Sustainable Property Management is the Concert Way
July 26, 2016
Concert Properties has been developing and managing real estate for 25 years – everything from rental apartments, to condominium homes, retirement communities, to infrastructure and commercial properties. As a company that owns and operates a portfolio of 12 million square feet of income-producing property across British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario, Concert has been doing its part on the sustainability front as a long-term owner and manager of property.
Why Sustainability is Important at Concert:
Concert chooses to take environmental sustainability seriously as a property developer, owner and manager for a variety of reasons. Perhaps most importantly, it is consistent with the type of company they are. The reduction of the company’s greenhouse gas emissions, and overall environmental footprint, is one of many reasons they are known as “a developer with a difference”. Embracing sustainability in their properties is also consistent with Concert’s long-term orientation. As a company owned by union and management pension funds looking for a steady return over the decades to come, Concert has the intention of owning their income-producing properties over the complete lifecycle. They are able to invest in developing new sustainable properties from the ground up, as well as improving the performance of existing buildings, because the benefits will outweigh the costs over the longer term.
Tools to Reduce Emissions
In 2010, Concert was proud to become one of only a few real estate enterprises in Canada to complete a comprehensive calculation of the greenhouse gas emissions the organization generates. Coinciding with the annual calculation of Concert’s emissions, the company has been releasing annual reports on sustainability on their website to document efforts and results. Click here to read.
With access to several years’ worth of data on their properties, the company is able to use this information to identify trends which can be used as the basis for important operational decisions. By plotting the per-square-metre emission intensities of all properties across Canada, Concert is able to easily identify outliers and investigate each of these properties in search of explanations why emissions are elevated and then formulate potential reduction strategies. It’s a process that’s realized some significant improvements.
Developing New Properties Sustainably
In 2012, after years of benchmarking their new developments against the LEED sustainability scorecard, the company made the commitment to ensure that all of its properties going forward would meet the rigorous standards of LEED Gold certified or equivalent – programs which ensure sustainability is considered during the construction process and in the property’s operation. Early in the development schedule, Concert implements an integrated design process, working collaboratively with all relevant members of the development team to set sustainability goals.
A recent success story is Axis, a rental development completed in 2013 at the University of British Columbia (UBC). Concert targeted Gold certification under the UBC-specific Residential Environmental Assessment Program (REAP). One of the requirements of this program is the diversion and recycling of construction waste, which includes wood, metal, cardboard, plastics and drywall. Concert set a goal of 75% waste diverted from landfill at Axis. They engaged their trade subcontractors to ensure everyone involved in the project understands how their actions affect Concert’s sustainability goals. By placing the responsibility of diversion on their subtrades, and monitoring waste diversion throughout the project, the company was able to achieve an 82% diversion from landfill!
Retrofitting Existing Properties for Enhanced Performance
For many years, Concert’s property management team has been implementing changes and initiating programs aimed at improving performance of the company’s existing residential and commercial properties in order to reduce their environmental impact. They have also been a keen adopter of pilot projects with BC Hydro, Fortis BC, the City of Vancouver and Metro Vancouver aimed at a variety of social, energy and emission saving projects within existing properties.
A great example of how Concert retrofitted and improved the performance of an existing commercial property would be the work they did on their 12-storey office building located at 1190 Hornby Street in downtown Vancouver. In the years since Concert purchased the office building, extensive upgrades and improvements have made a significant impact on the building’s environmental performance. Heating, venting and air conditioning systems as well as boilers were replaced with high-efficiency models and are now controlled by a direct digital control system for maximum efficiency. Among other initiatives, these changes have resulted in a 25% drop in electricity consumption and a nearly 50% reduction in natural gas use. The application of UV filtering film to all exterior windows has improved efficiency and added to the comfort of those working inside. The changes implemented have not only succeeded in lowering emissions but have also lowered operational costs for the building’s office tenants.
Looking to the Future
In addition to all the reasons why Concert feels it is important to embrace sustainability today, they also see an opportunity in the future. While the effect of their sustainability efforts on the property management side are not considered to have a significant impact on the ability to lease commercial space or rent apartments today, that is something that is expected to change in the future. This is already a trend that can be observed in the market for office space, as an increasing number of large companies are selecting space in accordance with their overarching corporate sustainability mandate.
Looking to others in the property management industry, Concert would like to see more of its peers take a serious look at the garbage production of their properties in the future. During the first year of Concert’s greenhouse gas emissions audit, garbage production from income-producing properties was clearly identified as one of the biggest areas to focus on in order to lower company-wide emissions. As such, ramping up recycling and waste diversion streams in its properties was one of the first major projects the company undertook after receiving its results. When you take Concert’s portfolio of existing residential rental properties in Vancouver for example, landfill waste from these properties dropped a staggering 80% as a direct result of the expansion of the number of waste diversion streams available as well as a resident education program.
Concert has every intention of maintaining their commitment to environmental sustainability across the organization, and within the construction and management of their constantly growing portfolio of income-producing properties specifically.