The Commercial Property Sector and the Environment
Everyone in society is affected by the characteristics of the built environment and its actors; it can for example be as a landlord, an employer or by the aesthetics in the neighbourhood. The sector is accounted for approximately 40 % of society’s environmental impact and resource usage. The environmental impact comes from consumption of energy, water and materials. The environmental impact from this sector sometimes neglected since local emissions from the buildings are very limited. The construction of the buildings might be the first that springs to mind when thinking about building and the environment.
It has however been established that most of the environmental impact occurs during the use phase of the buildings, as much as 85 % of the environmental impact in some cases. This report is focused on the usage of buildings. The activities in the use-phase are diverse and involve a number of actors. A division between residential and commercial property is often made, here the focus is on commercial property. A reason for this is that traditionally, most research efforts have concerned residential buildings and construction. However, the environmental impact and particularly the potential for environmental improvements have been shown to be large in commercial properties and at the same time less researched.
The commercial property sector is described from both a general perspective as well as an environmental perspective in this report. The aim is to link management aspects of the sector to its environmental aspects. These two are often separated, both in publications and within the organisational structures in property companies. Some synergy effects might be reached if they are combined.
Research about the commercial property sector is often concerned with financial aspects of the sector e.g. market development, vacancy rates, levels of rents and investment prospects. Another strand of research, more technical, is concerned with the construction of the actual buildings. Typical topics are for example construction elements and the equipments in the buildings e.g ventilation and cooling machines. Research that includes the humans using the buildings combined with the financial and technical aspects are rare and are not associated with the word research in the property sector. An investigation of the research present in the sector today is presented as a part of this report.
The major difference between the residential and the commercial property sector is that contract arrangements and rent levels are controlled in the residential part, while the commercial only has minor restrictions. The difference between the two sectors plays an important role for how the companies in the different sectors act. The report explains this difference and also some other differences of importance.
To further understand the property sector some of the financial aspects of the commercial property sector are described, as well as size, important actors, their ownership relations and current market situation and trends in Sweden in general and in Gothenburg in particular. A description of different trades that are involved in a building’s life is also presented. The description of the different types of actors involved gives the reader a good idea of the complexity and diversity of the actors involved in a commercial property’s life.
The main environmental aspects of the commercial property sector are identified; these are energy consumption, usage of building material, quality of indoor air quality and waste management. From an international review it is interesting to note that similar issues are identified in different places in the world. The environmental initiatives in the sector, such as sector initiatives for green buildings and concept houses are described. A review of common methods for working with the environment is also presented.
Since most of the environmental impact from a building comes from its use-phase the management and maintenance becomes interesting to study. It is clear that different organisational structures and different strategies for the management of the maintenance of buildings are present. It is not yet possible to say what the environmental consequences are for the different ways of managing and maintaining the buildings but this is being identified as an important task for further research.
A recent trend in the sector is analysed with regards to its environmental significance. During the past 15 years outsourcing of management services and the ownership of buildings has increased.
This trend increases the number of actors and makes the actor relationships around a property more complex. This leads to that the incentives for environmental improvements are more difficult to explain than before. Many researchers and other people advocating for environmental change in buildings do not take this change in to consideration. An example of such a situation is when energy efficient equipment is being promoted with the argument that it saves energy and money. With this new trend is it no longer certain that the actor investing in the energy efficient equipment is the one getting a lower energy bill.
In order to improve environmental performance of the sector there is a need for a link between the different research topics relating to buildings. Another conclusion is that there are many interesting fields and issues to study from an environmental researcher’s perspective in the commercial property sector. The environmental aspects in this sector are rather unexplored and the area is accountable for a large part of the society’s environmental impact this combination make up an important and interesting field for further environmental research studies.