Silence on this blog typically means that things are a little hectic. Which they were, especially at the beginning of the year. Together with the now-expanded GRESB team (we just hired a new Head of Sustainability), housed in a spanking new office, I've worked hard to prepare the 2013 GRESB Survey. The online Portal is revamped (no more IT problems, I hope), the Survey has been optimized and further verification elements have been added, and all will be online on April 1 (until July 1). We expect an even higher number of property companies and funds disclosing their sustainability efforts this year, with some large investors joining the ranks (watch the GRESB website for some exciting announcements during the next weeks).
There is great traction in the commercial property market for energy efficiency and sustainability benchmarking. That leads to more players coming on the scene, which confuses the market. LEED, BREEAM, Energy Star, EPCs, DECs, NABERS, Green Star. Lots of labels, lots of stars. And as if there was not enough, there are also asset-level benchmarking initiatives by non-profits, such as the Green Rating Alliance and Greenprint (recently gobbled up by ever-hungry ULI), and for-profits, such as the International Sustainability Alliance. There are certainly differences between the three: GRA (a GRESB partner) also does physical building inspections, ISA is linked to BREEAM In-Use, and Greenprint has some footprint outside of the U.S. And there is are differences with some of the existing "ratings," such as Energy Star. Matthew Tippett of Upstream (a JLL outfit) in London has done a nice job of mapping the field in a couple of sheets, presented recently at the 40 Percent Symposium. Credits to him, but here is an overview:
As all of this takes place in the free market, technology start-ups start to smell profits as well. Being in the heart of the Bay Area, I often have the great privilege of listening to pitches. Some of those companies are not around very long, and I think we'll see more of a shaeout soon. But...there are some very promising companies. This week I was at Lucid, previously known for their building dashboard (showing how much a building consumes, renewable energy generated, etc). They've now transformed themselves into an online dashboard, "BuildingOS," with easy ways to collect building data directly from utilties. As soon as they have enough data, it's basically the perfect asset-level benchmark for real estate investment managers. Check this, quite funny teaser:
Last month also brought the news that BuildingIQ, the company that provides unique building optimization software, raised $9mln from a consortium of VCs and big ESCOs. Check the press release. I might be biased, but I'm bullish on "smart buildings," that are not just one-way connected to the grid, but can also respond to signals. Very important, given the peak load that we'll increasingly have to deal with. And yes, I'm convinced that technology can do a better job than building managers, as much as I like human capital.