Each year the bar rises on sustainability reporting requirements. For example, GRESB says it will conduct site audits on up to 5% of responses in 2015 and has made a concerted effort to collect ever more granular performance data backed up by documentation.
While this is a good thing for the integrity of GRESB and benchmarks like it, it has made even small mistakes noticeable and therefore potentially detrimental to your score. When it comes to GRESB specifically, its increasing visibility with investors means any mistakes or inconsistencies that creep into your report could raise eyebrows.
Here’s five mistakes that will not only hurt your GRESB score, but could land you in an awkward position when your investors or GRESB’s auditors come calling. Avoid them and you’ll report like a Pro.
Mistake #1: Reporting NNN leased assets as “indirectly managed”
GRESB’s guidance on this is clear: indirectly managed assets “…are those where a single tenant has the greatest authority to introduce and implement operating policies and environmental policies…” Importantly, GRESB does not present lease structure as a litmus test for distinguishing indirect from directly managed assets. Instead, it merely cites the unique case of full repairing and insuring (FRI) leases in England where the nature of the lease itself specifies that the tenant has operational control. So don’t fall victim to the common mistake of submitting assets as indirectly managed just because they’re multi-tenant, NNN, or you occasionally consult with a specific tenant on operational matters – these reasons are not sufficient in and of themselves. The good news is Measurabl can automatically distinguish direct from indirectly managed based upon a mixture of automatically collected and user-provided building characteristics. So if you use Measurabl, you’ll be fine.
Mistake #2: Using GRESB’s ENERGY STAR Converter without manually fact checking and adjusting your data
GRESB has been experimenting with a new EPA-to-GRESB Converter. In addition to following the 32 steps required to use this resource correctly, here’s a non-exhaustive list of additional steps you must take or you’ll generate an incorrect response:
- If you have buildings with less than 12 months of data the Converter drops these buildings. Stop, search your ENERGY STAR account for dropped buildings, find, sum and re-enter this data by hand.
- If a building has data from outside your period of ownership (because, for example, the former owner transferred the building’s ENERGY STAR account to you) you will end up inflating your report. Stop, search for excessive data, then find, subtract and re-enter this data by hand.
- Check your meter data for outliers before exporting the Converter file. If a building used 200 kWh not 200 MWh of fuel in a given period (we see this all the time when property managers incorrectly enter data by hand) it will be hard to spot this mistake amongst rolled-up asset data for all your other buildings. If you let these mistakes into the Converter, you’ll have to change the numbers in ENERGY STAR and re-export the file, loosing any previous changes. But if you decide to adjust the amounts by hand, you’ll have to then figure out how to manually adjust the related intensity and carbon estimates or risk over-reporting these statistics as well…
- Don’t calculate Data Coverage using the Converter because it assumes equal coverage for all activity types (energy, fuel, water). This is incorrect. For example, if your building has electricity paid by both tenant and landlord (e.g. tenant and common areas respectively), but water and fuel are paid by the landlord, this distinction will be lost on the Converter and you’ll incorrectly allocate data coverage. Stop, identify any scenarios where buildings with tenant data have energy, water and/or fuel, then email GRESB to see how you can allocate these properly. Currently there is no way to correctly break out data coverage using the Converter…
- If you have mixed-use assets, don’t categorize them as “Other”. GRESB’s Survey explicitly asks you to allocate these assets according to their floorspace, not to mention that categorizing these assets as “Other” means your 50-50 office-retail asset just got compared against an unknown bundle of “Other” asset types, reducing the value of the benchmark. Stop, do this by hand or using a spreadsheet, then type the numbers directly into GRESB’s portal…
Measurabl calculates the entire Performance Indicators aspect automatically based on a comprehensive set of transparent, auditable algorithms. We also provide an entire suite of meter-level editing tools that allow you to make precise edits to your buildings and individual meters. This means error-free, financial-grade reporting that not only guarantees you’ll pass a third party audit, but will save you an enormous amount of time and angst.
Mistake #3: Failing to report mixed-use properties by floor space
Say you have a group of 50-50 office-retail buildings. GRESB asks that you report these spaces separately. To do this, you’ll need to identify and separate out the meters serving each the office and retail components. If you don’t have this capability (or the patience), you’ll need to report the entire asset as “Other” OR report it under the primary property type but then risk being penalized if the asset is compared against other assets with more favorable characteristics. To avoid this problem, you’ll need to edit and aggregate meter-level data by floor space. Fortunately, Measurabl automatically detects and allocates mixed use buildings, then gives you meter-level controls to perfect the floor space allocations.
Mistake #4: Omitting buildings from your report just because you don’t have data
A lack of data will harm your overall GRESB score. So why submit the building at all, or why not submit it as indirectly managed… (see mistake #2)? The answer is GRESB specifically asks you to include ALL assets in your portfolio regardless of whether they have full data. If everyone simply submitted the assets for which they had complete data, the benchmark would be reduced to a beauty pageant of the best assets in every respondent’s portfolio, which defeats the validity of the benchmark and hinders both respondents and investors from getting accurate and complete data. The good news is Measurabl’s Utility Sync feature allows you to automatically capture data directly from your utility company, and even picks up historical data allowing you to backfill your report. So there’s no more excuse for a lack of data.
Mistake #5: Claiming actions implemented in Q1 2015 towards your report
GRESB is backwards looking: the 2015 Survey will cover the period 2013-2014. This means any changes you put in place this year will probably not be applicable for the report. What’s done is done, so to speak. This means you can’t react after the fact, you need to anticipate GRESB by constantly grooming and growing your social and governance programs. Measurabl helps subscribers with this by providing continuous auditing that detects if these programs exist, and sends recommendations to ensure your social and governance programs are always in tip top shape. The public can view examples of these best practice recommendations on our blog.