Our £90m retrofit programme

Director of the Grosvenor Sustainability programme, Victoria Herring shares the challenges and opportunities when retrofitting heritage buildings

For several years, we’ve been undertaking projects which have focused on reducing our emissions, but the clarity of vision provided by this pathway, and the timelines under which it has to be achieved, give every part of our organisation the opportunity to galvanise ourselves around something which for many will be the most important thing we do in our working lives.

At a global level, about 40% of carbon comes from the built environment and approximately half of that comes from their operational usage (be that residential or commercial), not just the fabric of the building itself.

This is even more marked in London where the figure is 78% and even higher in Westminster at 85%. Roughly 80% of buildings that exist today will do so in 2050 and so to achieve a net zero position, it is clear that tackling existing stock is essential.

This is why our £90m commitment is such an important pillar of the overall pathway, as it will help to cut emissions by 70% across our historic estate in Mayfair and Belgravia.

Retrofitting buildings, and especially heritage ones, is a complex and time intensive process. But it’s a challenge we must crack.

We have already spent £25m on improvement works including installing better insulation, replacing gas boilers with electric heat pumps, and more energy efficient lighting. The size of financial commitment means our retrofit plans are fully funded until 2030.

A building retrofit is typically undertaken when a tenant vacates a property, either at the end of a tenancy or as part of a refurbishment.

As part of the retrofit, we ensure the appropriate data collection tools like smart meters are put in place to allow for benchmarking and future improvements.

It’s no secret that the industry is learning on the job on some of these aspects around measurement and, as the data pool grows, the targets we set at a building level will become better informed and supportive of the overall strategy.

Currently we are working from theoretical performance but as the data visibility grows, we can move to actual operational performance and set targets accordingly.

As part of our Green Leases, we can also provide renewable energy to every building in our portfolio, and this partnership will allow us to understand tenant energy usage and how we can make it more efficient, together.

It’s this sense of joint responsibility by which the pathway will succeed or fail, so the level of collaboration required cannot be underestimated.

Working with our tenants, local authorities, business improvement districts and other local trading organisations to help educate and encourage behaviour change is the only way we will reach our carbon net zero target.

We are aware that we are in the early stages of this programme; there is much knowledge to be acquired and acted upon over the next decade. As a proud member of the Better Buildings Partnership’s Climate Change Commitment, we look forward to sharing the insights we gain from our retrofit programme to benefit the other members, our tenants, and most importantly, the climate.

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