Climate change boosting energy bills, sustainable building leader Lendlease says

Climate change-induced warmer weather made occupants of Lendlease’s office towers use their airconditioners more, hampering the landlord’s ability to cut energy consumption last year.

While Lendlease’s Australian Prime Property Fund Commercial topped the latest GRESB global ranking of unlisted commercial real estate funds for sustainability across a range of environmental, social and governance measures, the landlord – like many of its regional peers – found hotter weather made it harder to cut power usage, said Josh McHutchison, managing director of Lendlease’s Australian Investment Management business.

“If you have a particularly warm summer the airconditioners use more energy,” Mr McHutchison told The Australian Financial Review. “About 50 per cent of our energy usage is from airconditioning units across the portfolio.”

Mr McHutchison said the 1 per cent reduction in power usage, less than the reduction of previous years, also reflected the fact a fund such as the 18-property wholesale office fund had already banked the easier and larger reductions of previous years and was subject to diminishing returns.

Netherlands-based GRESB – the Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark – is an annual ranking that compares commercial landlords and portfolios worldwide. While Australian and New Zealand landlords topped the global ranking again, they reported surprisingly little reduction in energy, water and car emissions. While the reductions ranged between 2 per cent and 4 per cent, this year they were much lower, GRESB’s Asia Pacific head Ruben Langbroek said.

“The Australian results were less than we expected to see,” Mr Langbroek told the Financial Review. “There was almost no reduction in energy consumption.”

Dexus Office Trust topped the equivalent global ranking for listed office funds and the Dexus Wholesale Property Fund was named the Global Sector Leader for diversified office-retail entities. Paul Wall, Dexus’ head of group sustainability and energy, agreed the weather demands were greater.

“More extreme weather is certainly playing more demand on the heating ventilation and airconditioning systems, which means that we need to deploy innovative techniques to combat this and continue the downward trend in energy use,” Mr Wall said.

Mr Langbroek said the results could also reflect the fact that the pool of landlords reporting in Oceania had grown 20 per cent to 66 from 55, but agreed that more extreme weather could influence energy use in terms of heating and cooling.

GRESB’s latest annual readout did not publicly disclose the individual company and fund scores out of a maximum 100, but said the average score of Australia and New Zealand-based companies of 73 (down slightly from 74 last year) again led the global pack – the global average was 63 points – but gave up some of its lead.

“Australia is still leading, but the gap with the other regions is slowly closing,” Mr Langbroek said.

Lendlease International Towers Sydney Trust and Lendlease One International Towers Sydney Trust were jointly named the most sustainable development funds globally. Goodman Group topped the ranking of listed developers. Vicinity Centres Direct Portfolio was recognised Australian retail sector leader.

Stockland was the global leader for listed diversified office-retail.

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