How data will accelerate our transition to net zero carbon

Ad Sinha, Grosvenor Britain & Ireland’s lead on sustainability insights, outlines how data makes our retrofit programme smarter and acts as a catalyst to more rapid improvements and innovations.

Data is the most powerful tool we have to make sure we’re reducing emissions at pace. 

Technology makes us smarter, faster and helps us invest more efficiently. From smart meters to energy use modelling to whole life carbon assessments, the visibility it creates about emissions is one of our strongest tools – and it’s a catalyst to more rapid improvements and innovations. 

Availability of benchmarked data is something of an elephant in the room for property companies like ours – especially when the average building in your portfolio is approaching its 100th or 200th anniversary. 

So, while whole life carbon is the ultimate focus, we are investing over £90m in retrofit in the next ten years to drive down the operational or ‘in-use’ carbon of our historic London portfolio. Constant, reliable building level measurement will be the foundation of our success. 

As part of this commitment, we have been rolling out smart meters across our historic properties in Mayfair & Belgravia. It’s a lower-cost non-invasive way of benchmarking more precise data and targeting our work. It also enables better quality conversations with the tenants who occupy our buildings about their energy use and sustainability goals. 

We are also looking at opportunities to innovate and be smart about our energy management. For example, on Buckingham Palace Road in Victoria, we trialled a new system with Demand Logic to see how much energy was being consumed each day in two typical office buildings. Using that data, we were able to adjust the building controls reducing electricity and gas usage by 20%, without impacting on the comfort or experience of the tenants in the building.  

Another trial bringing together different data sets enabled us to reduce energy consumption by 40% at a Mayfair property. This will also see us share regular feedback with tenants on green leases, providing them with details of their energy usage and tips on how to reduce. 

What’s the end game? 

In the property sector, there isn’t yet an industry standard, though a number of benchmarks on theoretical performance exist. As the pool of quality data increases, we can move away from basing our targets on theoretical performance and establish a single standard on actual operational performance. This means we can be more precise when it comes to measuring progress and the impact of our interventions, as well as assessing performance in a much more joined up way.  

While far-ranging data measurement is still in some respects at early stages, innovation is taking place at a rapid pace. The more interventions we make, the better equipped we are to take our learnings and apply these to other properties, so we achieve the greatest possible energy reductions. By the end of 2021, the energy performance from the directly managed spaces in our buildings will all be based on actual operational data. 

The data we collect will be fed into dashboards that will be used to help teams keep track of their, and the business’s objectives, and to drive engagement with our net zero carbon pathway, ThinkZero, and sustainability more broadly. It’s a way for us to be open and transparent about what we are trying to achieve, as well as continuing to keep sustainability at the front of everyone’s mind. It also allows us to ensure that the changes implemented are making a difference. That we stay on track. 

It is not to say there won’t be challenges along the way. We realise our targets are ambitious, but we are confident that by taking an approach rooted in data, where we are working in close dialogue with tenants and the wider industry, we will not only be able to reach our targets but exceed them. 

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