise the environmental impact of their buildings.
In London, additional guidance documents and schemes, such as the Memoranda of Understanding endorsed by The City of London, the ‘City Air’ initiative and the Zero Emission Network, run by Tower Hamlets, Islington and Hackney councils, aim to help asset owners, property managers and tenants share responsibility in improving air quality through progressive action by businesses targeting operational activities.
An example of a proactive initiative comes from The Crown Estate which, as part of a larger effort to promote green infrastructure in London, introduced a delivery consolidation scheme for retailers in the core West End. The scheme combines the deliveries for 50 Regent Street retailers in an easily accessible depot outside London and brings them into the city on a fleet of electric-powered vehicles.
This landlord-occupier collaboration involves the co-ordination of tenants’ individual delivery schedules into a single efficient programme and has reduced vehicle movements to participating stores by 85 per cent, removing the equivalent CO2 emissions of 5,000 journeys around the entire M25 every year. This also helps retailers by enabling stock to be held, store-ready, just outside London, rather than at centralised distribution facilities, allowing tenants to use store floor space for retail rather than storage. Furthermore, customers benefit from reduced congestion, noise, and air pollution, making for a more enjoyable visitor experience.
The Crown Estate is now also introducing a preferred supplier scheme to minimise office deliveries, consolidate waste collections and reduce personal deliveries.
Investing in measures that target air quality can also have attractive economic returns for businesses. Air pollution measures undertaken at 105 Victoria Street, managed by Savills, found that collective procurement and delivery consolidation has the potential to save over £160,000 annually while greatly reducing traffic congestion and vehicle emissions in the area.
With the Government under increasing pressure to address the air pollution crisis in the UK, business-led air pollution strategies will become commonplace in commercial property management. Collective action between property managers, tenants and asset owners has a major role to play in ensuring that commercial property delivers the reductions required to make the environment a healthier and more sustainable one.