It’s time for commercial offices to play a bigger role in reducing their impact on the environment, according to Vail Williams partner, David Thomas.

The property consultancy and Thames Tap partner has applauded the fact the environmental impact of office buildings has moved a lot further up the agenda, but believes more can be done.

Mr Thomas’s call follows dire warnings about what will happen to the world unless huge shifts occur in the way people live. Some speak of an ‘existential threat to civilisation’.

Meanwhile, Greta Thunberg has completed her transatlantic voyage to reach the UN climate conference in Madrid to deliver her next message.

Mr Thomas, who specialises in commercial property advice says while people control their own impact on the planet, they can’t necessarily influence the impact of their workplace.

He said: “We can control what we eat, what or whether we drive, how we heat our homes, where we invest and what we consume on a daily basis, but very few of us has control over the environmental impact of our place of work.” 

With many businesses housed in brightly lit, well heated and air conditioned environments, where staff operate five days a week, Vail Williams is encouraging developers, landlords and tenants across the region to do more to play their part.

He went on: “With services being the fourth largest energy user behind transport, domestic and industry, there are significant inroads which landlords and tenants can make to reduce energy expenditure, such as LED lighting and movement sensor lighting which is up to 80 per cent more efficient and has allowed many offices to significantly reduce energy consumption.”

In 2018, the Government introduced minimum energy efficiency standards (MEES) which aimed to improve the worst performing buildings.

From April 2018, landlords of non-domestic properties have not been allowed to grant a new tenancy or to extend or renew an existing tenancy if their property had an EPC rating of an F or G. As of April 1, 2023, this will also apply to all non-domestic properties in the private rented sector which will need to be achieve an EPC rating of at least an E.

“When EPC certificates were introduced in 2007, they were seen as a minor irritation that had to be carried out to comply with new legislation. Indeed, I remember one tenant whom I was showing around a building stating ‘I’m not buying a fridge’, when asked if he would like to see the EPC,” said Mr Thomas.

Since then, the importance of the EPC has increased exponentially. With a stated plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to ‘net-zero’ levels by 2050, the Government, in the midst of the election, has now introduced a consultation on whether the minimum EPC should be B by April 1, 2030.

“Many new developments are already reaching these standards with recent new developments being rates EPC A, B or, alternatively, BREEAM Excellent. However, these new buildings are the exception as the majority of office stock in the Thames Valley, for example, falls below EPC B,” Mr Thomas added.  

With lease events occurring between now and various points between 2023 to 2030, Vail Williams is warning businesses to take care when signing or renewing leases, in particular when it comes to who is responsible for the cost of complying with environmental legislation.

Mr Thomas said: “Notwithstanding the cost of upgrading a building’s mechanical and electrical efficiency, there is also the cost of energy consumption to take into account, the potential effect on recruitment and retention by not being located in an energy efficient building, not to mention the cost to the planet.

“Today, from a CSR point of view, I am thankful that the environmental impact of office buildings has moved a lot further up the agenda.”

Vail Williams believes the time is right for developers, landlords and tenants to ensure that the workplace plays its part in making the world a better place for everyone.

© Thames Valley Property No 190 (