In June 2019 the government committed to reaching net-zero emissions of greenhouse gases by 2050. The government has also stated its ambition to halve direct emissions from the public sector by 2032 and by 75% by 2037. The size and coverage of the government estate provides a clear opportunity. The estate (including schools and hospitals) is made up of 136,000 built assets with an estimated value of £157.6bn. It also includes a significant volume of rural assets, including a high number of Sites of Special Scientific Interest.
This Government Property Sustainability Strategy supplements the Government Property Strategy and aims to provide a focused approach to sustainability within the government estate as it is made smaller, better and greener. It also sets out the key activities to assist departments in achieving the updated Greening Government Commitments. The strategy will be implemented via the Strategic Asset Management Plans of each department and Local Authority.
The 25 year Environmental Plan sets out a vision for this generation to be the first to leave the environment better than it had found it. The Sustainability Strategy sets out how the Government Property Function will contribute to the delivery of the 25 year plan by maximising the positive impact the built estate and natural assets can have, whilst contributing to economic growth.
Summary of the strategic workstreams set out in the strategy:
Net Zero-emissions – Key Points to Note
- Supportive literature is available to all stakeholders, such as the Net Zero Estate Playbook and the Carbon Trajectory Tool. There is also guidance available on the implementation of electric vehicle infrastructure.
- A Whole Life Carbon approach will be used alongside new standards for acquisitions/renewals.
- Cross-government data will be improved and used in urgent decarbonisation interventions.
- The potential for the generation of renewable energy generation will be maximised through the coordination and consistency of data collection and analysis.
- Carbon literacy to be improved with all staff involved within property.
Adaptation – Key Points to Note
- Outlines the priority concerns and remedial activity to be undertaken in advance of further guidance to come from the Department for the Environment and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) within the 3rd National Adaptation Programme.
- A key principle is to drive forward the adoption of passive design principles and nature-based solutions to the issues faced across the estate, specifically mitigating flood risk, countering urban heat and drought.
- Greater use of mapping and analysis will inform action.
- Guidance will be developed to maximise the installation of nature-based solutions such as green roofs and water capture across the estate.
Natural Capital – Key Points to Note
- Key principle of this strategy is to adopt Dasgupta’s approach to the value of nature – comes from the ‘Economics of Biodiversity’ published in February 2021. Also known as the ‘Dasgupta Review’, the report recommends that natural capital is increased and demand is reduced whilst supply is improved. In addition, it recommends economic success measures should account for our consumption of natural assets; and that institutions and processes are transformed to facilitate a necessary shift in behaviour.
- The strategy therefore plans to compile evidence and use it to underpin funding bids and the recognition and demonstration nature as an asset and having social value.
- Achieving a net gain in biodiversity, beyond that required by the Environment Act 2021, shall inform all decision making.
- Plans to work to agree a consistent approach to Nature Recovery Plans and ensure these are aligned with other local plans.
- Plans to develop and embed guidance on biodiversity and national capital with estates team, especially guidance on maximising interventions in constrained urban sites.
Resource Efficiency – Key Points to Note
- Seeks to strengthen sustainable procurement standards, requiring:
- Regard for national strategic priorities, such as tackling climate change and reduction of waste
- Suppliers of contracts over £5m p.a. to provide a Carbon Reduction Plan, containing a commitment to being net-zero by 2050.
- A whole lifecycle approach that sets high standards for refurbishments, acquisitions and construction.
- Ongoing promotion of sustainable Modern Methods of Construction.
Leading the way
As consultants we support local and national projects through engagement with a number of client organisations including central government agencies, local authorities, devolved administrations, LEPs, PFI/PPP providers, facilities managers and developers. Our role is in support of the continued asset management of estates, and through the creation of regional strategies, green book business cases, NetZero Carbon programmes. We help our clients unlock opportunities in their estate whether that in in the review of their fixed assets or through holistic whole system approaches, working with anchor institutions and the creation of collaborative workspaces. This work results in the delivery of regional growth strategies, town centre regeneration, placemaking and housing.