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Green Dilapidations: more sustainable commercial property leases

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Commercial building owners and occupiers are increasingly looking to fulfil their net zero carbon ambitions with measures beyond more sustainable development and energy performance practices. In particular, the current property leasing cycle and non-sustainable dilapidations processes are generating quantities of waste and carbon, which can be mitigated with a more sustainable approach: Green Dilapidations.

TFT’s Green Dilapidations services are designed to help clients reduce the additional material, resources and cost associated with repeatedly fitting out and stripping out commercial property spaces over their lifetime. Taking a long-term view of tenancy, occupier and market requirements, we help our clients benefit from a more efficient, sustainable dilapidations process for both landlord and tenant.

Our support is rooted in facilitating better collaboration between stakeholders. That means the landlord and tenant of course, but also agents and the wider supply chain. Our sustainable building knowledge, commercial understanding and dilapidations expertise helps to formalise a better system as a whole.

We see a greater appetite from our landlord and tenant clients to adopt Green Dilapidations services. A notable occupier client is one of the leading property litigation practices, who we are helping to exit their existing offices in this way. Our recent seminar on green dilapidations in June was well attended by a cross-section of the industry, showing the breadth of interest for specialist advice on the subject.

It’s not just for offices either, and can be used for retail, industrial and other commercial property sectors.

We’re here to help you do dilapidations in a better way. Get in touch with Jon Rowling to discuss how our dilapidations and sustainability expertise can help reduce the carbon impacts of your property lifecycle.

Download our brief service outline here.

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TFT joins UKGBC Commercial Retrofit Task Group

With COP26 set for November 2021, a focal point for the conference will be the environmental impact of the built environment on our Paris Agreement targets for limiting global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels.

The biggest question currently facing our industry is how do we reduce the built environment’s contribution of 39% of annual carbon emissions, and 36% of global energy consumption? The World Green Building Council (GBC) is tasking ten European GBCs, including the UKGBC, to answer this question with national roadmaps for decarbonising their respective built environment industries.

Ollie Morris, Senior Associate, Sustainability, has been selected to join this effort, focussing on decarbonising commercial real estate retrofit projects. Ollie will work with a group of other industry leaders to chart a course to drive down the carbon impacts of the sector.

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The UKGBC Roadmap will consist of two key components:

  • Carbon trajectory: A 1.5° aligned science-based trajectory for reducing built environment emissions that includes targets for relevant sub-sectors.
  • Report: A comprehensive report setting out the actions, policies and processes needed to manage the net zero transition in the built environment and achieve the trajectory targets, designed to complement the sector-specific roadmaps already in progress and ensure consistency between them.

What is the scope of the Commercial Retrofit Task Group?

The group’s task is to specify the decarbonisation implications of retrofit projects in commercial property and developing a timeline of solutions to bring them in to reality. This trajectory of carbon reduction targets and actions will contribute to understanding all the actions required across the lifecycle of the built environment in the UK. Furthermore, it will secure the support of relevant industry actors in delivering decarbonisation.

Specifically, the Commercial Retrofit task group will focus on three key areas of buildings’ carbon impacts:

  • Embodied carbon: reducing carbon emissions as a result of building construction, refurbishment and maintenance works
  • Operational carbon: reducing carbon emitted to heat, cool and ventilate buildings, as well as from lighting and hot water facilities
  • In-use carbon: reducing all emissions from services used in the course of a building’s daily operation, such as: lifts, IT systems, small power and plug loads

What comes next?

Ollie, along with the wider group will work on reviewing and updating the 2013 Low Carbon Route-Map produced by the GCB, considering the above factors against a 1.5 degree scenario.

Their recommendations will be formalised into a full report, which UKGBC will issue to the industry in a consultation this June/July, to capture a wider set of professional perspectives before presenting the findings at COP26 in Glasgow.

Find out more about sustainability at TFT.

Virtual building surveys: 6 things you need to know

Virtual Building Survey

High quality visualisations produced by virtual building surveys are a powerful tool for investors, occupiers and other project stakeholders. We use them to save time when reviewing multiple buildings’ worth of information, or to communicate complex issues to non-technical specialists.

Here, we highlight the potential and limitations of the technology.

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Virtual building surveys can have many applications across a building portfolio and construction projects. For instance, Technical Due Diligence (TDD), Dilapidations, Neighbourly Matters, Rights of Light and Project Management can all be enhanced by virtual surveying capabilities.

If you’ve never seen the output of a virtual survey before, we’ve mocked one up using our Bristol office. Give it a try by clicking here. 

For all its uses and increasing market familiarity with the technology, the simple facts can be unclear.

Who needs it? How does it work? And is the cost worth it?

As with all innovation, we want to help our clients understand where technology can be leveraged across the building lifecycle – and where its limits lie!

Here are six things you need to know about virtual surveying:

1. Virtual surveys can save time and money

The great advantage of virtual surveying is the speed of information sharing. When investors, lawyers, asset managers and other stakeholders are required to visit sites and inspect details in person, the time and financial costs can mount.

Our high-quality visualisations are delivered along with a surveyor’s report within days of an inspection, providing all the necessary information for decisions to be made more swiftly.

2. Virtual surveys are easy to access and navigate

The surveyor completes the imaging process as part of their complete physical survey. Then the client receives a link to access the visualisation within a matter of days. That can be opened on any device from anywhere with an internet connection, with relatively little data load as the visualisation is hosted remotely. The experience is just like Google Street View – simple, flexible and highly informative.

3. Production is cost-effective and scalable

Imaging costs are a fraction of your building surveying fees, and these scale based on time spent taking the images. These aren’t tied to cost per square foot, but factors such as quantity of buildings or large, complex sites will take more time to photograph.

These rates are easily offset by savings on the resource required for investor clients, asset managers, project teams or lawyers to travel to the site physically. The larger the set of stakeholders who will be involved in seeing the building or acting on some aspect of the investigation, the more effective that small investment will be.

4. Virtual surveys reduce the need for (and risks of) travel

We face a long period of uncertainty about international travel and even some domestic trips might be disrupted in the event of local lockdowns. Virtual surveys can help off-set the risks of travel disruption for building transactions or other time-sensitive projects by relaying information quickly and accurately.

5. They can contribute to a powerful building record

Recording the building layout, fit-out and condition accurately can enhance Schedules of Condition reports. With a detailed visualisation and the surveyors’ report, occupiers and landlords can be certain of the state of a property at lease start and have a clear comparison with its condition at lease end.

Comparing a more up to date inspection to these previously recorded visualisations could make the dilapidations process more clear-cut for all parties.

6. There is no replacement for a full physical survey

The biggest misconception of virtual surveying is that surveyors or clients can make decisions solely from the visualisations it produces. This is not the case because physical investigation is a major component of any thorough survey.

For instance, we may need to scrape off paint to understand the material beneath it, take core samples of cladding or open up plant machinery to see its condition. Technology is some way off delivering that level of insight, and historic visualisations can miss out on recent unauthorised works, material deterioration and other deviations in the building.

Get in touch

Would you like to discuss the possibilities for virtual surveying across your portfolio? We’re happy to share our experiences and insights with you to understand how the technology could help you.

Contact Seth Love-Jones to find out more. 

What issues face the Building Safety Fund (BSF) and its recipients?

The Building Safety Fund is set up to support the replacement of unsafe cladding

The government has announced an additional £3.5 billion extension to its Building Safety Fund. This provides additional support to rectify cladding on at-risk buildings over 18m tall. Many have pointed out that a key issue with the fund is that it won’t address the full range of fire safety issues in buildings. But is the funding enough to address unsafe cladding?

Based on TFT’s ongoing work supporting applications for these funds for building owners and developers, market forces pose a risk to an overall programme of re-cladding. Achieving swift and effective improvements to at-risk buildings may require additional funding and extended deadlines.

The Building Safety Fund is set up to support the replacement of unsafe cladding

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TFT’s project management specialists help mitigate our clients’ exposure to supply chain risks. However, fundamental supply issues will nonetheless lead to increased costs and timings for all involved with re-cladding buildings. In a worst case scenario this could lead some to compromise on the quality of the remedial work.

TFT currently provides project management and quantity surveying services covering 35 high rise buildings across the UK, supporting applications for the BSF grant fund. Our role is to manage a programme that fulfils the safety needs of each building, while also managing costs and timelines. The capital expenditure for TFT’s programme portfolio is over £100m.

Whilst the additional funding is welcome for the extensive scope of works required to make these buildings safe, the below issues give cause for concern:

Supply chain capacity: fire engineering services and cladding material

These works require specialist services, engineering advice and construction works. We have found increasing demand for key services over the last six months, including specialist fire engineering advice, façade engineering advice as well as construction services. This creates a bottle-neck in the market.

The result is that suppliers are challenged to deliver fully and to preferred deadlines. Pricing for these services is rising as one would expect in a market-place where demand outpaces supply, well beyond those which have been benchmarked over a year ago.

Material suppliers are also squeezed. There is limited stock of suitable insulation materials which have similar thermal properties, at the same physical thickness and which have a suitable fire rating. The limited availability of these materials is limited and there may be a lag while the market adjusts and increases the supply of these specialist materials. Otherwise, there are further issues around how buildings may be re-designed and detailed with thicker external walls.

The scale of the problem is becoming more fully understood as leaseholders and freeholders undertake investigations of their high risk buildings and understand the remediation solutions. There is a real risk of these costs spinning out of control and this additional funding again being insufficient.

How TFT manages demand

Our teams work together to manage market demand and avoid creating bottle-necks in resource or specialist service supply chains.

A collaborative online programme management approach allows us to share data between projects and balance the supply chain and demand, ensuring that no contractor or supplier is overburdened. We do this using online project management tools and data collection to ensure our analysis can be undertaken in real time and provide clients and the project teams access to all this information, as required.

While these measures help to manage TFT’s impact on suppliers, the wider market effects are still significant and will put pressure on all parties in the future.

Costs and priorities of fund allocation

As well as managing these escalating costs, building owners must be able to support a full and proper application for grant funding or risk rejection. Thousands of applications have already been turned down.

Whilst pre-tender support is available, there may be delays in commencing projects whilst this support is applied for and received. If building owners and leaseholders have forward funded these initial design and investigation costs, it’s not clear that they would get this money back in the event of a rejected application. There are significant costs just to gather the information to secure funding and meet the funding deadlines. This will challenge all but very large developers or funds to support the works.

In addition, it’s not clear how the fund prioritises funding and how the highest risk buildings are categorised. The current terms suggest a first-come-first-served system. More clarity on the priorities assigned to tall blocks, or those with limited fire protections, would be useful for applicants and for wider public information.

Using data and building records to avoid a repeat scenario

Once the funds are secured and supply chain issues navigated, the last thing building owners and residents will want is to repeat the process years down the line. Quality control on how the works will be monitored and certified as complete will be of the utmost importance.

In addition, we must ensure accurate record-keeping on the building and the works undertaken. This includes updating existing building operations and maintenance manuals. It may sound obvious, but in our investigations data on wall composition was inconsistent and leads to complications identifying risks and taking the right steps to fix these issues.

What should be done?

The process of removing and replacing cladding on at-risk buildings across the UK is a huge exercise for procurement and project management.

As project manager, TFT can mitigate clients’ exposure to market risks and the demands on specific supply chains. However, the government will need to consider additional costs and lengthened deadlines for all parties involved with re-cladding buildings, if there’s a risk that not doing so will lead to sub-standard work done this time, requiring additional improvements in the near future.

Sustainable value engineering: is it possible?

World Green Building Week

We’ve been thinking about how we can not only identify the goals and strategies for better climate impacts of development, but how we can act to achieve them. In particular, we’ve been examining the role of project managers and quantity surveyors to encourage improvement by design teams in an area that is often missed out on in climate talks: value engineering.

Carbon reduction in buildings has come a long way but we are still behind the curve compared to other industries. Why? Put simply, the willingness to pay for it is still lacking. Quantity surveyors control the purse strings and understand how funds can be spent wisely, but can we factor more sustainable decisions in to the process?


As part of multidisciplinary project teams, members collaborate to achieve a balance of several drivers whilst meeting the client’s brief.

Over the last year, over 1500 organisations comprising architects, engineers, contractors, consultants, and project managers have signed up to the ‘Declare’ movement[i], committing to undertake design and construction with significantly less carbon. This is a leap forward in terms of sustainable development intentions by a large portion of the built environment sector.

However, moving away from bolt on sustainability services towards integrated, holistic and sustainable system design requires a fundamental rethink of the design process. And yet one of the fundamental steps that the sector needs to take is to integrate three key gatekeepers of our build processes: project managers, quantity surveyors and the procurement chain.

“Value engineering is used to solve problems and identify and eliminate unwanted costs, whilst improving function and quality.”


Designing Buildings Wiki

Value engineering for good

In its best possible incarnation, value engineering can get the best out of a design. Some everyday examples of how value engineering can benefit the environment around us include:

  • Using a salvaged/reconditioned raised access floor system instead of installing a brand new one. 
  • Prolonging the life of well-maintained HVAC systems rather than automatically replacing them because the original systems have exceeded CIBSE life expectancy guidelines.
  • Using natural materials to replace more carbon intensive, mass produced materials such as PVC.
  • Designing out components – e.g. avoiding the use of mastic and sealants to waterproof joints.
  • Careful modelling of building performance in use to optimise plant size.

However, at its worst, value engineering could literally cost us the earth. The decisions designers and contractors make now must move us towards Net Zero and it is fundamentally important that those in control of budgets understand the impact of changes to an optimised low carbon design. A tight specification that integrates carbon is essential for good intentions not to be undermined by contractual ‘opportunities’.

Never has a good brief been more important

Clients need to lead in their requirements for moving towards Net Zero. Our respective Declare movements demand that we design and build in the right way. However, if the same goal isn’t shared by our clients, it is quite possible that whilst the value engineering process may satisfy increases in value for cost, programme and quality, the effect on climate and carbon isn’t quantified in the same way. 

So, how do we change our processes to achieve a sustainable built environment?

1. Baking and knitting skills – a Project Manager’s discipline

Firstly, project managers are responsible for a setting the tone and the ambition of the project, not to mention the considerable amount of “knitting” that has to happen between the different disciplines. Knowing that sustainability should be baked in from RIBA Stage 1, and not the last thing on the DTM agenda, or bringing in sustainability consultants purely for a planning submission, changes how sustainability is managed and considered throughout the design phase. Advocating to clients at RIBA Stage 0 for a sustainability process to be included can drastically change the project outcomes and value (Yes, even at RIBA Stage 0 there are issues that sustainability professionals can shed light on such as future proofing and circular economy!)

2. Carbon – a Quantity Surveyor’s dream

Secondly, the best Quantity Surveyors (QS) understand the balance of drivers that a design team works with and how best value is attained. Many of these drivers are qualitative and subjective. Carbon, on the other hand, is mostly quantitative* and is highly suited to being part of the QS domain. They measure what they can measure very well, and not what they can’t. Carbon needs to be another column on the QS cost plan.

*Using PAS 2080, EN 15978, the RICS Methodology and some LCA software

3. Procurement – a direct cost link we can’t ignore

Procurement is where the rubber meets the road in terms of carbon. Whether the years of low carbon design work and planning is seen through to the end of construction will be determined by how closely the procurement chain, which can be highly fragmented, follows the product and performance specification.

Designers and contractors need to bring the PM and QS communities and the procurement chain with us on the multiple sustainability narratives we are working through as a sector including: low carbon, whole life carbon and cost, and circular economy. Sustainability professionals understand how a value engineering tweak can significantly impact on these sustainability outcomes. QS professionals are well placed to understand how the desirable sustainability outcomes can impact on the other traditional client drivers. Striking that balance and finding our new normal is difficult but currently, the balance is still weighted towards cost and business directives.

Including these disciplines and specialists as part of a project’s objectives is critical to making sustainability not just a strategy, but a point of action.


[i] Construction Declares www.constructiondeclares.com covering Architects, Building Services, Civil Engineers, Contractors, Landscape Architects, Project Managers and Structural Engineers Declare pages.

Sustainable building services: 3 steps for building owners and managers

This post is adapted from an article written by Mat Lown, TFT Partner and Head of Sustainability, for the CIBSE blog. Mat spoke at CIBSE’s Build2Perform event about how building surveyors and engineers could deliver sustainable and resilient buildings by working with landlords and tenants to adopt a customer experience focus.

Sustainable building is often understood in material terms – from use in construction to energy efficiency in operation. But better management of building services can contribute significantly to a building’s resilience to future climate change as well as evolving requirements of occupiers.

How can building owners create more resilient assets?

There are three ways that property managers and facilities managers can overcome unsustainable practices. Standard practice currently splits responsibility and organises maintenance in silos, resulting in a disconnection between the work of surveyors, engineers, facility and property managers. Each of these points helps to overcome this barrier to building resilience and sustainable performance.

1. Use contracts and procurement to set sustainable building priorities

As with many procedures in the building industry, contract content, structure and mobilisation is critical. Current procurement practices tend to favour the lowest bidder that often under-prices the maintenance element, while maintenance contracts and contractor performance is monitored against statutory compliance alone.

This is a short-term approach for a building which could be in use for decades, subject to a great deal of change in that period. It also does not reflect increasing market demands in relation to building performance, sustainability and user experience.

Instead, a closer and more consultative relationship with contractors can result in a better long-term strategy and delivery of more sustainable and economical outcomes. To make this work, the building owner must be clear about specifying the right maintenance and performance measures at the outset, while also engaging with the contractors’ own expertise early on to assess overall viability.

By better understanding the condition of building plant and equipment, one can determine what repairs and maintenance are required to ensure optimal performance and a long service life. Then independent verification can ensure that maintenance is undertaken and that occupiers feel they are receiving value for money.

Understanding of system design and settings is essential to ensure that the building is operating as designed thanks to its maintenance regime. 

2. Combine surveying and engineering skills for sustainable building maintenance

Surveying and engineering roles don’t always overlap, but they should work in tandem. Join up the process to mitigate wastage of equipment and time for access, and to anticipate potential problems and save money on future repair or replacement works.

For instance, if an engineer is commissioned to replace equipment on the roof, allow a surveyor to access and inspect the entire roof area and recommend simultaneous works or identify developing issues.

Even if there are no additional works resulting, surveyors and engineers can be useful consultants for a building manager. While their language and viewpoints are different, surveyors’ understanding of service charges, leases and landlord obligations can put the engineers’ deep technical expertise into context and help owners prioritise and plan for more effective maintenance.

3. Maintain sustainable building services for user experience and occupier needs

Prospective occupants now view building performance not simply in terms of energy badges and due diligence reports. Instead, they consider how spaces will function for the comfort and performance of their users, the people within it. That functionality might change as occupiers spend time in a space and adapt it to their needs, so the role of maintenance becomes crucial to adapt and optimise performance of services rather than only to keep them functioning.

That requires regular and quality dialogue between those using the building and those maintaining and managing it. Surveys and measurement tools can provide metrics, while qualitative feedback by occupiers’ employees for instance can contextualise the experiences of individuals against what they use the space for, and how that might change.

Flexibility, wellbeing, and social value: three marks of the future office

TFT Partner Alistair Allison chaired the judging panel for the British Council of Offices’ recent South of England and Wales Awards. From a strong pool of entries, Ali and his fellow judges visited and reviewed a selection of the best offices from around the region, which stood out for their forward-thinking designs focused on the needs of occupiers. 

We asked Ali: what stood out from this year’s selection? And what can we expect from leading office designs in the future?

In my speech at the BCO Awards, I called out buzz-words like ‘sustainability’, ‘wellbeing’, ‘agile working’ and the like, which we’re all too familiar with but, thankfully, are becoming better understood as part of the client brief and design process, graduating from more superficial marketing claims.

Accordingly, I noticed that the best offices on the judges’ visits delivered tangible benefits through design, improving the experience of occupants and, therefore, the long-term prospects for owners.

While occupational density has remained consistent, design is making offices into places people want to be. Space is increasingly given over from the traditional office floor plate for specific activities, such as group working, hot-desking, concentration, relaxing or even yoga.

Perhaps it’s the rise of new developments, which dominated the entries this year, providing a ‘blank canvas’ for these design decisions. It’s an encouraging sign of a confident market; by comparison, the previous two years featured refurbished or recycled buildings in almost half of the entries. The fact that the ratio has changed this year is a result of where we are in the cycle, but nonetheless reassuring. If these new buildings are enabling the next generation of office development to flourish, I’m excited to see quality and occupant-centric design become more widespread across the sector.

We’re pleased to help our clients embrace these fundamentals too. 400 & 450 Longwater Avenue is a new office development in Green Park, Reading, targeting a WELL accreditation along with an ‘excellent’ BREEAM rating, assuring a high standard of wellbeing for its occupants alongside high sustainable credentials. When complete the scheme will offer a flexible, premium space which is set up for speculative occupiers with all kinds of requirements thanks to an easily-divisible floorplan, and these credentials provide further incentive for businesses which understand that wellbeing and sustainability in the workplace is becoming a minimum requirement for employees and customers alike.  

Longwater Avenue

But what sits beyond these badges or certifications?

One area which shows a great deal of potential for us is social value; the extent to which a place or space contributes positively to its neighbouring environment and community. It’s defined in different ways by different stakeholders, so risks becoming a nebulous and complex subject, but in terms of meeting the challenge of sustainable development it has huge potential. We foresee that as social value is more clearly defined, so occupiers and therefore owners will rank it more highly in their criteria for buildings – in much the same process as wellbeing is seen today, and that sustainability was once seen.

We are hugely excited by this opportunity, and worked with the UKGBC to produce a framework and guidance for the industry which formalises and clarifies the role of social value for a range of applications in the industry. 

In the coming years, I hope these steps will drive more interest in positive social impacts and that ‘the best of the best’ is seen increasingly in terms of what a building adds to the community within its walls and beyond – who knows, maybe we can skip the buzzword stage this time!