Pioneering Developers Adopt a Radical Approach to Energy Performance

16 October 2018
Pioneering Developers Adopt a Radical Approach to Energy Performance

Pioneering Developers Adopt a Radical Approach to Energy Performance

16 October 2018

Seven major UK property developers, Great Portland Estates plc, Grosvenor Britain & Ireland, Landsec, LGIM Real Assets, Lendlease, TH Real Estate and The Crown Estate, have elected to break the mould and commit to an innovative approach to overcome the energy performance gap for new office design. This new approach comes off the back of the latest findings of the industry backed Design for Performance (DfP) initiative.

These Better Buildings Partnership members have committed to adopt a ‘Design for Performance’ approach on at least one office in their development pipelines, setting targets for operational energy use, embedding these within the development process and verifying performance during full occupation. They have also agreed to fund the development of an investment grade rating that reflects actual performance in use. To support this, the Better Buildings Partnership & NABERS are in advanced discussions concerning a partnership which would allow UK property owners to rate their offices using the internationally recognised NABERS Scheme. To help deliver the scheme, major firms of consulting engineers are also being asked to become Pioneer Delivery Partners - Ove Arup & Partners and Cundall are the first such firms to make this commitment.

Three years ago, the ambitious collaborative industry backed and led Design for Performance (DfP) initiative set out to address the UK’s ‘Design-for-Compliance’ culture and the ‘Performance Gap’ whereby base building energy consumption is considerably higher than the original building design intent. The UK’s current regulatory framework has exacerbated this by failing to measure operational performance - the amount of energy a building uses once in operation.  The actual performance of commercial buildings is therefore invisible to the market.

The DfP feasibility study examined the hugely transformational Australian NABERS scheme for new offices and found that there were no reasons why such an approach could not be adopted in the UK. Subsequent pilot studies demonstrated the significant benefits to be gained by adopting a Design for Performance approach in the UK. A relentless focus on performance outcomes not only delivers better designed, better constructed, better commissioned and better operated buildings, but a base buildings rating can also act as a proxy for better quality buildings that are attractive to both investors and occupiers.

These announcements made during Green GB Week demonstrate outstanding business leadership and it is hoped that this will address the urgent need to improve the performance of new offices and provide a pathway for existing buildings and other asset types to do the same.

Sarah Ratcliffe, Chair of the Design for Performance Executive Board, and Programme Director at BBP said:

This is a major industry breakthrough and one which has the potential to transform the UK office market. The DfP initiative is one which resonates deeply with the Better Buildings Partnership’s aims to improve the sustainability performance of UK real estate assets. We are delighted that our members are demonstrating such strong industry leadership in supporting and adopting a Design for Performance approach and relish the challenge of advocating for wider use of the scheme across the industry.

The DfP initiative is a long-awaited coordinated call for action for our industry, that allows Landsec to deliver a better product to our customers while making progress against our Science Based Carbon Targets.”  Edward Dixon, Sustainability Insights Director, Landsec.

“We recognise that the development of an accurate rating to reflect the operational energy performance of buildings is key to addressing carbon emissions generated from the built environment. Great Portland Estates plc is delighted to be supporting this initiative as a Design for Performance Pioneer.” Andrew White, Development Director, Great Portland Estates plc.

Matthew Giles, Head of Development and Project Management, at The Crown Estate, said: The Crown Estate is pleased to be a pioneer for the Design for Performance programme, building on our support for the pilot scheme. This is an important step towards driving collaboration across industry and to ultimately delivering better performing buildings which benefit our customers.

Victoria Quinlan, Managing Director, Investment Management at Lendlease, said: “As a global developer we are committed to driving change within our sector. The Design for Performance (DfP) initiative creates an opportunity for collaboration between industry partners to influence the way building performance is benchmarked.

Adopting this holistic approach will give us insight in to how people interact with buildings and the spaces within them and will enable us to identify ways to create better working environments and improved building efficiency.

Grosvenor Britain & Ireland is committed to cutting the carbon footprint of its portfolio and this pilot offers a chance to set a benchmark and grow consensus in the industry. This DfP tool has enormous potential to help property companies cut carbon emissions across the UK, given the imperative to cap the rise in global temperatures to 1.5ºC.” Amelia Staveley,  Director of Development and Placemaking, Grosvenor Britain & Ireland.



PRESS: Lucy Elderfield

DFP PROJECT: Sarah Ratcliffe   





The Design for Performance Project is an industry initiative which was initially supported, funded and overseen by 22 Project Partners, including: ARUP, BBP, BCO, BSRIA, BPF, British Land, CIBSE, The Crown Estate, BEIS, EDSL, Energy Action, Laing O’Rourke, LGIM Real Assets, NG Bailey, New South Wales Office of Environment and Heritage, Stanhope, TH Real Estate, Transport for London, UKGBC, UBT, VERCO, Willmott Dixon. Overall industry funding was matched 85% by the Usable Buildings Trust charity, which enabled extensive input from leading experts in Australia. The DfP Pioneers, who have committed to implement DfP on a project in their pipeline and will also be funding the next ‘Pioneering Phase’ of the project, include: Great Portland Estates plc, Grosvenor Britain & Ireland, Landsec, LGIM Real Assets, Lendlease, TH Real Estate and The Crown Estate. Ove Arup & Partners and Cundall are the first firms to commit to becoming DfP Delivery Partners.  

The energy efficiency of new offices in the UK is subject to Building Regulations Part L and represented in market transactions by Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs). However, these mechanisms do not produce a building that is energy efficient in operation as focus is placed on design and technology that improves predicted building performance, not on achieving directly measurable improvements in performance whilst the building is in operation.

The DfP initiative aimed to change the way new office developments are designed in the UK, by exploring the applicability and opportunity of developing and testing a framework similar to the hugely successful Australian NABERS Commitment Agreement. A feasibility study was completed in May 2016 assessing whether a DfP approach similar to the Commitment Agreement Protocol used by NABERS could be applied in the UK. The project then entered into an 18-month pilot to test the ingredients of such a protocol on real office developments.



Australia’s NABERS (National Australian Built Environment Rating System) office energy rating scheme targets the operational energy performance of the 'Base Building' (services typically under control of the property owner i.e. the heating, hot water, ventilation and air-conditioning of the whole building, light and power in common areas, and the lifts). The scheme covers 86% of the Australian Office Market, and other world-leading initiatives using NABERS have helped Australian buildings save more than $790 million and 5.4 million tonnes of CO2 since the program started in 1998. 

For new office developments, a framework has been established whereby clients, developers and their teams sign up to – and then follow - a “Commitment Agreement” to design, construct and manage buildings to achieve agreed operational performance targets. Since its introduction in 2002, its effect has been transformational and has subsequently shaped a design-for-performance culture. The amount of energy used by a typical new office Base Building has halved since the system was introduced and the very best buildings consume only one-fifth of the amount of energy.



The Better Buildings Partnership (BBP) is a not for profit collaboration of the UK’s leading property owners who are working together to improve the sustainability of the UK’s existing commercial buildings. The organisation's aim is to deliver market transformation through sustainability leadership and knowledge sharing across the UK property industry. The BBP currently has 30 members who represent in excess of £200bn Assets Under Management (AUM).

The BBP has 30 Members who include Aberdeen Standard Investment, Aviva Investors, Blackstone, British Land, Bruntwood, Cadogan, Canary Wharf Group, Capital & Regional, CLS Holdings, Cording Real Estate Group, DWS, Great Portland Estates plc, Grosvenor, Hammerson, Hermes Investment Management, intu Properties, Landsec, LaSalle Investment Management, LGIM Real Assets, Lendlease, Low Carbon Workplace, M&G Real Estate, Norges Bank Real Estate, SEGRO, Shaftesbury, Schroder Real Estate, TH Real Estate, The Crown Estate, Transport for London and Workspace.