As acknowledged in the UK Green Building Council’s new report on energy performance targets for commercial offices, all sectors of the economy must rapidly decarbonise by 2050 to achieve the Paris Climate Agreement and meet the UK’s net zero emissions target. For the commercial office sector this is thought to translate to an average 60% reduction in energy usage by that date.

The impetus required to achieve such reductions is likely to come from two sources, from investor/consumer demand and from government intervention. In terms of the former of these, the appetite for green credentials from both investors and occupiers is already having an effect, however the impact is mostly at the top end of the market and government support is needed to promote and increase the speed of change in all parts of the sector.

Such support could come in the form of incentives offered to the industry, but more likely is a tightening of regulations to drive the pace of change. The government's consultation on the future trajectory of minimum energy efficiency standards closed earlier this month, and whilst the results of that are still awaited it is worth noting that the government's preferred option was to increase the minimum energy efficiency standard for rented commercial premises from the current band E to band B by 2030. The government has also promised to consult this year on introducing mandatory in-use energy performance ratings (as opposed to the current asset ratings) for business buildings. This acknowledges that the quality of the building is only half the story in terms of energy efficiency, and the way the building is used and operated also needs to be reviewed to achieve maximum efficiency savings.

As climate change continues to move up the political and world agenda the drivers for change within the industry seem certain only to grow, and this new report provides a timely reminder of the challenge ahead.