How Can Property Managers Ensure Their Assets Are Environmentally Resilient?

31 Jul 2019

By Craig Hudleston

How Can Property Managers Ensure Their Assets Are Environmentally Resilient
Environmental hazards are increasingly impacting our planet – and our buildings. In 2018 alone, typhoons Jebi, Mangkhut and Trami caused widespread damage across Asia, while Australia grappled with devastating bushfires in Queensland and historic drought conditions in New South Wales.

Extreme weather events, climate change and natural disasters are now ranked as the top 3 global threats, according to the World Economic Forum. As the increasing risk of natural hazards becomes more of a constant reality, investors are realizing the importance of future-proofing their property portfolios.

Forward-thinking investors are currently deploying a variety of strategies to ensure that their buildings are able to withstand long-term environmental challenges. This includes conducting robust due diligence before asset acquisition and modeling various scenarios to gain a complete picture of the potential risks. However, an asset’s resilience does not hinge on investor strategy – the property management team must do its part to ensure the building is best prepared to deal with the unthinkable.

As such, property managers are vital to enhancing building-level resilience since they are the key interface with owners, tenants, contractors and the local authorities. The outcomes of property managers’ daily interactions with these groups will ultimately have a significant bearing on the building’s overall resilience and long-term performance for the owner. 

Here are 4 ways that property managers can lead the charge:

  1. Protect the People
    As the conduit for a building’s occupiers, property managers must be proactive in communicating to and educating tenants and their visitors about potential risks and how to most appropriately respond in an emergency.  In Hanoi, for instance, it’s common practice for property managers to host monthly hurricane response training sessions for the people and assets in their care.

    Beyond raising awareness, property managers should also establish practical measures such as the introduction of early warning systems and the establishment of emergency protocols for the safe and swift evacuation of the building’s occupants.

    Another important step is to stock buildings with adequate emergency supplies, especially in areas where environmental hazards are commonplace. In earthquake-prone Japan, for example, property managers typically maintain at least a two-day stockpile of food and medicine, in the event that building occupants are unable to safely evacuate.
  2. Protect the Asset
    When it comes to natural disasters, there is no such thing as an overabundance of caution. It’s essential for property managers to play an active role in identifying gaps in building protection –lacking typhoon-resistant windows or water pumps, inadequate emergency supplies, or deficient emergency procedures – and ensuring these oversights are immediately rectified.

    Property managers should also conduct regular and thorough assessments of existing safety features, upgrading them where required.  The design of a building’s HVAC and flood protection systems is generally based on historic climate and weather data, so these systems need to be updated to reflect changing weather patterns. An increased risk of drought, for instance, requires water efficiency and storage measures at the building level, which is commonly seen in Australia.

    Once a disaster occurs, property managers are vital to activating disaster recovery plans, assessing the damage, addressing whether the building is safe to re-enter, and ultimately determining whether the current protections are sufficient to deal with future events.
  3. Embrace Data and Technology
    To be forewarned is to be forearmed.  As data on environmental risk becomes increasingly accessible, property managers who avail themselves of these resources will be far better prepared to address events before they happen.  Data can not only help to anticipate potential issues, it can also help us analyse and improve our response to issues when they do happen.

    Optimizing efficiency and cost is another key factor in enhancing resilience.  Tools like CBRE’s Asset IQ can provide real-time information on a building’s energy consumption, giving property managers insight into performance opportunities while also identifying ways for an asset to be more environmentally responsible and efficient.
  4. Build Relationships with Local Authorities
Proactively establishing an open line of communication with local authorities can have a positive long-term impact on resilience, resulting in property managers receiving early warning of any potential disruption to building services, whether due to local public works projects or in response to extreme weather events.  These relationships might also yield greater opportunity for partnering with community first responders around practical disaster education, including emergency procedure rehearsals, fire extinguishing, and first aid training.

As environmental hazards increasingly affect the bottom line for property owners and investors, the need for a comprehensive resilience strategy has never been clearer. Property managers play a critical role in this effort, since they can influence how well a building is prepared for a damaging environmental event and can help implement practices that protect both the tenants and the asset.


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