Tackle the Climate Crisis by Tackling the Data Crisis!

Our industry is engaged in an important dialogue to improve sustainability through ESG transparency and industry collaboration. This article is a contribution to this larger conversation and does not necessarily reflect GRESB’s position. Please refer to official GRESB documents for assessment related guidance.

When we support our clients in their GRESB reporting season, it becomes clear time and again that data availability and quality are often a challenge. Despite the increased use of software solutions, the situation has not changed much.

It is usually extremely difficult for the owners to get data from their tenants, and often, meters are read irregularly, or there is no one responsible for collecting the data. Going the other way and asking the network operator is just as time-consuming, can become expensive, and is not possible across all countries. Smart meters, which would make access to the data more manageable, are rarely available and data only accessible for the landlord-controlled areas of a building. On top of that, where data is collected, it cannot be adequately checked and plausibility verified.

Thus, data coverage remains a source of frustration throughout the GRESB submittal season, and the development of a proper data collection process from the bottom-up offers vast improvement potential.

COVID has disrupted existing processes

This year we have seen COVID complicate the situation to some extent. Due to restricted accessibility, specialist staff were rarely on-site. Therefore turn-around times for queries were impacted, and calling tenants and property managers became way more necessary than in previous years.

Of course, COVID also had a considerable influence on consumption, especially in office buildings and retail. A drop in end energy and especially water (30% sometimes even up to 50% compared to the previous year) could be observed for almost all asset classes.

The reduction could not always be attributed entirely to the lower utilization of the buildings. Could it also be due to technical circumstances? Or was it both? Added to this was that different operation modes of the assets made it challenging to identify the real reasons for data outliers.

What drives data quality?

So, it is pretty clear that getting high-quality data and high data availability is really important.

Here are some tips which helped our clients to improve their data quality.

  • Get everyone involved early, or you will be dealing with coverage instead of quality up to the last day of submittal.
  • Ensure property and asset managers know their role early on; they are an important piece of the puzzle.
  • Software or no software? A software solution can contribute to better data quality, but just having/using software does not make your data accurate, especially when data collection is done manually and then transferred into the software by a third party. This can end up being a bottleneck rather than a game-changer for data quality. According to software developers, solutions like automated data collection through smart meters, connections to energy supplier portals or building management systems, and/or digital invoice readings exist. Still, they are not always applied in the field. 
  • It always comes down to the people providing the raw data (property & asset managers) and how much they can be challenged on data quality. Instead of measuring their performance based on benchmarks and historical data, they should get feedback when they deliver the data. Advanced software can become a game-changer here. Our experience shows that the more feedback they get right at the point of data entry, the better the overall data quality.

The end of the GRESB season is simply the start of the next.

Even though we can now take a breather for a moment until the next GRESB season, we should already be starting to think about the next season:

  • To continuously ensure high data quality, the topic should not only be highly relevant within the GRESB season. On the contrary, we should make data management an ongoing, year-round activity.
  • Working together with the experts from asset and portfolio management and the staff on-site is essential. Now is the time to get everyone engaged and provide instant feedback on data inputs. That helps property and asset managers to develop their feeling whether or not their data entry is in a reasonable range.
  • The amount of data is increasing. Therefore, big scaling of automated data feeds into software solutions will be even more necessary in the upcoming years. Sure, this will not necessarily solve today’s problems but helps to improve data quality as a mid-term target.
  • Applying this process will ultimately lead to more efficient buildings because poor-performing assets are identified earlier than today. Thus, improvement potentials can be budgeted and implemented earlier.
  • Good data management goes beyond the question of coverage. Availability is the first step, which could start a continual improvement process. Discussing and analyzing the given data should then be the second. Those findings will then stimulate earlier actions for poor-performing assets and eventually lead to reductions in energy use. That is what makes tenants happy, reduces CO2 emissions, tackles the climate crisis, and then saves the planet. 

Sounds perfectly easy, doesn’t it?

Need help to implement a data management process in your company? We are happy to help. Just give us a call on +49 (0) 30 403 658 50 or send an email to [email protected].

We are looking forward to hearing from you.

This article was written by Ingemar Hunold, a Partner at EnviroSustain

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