Interview: Steve Whyman, managing director, Broadgate Estates
Broadgate Estates manages some of the UK’s most high profile and sustainable developments. How does it deliver? Managing director Steve Whyman explains
Report from – Jo Smit
Steve Whyman knows exactly how landmark buildings work. Whyman is managing director of Broadgate Estates, which manages some 60 iconic buildings and such high profile estates as Paternoster Square in the shadow of St Pauls, King’s Cross and, away from the capital, Liverpool One and Reading’s Green Park. The business, a subsidiary of British Land, grew out of the development of London’s Broadgate in the mid-1980s and now manages more than £160 million of service charges and collects around £130 million of rent a year. Its operations encompass environmental, sustainability and project management, and 12 years ago it launched property management software and digital marketing business Vicinitee.
You see both the property owner/developer perspective and the point of view of the occupant. What are their views of sustainability?
It is clearly in clients’ sights. BREEAM has had a huge impact on the property market and in the market where we operate a BREEAM rating is crucial in letting new property and for agents. PWc’s headquarters at More London [which achieved BREEAM Outstanding] are a good example of how sustainability is part of the marketability and attractiveness of a business.
Sustainability is also critical for occupiers. We have never found it challenging to get occupiers engaged. If there’s no clear payback an initiative can appear frivolous, but something like a wormery does have a clear corporate social responsibility (CSR) and community benefit.
We didn’t see sustainability drop down the agenda in the recession – it just took a lower position on the marketing agenda. There are people coming to the workplace who are asking their employers for their views on CSR and so on. Companies need to consider how to attract talent and that has changed cultures. The legislative framework is changing too. The carbon reduction commitment had an impact on information requirements – it became part of the day to day. Clients and occupiers are now demanding information and pushing further.
So where do you focus your attention in managing buildings sustainably?
Energy tends to be our focus because it is the big number. We procure a lot of energy across the estates: £30 million of electricity and gas a year, which is 300 GW/hours of electricity and 50 GW/hours of gas. And it is a volatile market, so we focus on using it efficiently.
We have rolled out smart metering, which has given granularity of data to drive optimisation of buildings. We’re doing it down to the level of detail where we can see a chiller is operating at 4am. Then we look at whether we can replace components to make the building more efficient. We have a central building management systems (BMS) team that provides advice. As BMS protocols open up they drive a more open architecture where you can get more data.
We are also investing in technology to drive out information to help in making the best decisions. You can get a 15-20 percent improvement with metering, but you then need to consider how you can continue making that improvement – and that’s by driving more real-time data, and more integration around BMS.
You worked in retail, with Halfords, before taking the helm at Broadgate Estates. How do retail and property compare?
At heart there are similarities, in that both are customer service businesses. The key difference is the level of granular detail that is applied in retail.
Retailers are extremely good at driving small improvements. Innovation generally involves lots of small improvements, and achieving that is more difficult for an existing building than for a new one. There is no rule of thumb – it is a matter of focusing on the detail and grinding it out.
How does Broadgate Estates introduce new technologies and innovations to buildings?
We get lighting companies coming to us with new ideas. We have a big portfolio so we can try things out, and we can often trial away from the glare of publicity in backstage areas, like emergency stairs. We’ve got a great testbed in a range of buildings of different sizes, ages and scale, and with different renewable energy technologies.
Recently quite a bit of software innovation has been coming through. Out of hours metering and billing can be labour intensive – you have to work with different tariffs. We’ve not found what we want on the market, so we will either build it internally through Vicinitee or we will work with a software developer.
With a lot of things we are trying to see what works. We are not pushing a view on climate change. We are simply saying: waste less, recycle more and use energy wisely.
So what’s the future of property management?
The future lies in getting more real time information about how a building is performing. That real-time data allows you to improve in real time vision.
Doing this in an older building is quite cost-prohibitive. At the new Leadenhall Building there will be good integrated systems, so there will be a great opportunity to drive out more efficiencies. One element of our business is a design for management service, where we are involved in a new build project, looking at what that building will be like to run, from a practical point of view, covering everything from window cleaning to waste. Clients need to know a building will work in the real world. We are watching building information modelling (BIM) with interest. The private sector is starting to use it and we are looking at how we can use it. Costs are falling all the time and the ability to manage data is improving.
We’ve spent a lot of money introducing new systems and the business case is based on freeing our people for customer service, to give them more time to deliver an even greater service and communications to customers. Mobile is also going to be huge, with people having data on their mobile and delivering it while walking around a building.