Steve Barlow


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Project Data


International property investor



Services we provided

Improving sustainability performance of a European property fund

What is GRESB?

GRESB is an investor-driven organisation established in 2009 to assess the sustainability performance of global real estate sector portfolios and assets. It validates, scores and benchmarks environmental, social and governance (ESG) performance data for real assets. The data is then provided to the capital markets and ultimately helps make decisions that lead to a more sustainable real asset industry.

The challenge

Our international property investment client needed to demonstrate their drive to deliver financial returns to investors, whilst maintaining  sustainable business ethics. They approached Ramboll to discuss the GRESB analysis of one of its European funds and determine a strategy to improve the score of two of the fund’s performance indicators: Building Certifications and Risks & Opportunities, which had scored 53 and 71 out of 100 respectively during a 2017 review.

Our client wanted to improve this score to push for the highest GRESB rating and demonstrate a commitment to environmental and societal causes, which ultimately makes them more attractive to investors, amongst their peer group in a very competitive market. At the same time they were keen to use this review opportunity to identify wider sustainability opportunities for the fund, to improve engagement with its tenants and add an additional layer of transparency for its stakeholders.

An innovative solution

Ramboll was asked to develop a solution that would satisfy these key project drivers, to future-proof the assets and provide  excellent returns on investment.

We adopted an innovative approach by employing a mixture of BREEAM In-Use certification and sustainability auditing at the larger, more complex sites.

What is BREEAM In-Use?

Developed by the Building Research Establishment (BRE) in the UK, the BRE Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) In-Use (BIU) is a well-established environmental assessment method designed to help improve the sustainability performance of existing non-domestic buildings across the globe.

It helps property investors, owners, managers and occupiers drive sustainable improvements, including help with the effective operation of a building. BIU goes beyond the usual environmental issues that affect buildings throughout their operational life to capture data across nine key sustainability categories including health and wellbeing, energy, waste, and water.

A client-centric approach

Ramboll’s experts  held several meetings with the client to discuss our approach and bring to the table new approaches to maximise effectiveness and minimise fees before sending experts to the selected sites to carry out the certification work.

For multi-building sites, where we knew BIU would not offer the best value for money (assessments are charged per-building rather than per-site), we worked on delivering a simplified technical assessment as an alternative. These assessments provided considerations and recommendations regarding energy efficiency, water efficiency, waste management, and health and wellbeing impacts. We created a sustainability audit review (SAR) based on good practice standards and circulated it to the asset representatives and site managers prior to the site visits. These were then transposed into an agreed format that would comply with the GRESB requirements and identify potential measures to improve the site’s sustainability credentials in the most cost-effective way.

A successful outcome

Following the completion of the BIU certification and SAR project, the two GRESB performance indicators had shown significant improvement, proving the client’s commitment to becoming a more sustainable fund.

GRESB performance indicator  2017 score  2018 score 
Building certification 53 88
Risks and opportunities 71 86

We also identified a variety of opportunities for the client to improve the sustainability performance of its assets, laying the foundations for future performance improvements if the recommendations are instigated. 

Sustainability facts

  • Significantly improved the GRESB score of a major real estate investment fund.
  • Identified a variety of opportunities for the client to improve the sustainability performance of its buildings.
  • Expert recommendations have laid the foundations for long-term performance improvements and asset resilience.
  • Delivered excellent return on investment, making future sustainability projects more feasible from a financial perspective.