Your Envelope: The Next Energy Edge?

Bob Best



Posted by:
Bob Best
Energy and Sustainability Services

Buildings are all trying to cut energy consumption through smart control system, more efficient equipment, lighting strategies and operating procedures.

But, most buildings are over-looking a potential energy edge … the building envelope.

According to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, “The building envelope – walls, roofs, windows and skylights – is responsible for about 25% of all building energy use.”

Most building managers shudder (pardon the pun) at attacking the envelope because they think all solutions involved big dollars, like a new roof or window caulking.

Maybe not.

Building envelop technology is one of the most promising frontiers in the commercial building industry.  Heat scans, infra-red reading and even building fly-overs that can quickly pinpoint problems are getting more traction.  They may even save you money by helping to avoid major expenditures that are not necessary.

When you are looking for ways to save energy, check out your envelope.  It might be the energy edge you’re looking for.

The Primacy of Economics




Posted by:
James Edney
Consultant- Upstream Sustainability Services


The economic imperative of modern society has made climate change a taboo even for sustainability consultants.

That is a deliberately provocative statement but raises an important area of concern that affects many people that work in sustainability. We spend so much time couching our advice in a cost-saving context, one wonders what the place of climate change is in the field of sustainability?

Rarely does a compelling sustainability statement not end with ‘this will save you £’; other common endings address reputational or legislative risk and market differentiation. But how often is the motivation or the outcome ‘this will help stop climate change’?

A stigma still surrounds sustainability professionals and we each work hard to use a business language, understand the economic pressures our clients operates under, and avoid being pictured with flowers in our hair. Whilst we may accept those things as part of the job, in my experience, using the phrase ‘climate change’ is often seen as taboo.

Is framing sustainability advice in a predominantly financial context a bad thing? Does it limit people’s will to act? Should we be grateful that people and businesses are acting at all? Should explicit ‘climate change’ language be reserved for the lexicon of environmental campaigners and scientists?

Those are not questions that keep me up at night, but they do bother me throughout the day.

In private we talk of a bold future, of radical change and societal transformation but in the workplace and the marketplace we tone it down until any notion of a changing climate is almost imperceptible.

The word ‘sustainability’ is increasingly being discarded and the reasons for doing so are valid, it encapsulates so much and means so little in itself that the time is ripe for change.

One wonders if the time has finally come for climate change to emerge from the shadow of sustainability.

Stranded Carbon Assets: A Change Towards a Low Carbon Economy



Posted by:
Sebastian Ljungwaldh
Sustainability Services EMEA

In late September 2013, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published its first report (of three) to assess the impacts of climate change and global warming. The IPCC concluded that fossil fuels are behind the majority of the increase in CO₂ concentrations since the industrial revolution and is due mostly to human activities.

To avoid going beyond a two degree Celsius increase relative to pre-Industrial levels the world cannot afford to release more than the touted amount of around 560Gt CO₂. If we are to prevent extreme weather events, rising oceans and changes in regional climates from happening, the global community has recognised that it will need to take drastic action on every level. However, some areas have shown to be of greater concern than others.

In light of this, the Carbon Tracker Initiative (CTI), a non-profit organisation, brought the concept of stranded carbon assets to the fore. The CTI scrutinises fossil fuel reserves held by publicly listed companies globally and challenges the communicated value associated with those hydrocarbon assets.

Interestingly, in one of their reports ‘Unburnable Carbon – Are the world’s financial markets carrying a carbon bubble?’ they estimate that if all proven oil, gas and coal reserves were exploited, five-times the carbon budget (an alarming 2,795Gt CO₂) would be released into the atmosphere – a future scenario that not even the climate scientists really understand the full scale of.

Nonetheless this leaves approximately 80% of these assets technically unburnable, and therefore will need to remain in the ground. These assets have become known as stranded carbon assets.

In the current situation, those oil, gas and coal companies who explore and exploit these reserves, are funded largely by institutional investors. This relationship has proven a loyal one over decades and rebalancing behaviours will be needed to drive change and incorporate a sustainable approach across investors’ portfolios. However, without clear regulatory pressures or economic opportunity, the majority of institutional funds are unlikely to divest in historically rewarding sectors such as coal or oil. And why would they? Since the economic downturn in 2008 oil and gas stocks globally have performed favourably as a sector, making them difficult to ignore.

Despite this, some awareness and action in addressing the risk that stranded carbon assets hold can already be seen. The idea of a carbon bubble has pricked up the ears of investors with evidence that this emerging concept has also stimulated a rise in demand of information from investors. A group of 70 global investors who manage more than $3 trillion wrote to 45 of some of the world’s largest oil and gas companies to demand and request what the financial impact this could have on their businesses.

Pension funds, which typically have long-term investment horizons, are seriously either weighing up their hydrocarbon investments or have already diversified their portfolio to reflect lower carbon risk exposure over the long term. Storebrand, a Norwegian pension fund, has already divested thirteen coal- and six oil companies from their portfolios. One of their key asset managers was quoted as saying “In my view, the largest gamble is to do nothing”.

Whether or not global leaders come to settle a binding agreement at the annual climate summit in Paris in late 2015, a shift to a low-carbon economy model will be needed to avoid dangerous climate change and to even give a fighting chance of staying within the carbon budget.

Oil, coal and gas stocks are currently a mainstay for most funds. Nevertheless, diversifying and divesting, in selecting strategies that align with the low-carbon economy model, or even starting to view the impacts of carbon risks across portfolios, provide a healthier long-term outlook. Not only are some of the emerging opportunities becoming more attractive by holding comparatively lower risk in the long term, but also becoming an equally viable alternative investment. The business case of investing into energy efficiency in buildings and renewable energy already exists.

More public disclosure will not, by itself, mitigate investment into stranded carbon assets, but by exposing systemic risks to investor scrutiny will help investors make better informed decisions in the long-term.

If we started to see institutional funds like Storebrand not only divest from stranded carbon assets, but reallocate large amounts of capital in low carbon investments, it could have a significant impact on the needed change towards a sustainable and low carbon economy.

Productivity and Sustainability




Posted by:
Carey Guerin
Sustainability University

This month’s Sustainability Session here at JLL was quite informative and inspiring. ESS Operations Manager, Simone Skopek shared great overview about productivity and how it relates to greening the workplace. The take-away is that greening the workplace should also include a review of employee health, comfort and well-being.

Research has shown that not all green offices increase productivity. For example, efforts to reduce the space that needs to heated, cooled and lit can save energy but can result in over-crowding or poor acoustics. This means that green building measures need to be balanced with productivity issues.

A smart approach is to look holistically at the office environment and the outcomes desired and implement a good balance of measures that address both productivity and sustainability.

One aspect that stood out to me was her review of acoustics. Acoustics in an environment usually stand out only when they are very bad or very good for the task at hand. Noise pollution is a phrase not everyone is familiar with, but as our world becomes increasingly populated and urbanized, you’ll be hearing more about this (pun intended). Simone shared studies that show conservative productivity improvements of 6% or more from various studies on improved acoustics. When you reduce distracting noise, this improves quality of work output in terms of accuracy, concentration, memory tasks and other factors that relate to productivity. While it’s not always possible to replicate the results of studies, nevertheless, even if a company can get just a 1% increase in productivity, the project is worth looking into.

The take-away is that organizations that wish to green their offices should also include a review of measures to improve employee wellness, thereby making their workplace not only green but also more productive.

Big Data and Smart City Consortia

Jiri Skopek


Posted by:
Jiri Skopek
Energy and Sustainability


As 21 century cities provide a fertile market for the corporate sector,  there will be a race for large companies to stake their position. This is taking place through their participation in consortia with large universities and city administrations. One of the largest of such partnerships is the AMS (Amsterdam Institute for Advance Metropolitan Solution), which includes industry heavies such as CISCO, Accenture and IBM,  the City of Amsterdam, MIT and other universities. Their common objective is to engineer solutions to urban challenges such as food security, mobility and logistics, energy, water and waste management and public health.

In a smart city consortium, city administration, academia and big business each have a role: The city administration provides big data; academia  analyzes the data; and big business pays for the big data to be analyzed and then uses the data to sell its goods and services to the city administration. This is a win-win strategy where everybody benefits.

Smart City Consortia may provide a powerful business approach to solving the world’s urban challenges. However such top down solutions will not be successful without a grass root acceptance. Grass root, bottom-up, community approach may better priories what solutions are more appropriate in  particular locations or  situations.  The combination of the two approaches may provide a hope for the stricken planet.