If you attended one of the 2018 GRESB Results events, you probably discovered the three key elements of sustainable assets: efficiency, health & well-being, and resilience. While companies are increasingly addressing the issues of resilience and health and well-being in the built environment, efficiency is one of the most longstanding topics of the sustainable building movement. And when it comes to efficiency – energy performance, water consumption, and waste management are the key metrics to track environmental sustainability performance of real estate portfolios.
Efficiency measures are approaches or projects undertaken to improve the efficiency of a building. In the 2018 GRESB Real Estate Assessment, three indicators are dedicated to efficiency measures for energy (RO5), water (R06), and waste (RO7). As implementing measures is one of the most effective ways to improve the environmental performance of an asset, it’s not surprising that among the 2018 GRESB Real Estate participants, more than 90% implemented energy, water, or waste efficiency improvement measures during the last four years, of which 70% implemented measures for all three aspects.
Based on the responses to Energy Efficiency Measures Indicator (RO5), the installation of “High-efficiency Equipment and Appliances” is clearly the most popular category, with more than 1,200 entries reported by GRESB Participants. This means that, on average, each participant implemented 1.4 measures in the past 4 years. LED Lighting is the most employed measure, followed by “High-efficiency HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) system”. Other commonly applied energy measurement categories reported by participants include “Building automation system upgrades/replacements”, “Building energy management systems upgrades/replacements”, and “Systems commissioning or retro-commissioning”.
According to UNEP, electricity used for lighting accounts for 15% of global power consumption and 5% of worldwide CO2 emissions. HVAC facilities account for 40% of total building consumption, which can be up to 70% for the base building, and is typically considered the largest consumer of energy in buildings. A new report published by IEA earlier this year indicated that air conditioning is expected to be the strongest energy demand driver for buildings by 2050, and urges the industry to set up high efficiency standards for cooling. For the residential building sector, the lighting market is still dominated by less efficient solutions such as compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), suggesting an improvement gap in the industry. By converting to LED lamps on a wide scale, the global electricity consumption for lighting would reduce by more than half.
The responses for water efficiency measures (RO6) reveal that “High-efficiency/dry fixtures” are the most popular category, followed by “Metering of water subsystems”, “Drought tolerant/native landscaping”, and “Drip/smart irrigation”. “Water reuse” is in fifth place in water efficiency measures with approximately 250 entries; however, only around 15% of all participants reported water reuse/recycling data for (part of) their portfolios (within indicator PI3.3 Water reuse and recycling), indicating a gap in water conservation programs.
Waste recycling turns out to be the most implemented waste management measure in the past four years, as reported in RO7. Furthermore, over 70% of all entities reported that their portfolios dispose of a certain percentage of waste through diversion (in indicator PI4.1 Waste Management). On average, entities that reported waste data had 56.5% of their waste diverted from landfill or incineration in 2018, a positive increase compared to 52.9% in 2017 (see GRESB Global Results).
Below is a full list of the most reported energy efficiency, water efficiency, and waste management measures in the 2018 GRESB Assessment.
We have heard from some participants that implementing measures is perhaps one of the most time-consuming and capital-intensive activities for improving the sustainability performance of a real estate portfolio. At the same time it’s one of the most impactful actions, leading to long-term value creation for both tenants and investors.
 The Future of Cooling: https://www.iea.org/publications/freepublications/publication/The_Future_of_Cooling.pdf
 Global Status Report 2017: https://www.worldgbc.org/sites/default/files/UNEP%20188_GABC_en%20(web).pdf
 Based on responses in PI3.3