Britomart’s Sustainability Director Mark Sinclair has been focused on the measurement of the environmental performance of Britomart’s buildings for the precinct’s first rating under the Green Star Performance Tool. 

It’s been almost two years since Britomart Group became the first property company in New Zealand 
to sign up to the New Zealand Green Building Council’s (NZGBC) Green Star Performance Tool, which measures the environmental performance of buildings in the precinct. The results are now in, so how did we do?

Melinda Williams: Britomart was the first property company in New Zealand to implement the Green Star Performance Tool (GSPT). How many companies in New Zealand are currently using the GSPT now?

Mark Sinclair: Auckland Council trialled part of the tool a couple of years ago, and that’s the only one I’m aware of at this point in time. The words ‘guinea pig’ have been used on several occasions!

Where is Britomart now in its GSPT journey?

We are committed to a three-year programme, and we’ve nearly completed Year Two. It was reasonably challenging to compile our data, which we already had, but in a way that suits the Performance Tool. It’s reasonably prescriptive in the way that we needed to present evidence back to the GSPT auditors, who are employed by the NZGBC. 

We’ve received the results of the first year’s assessment (Year One), and Britomart achieved an overall portfolio rating of three stars. This is really great news, as it’s the highest Green Star Performance rating with the largest portfolios (nine buildings) in New Zealand. The assessors specifically mentioned that it is unusual (in a good way) to target a GSPT rating for such a diverse portfolio, “with so much effort and commitment”.

What do the star ratings mean?

So, you achieve a rating from zero to six, with six being aspirational. Three stars equates to “Good Practice”. Britomart achieving three stars for our first attempt has been a satisfying outcome and provides for a solid platform for us to continually improve and reach higher star ratings for Britomart’s buildings. 

Is the rating reviewed every year?

Yes, it’s a continuous improvement model, similar to the NABERS-NZ system, which measures use of electricity, gas and if you have a diesel generator, you have to account for the diesel being burned. Once you’ve set your mark in the ground, you’re expected to improve. 

We also drew a couple of other lines in the sand where we set ourselves fairly good targets of 10 percent reductions in waste to ground, electricity consumed in common areas, gas consumed for heating water and water conservation. We’re tracking reasonably well in most of those categories.

Our programme involves pretty much every department within the Britomart Group. In that respect, it’s been rewarding for people who don’t normally work together and collaborate with the aim to achieving our common goal.

You manage Britomart’s Green Star Performance Tool as an in-house sustainability practitioner. What has it meant for the way you are able to work with the GSPT and what advantages does it bring to Britomart? 

It was more economical to have an in-house person to operate this part of the business. We believe it’s important that the in-house sustainable professional is able to understand the technical elements of operating commercial buildings and has a good understanding of how the whole business operates. I’m responsible for the collaboration between the various departments to share the Britomart sustainability vision, implement the business’s Environment Management Plan and report on the achievements. I report directly to Britomart’s CEO and the Britomart Board on all matters sustainable. We carefully assessed the market for an external consultant to assist us with the third-party independent requirements and assessments and chose Jacobs NZ to help us with our GSPT submissions.

Looking back over the year, what’s been your biggest win?

The gathering of data. We’ve always had a sustainability programme in place, albeit not formalised. The GSPT has helped us formalise our structure and our electronic files and information in a very precise way to log our data in one place for everyone. Secondly, the most challenging but most rewarding has been the establishment of our Britomart Dashboard, where we gather data points from various places and at a glance we can see from monthly to sometimes half-hourly utility tracking, such as electricity, water, waste management, gas and so on.

Does this put Britomart at the forefront of this kind of monitoring in New Zealand?

I think we are. We’ve been speaking to a number of large commercial operators and also some of our technical and engineering consultancies over the last couple of years through our involvement with the GSPT. I think it’s very leading-edge for the commercial office retail sectors. Some hospitals are very advanced for tracking their utilities in this way, but for the commercial sector, I think we’re at the sharp end.

Has using the GSPT supplied Britomart with data that you’re able to pass on to our tenants in a way that’s useful for them?

We’ve developed our own communications that we deliver to our tenant partners at Britomart. The data tool itself is quite prescriptive and wordy – I think there are over 300 pages of documentation that is broken down into 10 categories. We’re applying our environmental approach to those categories. Our first annual Sustainability Report had a number of graphs pertaining to different buildings, which provides a high level of detail, and the feedback has been very positive. I think perhaps the only thing that was overlooked last year was CO2 emissions against which some companies report to their boards. So this time round, we’ve added that. 

What have been some of the key challenges in implementing the tool?

As I’ve mentioned, the tool is very prescriptive, so there is a certain way things have to be done. Generally Britomart is a small, agile and adaptable operation so it’s been a learning curve to follow set rules. One aspect that’s a bit disappointing is the area of waste. We have made a terrific improvement in reducing waste to landfill and recycling materials to the right places yet we get zero points because we haven’t achieved 65 percent savings. It’s not a sliding scale at all. We’ve now discussed with NZGBC that a sliding scale be amended to this category in recognition for the efforts made to divert waste from landfill and encourage more recycling.

A 65 percent reduction does seem like a very high target.

It’s certainly a very high point to achieve from the get-go. Ironically, we weren’t far away – it was about a 59 percent reduction.

So you say you’ve proposed changes – does the New Zealand Green Building Council take business feedback on board?

This GSPT journey has been a learning exercise for all parties involved, given Britomart is the first New Zealand business to fully commit to all elements of the tool across multiple buildings. We’ve been working closely with the NZGBC, our consultants Jacobs and our own internal sustainable management team to test the tool in a practical sense and we’ve made recommendations to charge some aspects to better suit the New Zealand property market. The NZGBC has accepted our suggestions and we understand these amendments will feature in NZGBC’s next updated GSPT. 

So it’s quite a reciprocal working relationship for you.

It has been. I think we’re working to round it out and make it work for, hopefully, other New Zealand companies that decide to adopt the tool.

In terms of the New Zealand government’s goal of being carbon neutral by 2050, does using the Green Star Performance Tool give businesses a formal plan to achieve that?

We’re at the starting point where lots of individuals and companies are waking up to the fact that we need to do something in terms of the environment. I’m not saying that the GSPT is the only answer, but it’s certainly part of the journey, and helped us refocus our thinking. We were already doing sustainable work anyway, but it has framed where we are going. We are all in this together and if we can reduce our environmental footprint, that’s a good thing.