As building surveyors and project managers we spend every day fitting out offices and other commercial premises.
Our work continues at pace. Now that flexible working has been embraced there is a substantial move to downsizing and creating offices which are the most appealing for today’s workers.
Each company will wish to achieve its own standards to reflect its company’s image and to retain the best staff.
The tragedy of what we do is each time we install offices, kitchens, computer suites, meeting rooms and stores they are in every inevitability bespoke for the occupier.
The fact is nearly always, nothing of what is installed for one occupier is likely to be of benefit to any future occupiers.
Huge strides have been taken in terms of recycling of building materials but nevertheless great swathes of materials still end up in landfill.
As always there are exceptions. Those that tread lightly on buildings by making minimum interventions in terms of installing partitions and bespoke interiors do exist. However, for many professions elaborate fitting out remains a norm.
Even when dealing with new buildings it is extraordinarily difficult to make them entirely flexible. For example, how likely is it that when fitting out that air conditioning systems will not require some degree of alteration or relocation.
As it has always been, some of the real issue here remains that lawyers have no interest or motivation to consider amending lease clauses.
There is no incentive to really think through the green consequences of what a new tenant is likely to do to the property and how the sustainability of their fit out might be affected.
Nothing has changed around clauses to reinstate, repair and redecorate which might have an impact on the materials that are used or their subsequent abandonment.
It is also the case that in most cases meeting the client’s needs is without fail the first priority before, for example, the fact that recycled materials could be used or whether or not that reception desk might be capable of use again and again.
At the core of this there is some basic principles:
- Are materials recyclable and can they be dismantled and reused again?
- Are the materials that we are using from the most sustainable sources?
- Are the interventions we are taking as minimal as possible under the circumstances and are they likely to be of benefit to future tenants.
- What is our overall green footprint in terms of sourcing materials?
- Do we meet the highest sustainability criteria? (BREEAM, etc)
Somewhat surprisingly I take the view that the way building surveyors can have the most impact on green dilapidations is if we are much more engaged with the process regarding the humble Licence to Alter.
Traditionally, licences for alterations have been low key affairs where the focus for the majority of owners is to ensure that the Tenants’ works do not have any substantial impact on the ongoing value of the building. In the majority of cases Landlords are quite happy for the Tenants to do what they want to do as they do not want to put perceived barriers in Tenants’ ways.
I would argue that competent Landlords need to take a more interventionist view at this stage.
Instead of just nodding through Tenants’ alterations subject to them causing no undue structural damage a more cooperative and engaged approach should be considered so that both landlords and Tenants at this point in the process can seek to achieve much better mutual goals so far as sustainability is concerned.
We have seen many forward thinking clients taking steps in this regard. However, this is still somewhat light touch particularly so with regards to existing stock.
Much more could be achieved with the imposition of more rigid fitting out guidance which sought to ensure that sustainable materials were used, that where possible elements of the fitting out might be retained at lease end, and that where recycling can be achieved on materials at the end of their useful life this is done.
Whilst we are all used to constructing new buildings to the best possible BREEAM standards where the focus is currently lost, I believe is with regard to older buildings and their subsequent refitting.
I would say that as building surveyors we should take a more engaged and active role in focussing on sustainability issues of fitting out licences for alterations if we are to avoid the ongoing sight of endless skips of unwanted fitting out materials being removed from office buildings.
If you wish to discuss a project with Roger, you can do so by calling 07775 944662 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org .