For anybody in the commercial property game, being seen to be focused and active on environmental sustainability issues is a must.
Privately owned real estate company, Investa Property Group, was one of the first companies to set clear performance targets in 2003 for the buildings it owned and managed around energy, water and waste.
This year, with the goal of providing greater transparency on how it performs, the company released its annual sustainability report in an interactive ‘data visualisation’ format.
It’s a major move away from standard performance reporting detailing consolidated figures only. The online platform enables stakeholders to generate their own insights and form their own judgments about Investa’s performance managing commercial office buildings, said Investa sustainability, safety and environment general manager, Craig Roussac.
“The report includes seven years of detailed data collected on everything from energy consumption and water use through to recycling and tenant complaints, published in a dynamic, interactive data visualisation format,” Roussac said.
Before Investa was bought with funds managed by Morgan Stanley Real Estate in September 2007, it was rated number one on the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index. Now, it is one of the largest unlisted owners of commercial real estate in Australia, controlling about $7.9 billion worth of real estate.
It is the company behind the $225 million Ark building in North Sydney, the new home of Coca-Cola Amatil and Vodafone Hutchison Australia. The A-grade building has been awarded a 6 Star Green Star Office Design rating.
The moment that sparked presenting the report in a data visualisation format came during a lecture Roussac attended as part of his Masters course. “You don’t get an idea of how an asset is performing by looking at a consolidated report,” he said. “There is nowhere to hide with data visualisation; the data shows the real results. We wondered which databases of information we could look at at Investa and if there was a relationship between other types of data.”
One of the key insights preloaded into the Sustainability Report, for example, compares comfort and electricity. The comfort data comes from Investa’s complaints database, which is managed independently, and the electricity data comes from the payment systems.
“We decided to compare the two and found as energy use goes down, complaints also go down. The working hypothesis is that the more energy efficient the building is, as a consequence of systems not breaking down, complaints also seem to go down.”
The organisation hired two University of Sydney undergraduate students over a summer period to build an applet to integrate the report. “Currently we export all the values into a common database manually but plan to automate the process. We are transferring the data on a monthly time interval but a lot of the databases are in real-time, so there is potential to feed automatically and drill down.” Roussac admitted there was a “fair amount of heartache” involved in putting the report together. The grand plan, he said, is to automate the system from a data warehouse. He is, however, conscience about having the correct specifications for the data warehouse worked out before it is built.
Visualisation gives life to green buildings
The Investa Sustainability Institute is behind a data visualisation portal called Green Buildings Alive, due for launch in August. Developed as a ‘living lab’, the Green Buildings Alive portal will provide interested groups with access to information about buildings and the environment at Green Buildings Alive website portal.
Roussac said Investa would put its own data onto the portal and keep it up to date.
“The other side of the site is that it will include a discussion forum looking at visualisation and a blog around building performance issues.
“We are encouraging other organisations, such as schools, with building data to share their data,” Roussac said.