Howard de Walden exterior 1 vF e1634555785220

Offices waste £60m of energy per year – could gamification solve the problem?

An initiative to cut energy use in UK commercial real estate by putting landlords, managers and occupiers in direct competition with each other has found its first participant ahead of its launch in March 2022.

Focusing on simple interventions “without significant investment”, CUBE – which has in the past been backed by major businesses like BNP Paribas – is a competition in which participants track their energy use and are ranked monthly based on their cuts.

The competition’s organisers estimate that UK offices lose £60m in wasted energy every year.

The Howard de Walden Estate has signed up to CUBE’s first year in the UK, spearheaded by Ampersand Partners and A4MT – the founders of the original iteration in France, which has so far enabled the equivalent of £10.5m of savings in six years, according to CUBE.

Howard de Walden, which owns about 850 buildings in Marylebone, London, registered its historic head office for the competition after an extensive refurbishment.

The company said its participation demonstrates how it “[focuses] on bridging the gap between heritage preservation and the drive to achieve net zero carbon” in real estate.

The changes Howard de Walden made to the building, which has served as its HQ since 1882, include:

  • Converting the workspace to an open plan office with collaborative space
  • Creating an all-electric building with solar power and air source heat pumps
  • Introducing newly planted trees and flowers fed by a rainwater harvesting system, alongside beehives and bird and insect boxes

Laura Jockers, head of sustainability at the Howard de Walden Estate, said: “We are proud to be the first to sign up to CUBE. We must find new and innovative ways to reduce energy consumption in our buildings if we are to mitigate the impact of the built environment on climate change.

“It is the responsibility of us all, individually and collectively, and we hope that many more join this movement and take a positive step on the road to net zero.”

“We mustn’t scare the industry”

Past CUBE participants have included BNP Paribas, French retailer Carrefour and Orange. In previous years, contenders have cut their annual energy bills by an average of 15%, while winners have cut them by more than 40%.

CUBE provides support, tools and ideas to participants to help them reduce energy consumption. This includes meeting innovative service providers that can give them an advantage.

The competition aims to encourage sustainability through behavioural changes rather than major investment. Where participants have made investments, CUBE said a return has been “relatively quick” – within four months in the case of Orange.

In describing its goals, CUBE said: “We mustn’t scare the industry when it comes to net zero. We need to offer solutions. If we all take small steps together, we can make a huge difference.”

Kristin Marin, who runs the competition in the UK, added: “The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report [in August] confirmed we’re running out of time to avert 1.5C of warming, largely because of humans and our behaviour.

“Howard de Walden is spearheading change in our workplaces as the first participant in CUBE, and we hope many more follow their example. Commercial properties in the UK waste £60 million in avoidable energy bills so, if every office building in the UK entered this competition, the impact would be enormous.”

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