Syntrus Achmea on step-by-step sustainability and its portfolio

Carry out a survey of the energy efficiency of 1300 shopping units in only one year.

A challenge that one of the largest property investment companies in the Netherlands, Syntrus Achmea Real Estate & Finance, decided to take on. The objective: to gain insight, in a relatively short space of time, into the sustainability of their entire commercial property portfolio. While working with the SGS Search Engineers firm, the idea was suggested of making their insights available not just to investors but to others as well. As a result both Syntrus Achmea and those renting their properties were able to profit from a relatively simple energy measuring exercise.

The case: Energy labelling of all the shopping units in the Syntrus Achmea portfolio

Research: Duolabel (energy label with tailor-made advice for owner and lessee)

Measurement of: More than 1300 shopping units

Result: Official energy labels (duolabel) for all of the shopping units with tailor-made advice

‘Let’s start simple: that was our approach,’ that, according to Bart van Dongen, technical manager Commercial investments, was the idea behind the energy labels. Property investors tend to concentrate on the sustainability of existing property. That, he says, is where the greatest progress can be made in reducing energy- consumption. They employ a very practical approach in doing this, according to Van Dongen. ‘Our vision is sustainable, but how we go about it is subject to outside influences, such as the themes that are relevant at the time. That is why you have to continuously fine tune your approach.’

Feasibility also had a role to play in the choice to start with energy labels. ‘With so many different locations in our portfolio, it is impossible to achieve a GPR label in a day, never mind BREEAM,’ Van Dongen explains. What they could do? Give themselves a year to achieve all the energy labels. That is a fair indication of how things work in the commercial property sector with regard to sustainability. ‘For us, the energy label is the cornerstone for all other labels and certifications. Once that position is established it is easier to scale up to a more all-round sustainability label like GPR. It also gives property managers the chance to get used to sustainability and to get their files in order.’

By working together intensively a new kind of energy label was born: the duolabel. A supplementation of the official energy label with separate advice for lessor and lessee. After all, when it comes to the sustainability of a building, both parties are involved. In the case of commercial property, the owner of the building is responsible for the actual building itself; the lessor for the layout and design. Together with SGS Search, Syntrus Achmea was able to find an excellent way of helping those renting out properties in all of this.

‘The energy labels offer tangible advice on how to approach sustainability. The duolabel provided us with a good base upon which to build discussions with our lessors: together we can take giant leaps in making our properties more sustainable,’ explains Van Dongen. ‘A duolabel worked excellently as a catalyst for making their shop as energy efficient as possible.’

What challenges does Bart van Dongen see in the future? In addition to getting the lessees involved, he also sees an opportunity for involving those who actually build and install the shop interiors. ‘In the case of retail specifically, this interior design work is extremely important. That’s an area we need to work on.’ And so it seems that ‘let’s start simple’ is the beginning of something much bigger: sustainable property covering various themes and achieved with the cooperation of all involved.