By Mark Elliott, Senior Director, Professional and Consultancy Services

It has been said that recognising and managing the intrinsic link between a building’s value and sustainability is like knowing next week’s Lottery numbers.

A tongue-in-cheek remark, of course, but there is no denying that removing the uncertainty around the works required to ensure an asset is where it needs to be in the journey towards net zero is crucial to future-proofing that asset’s value.

Commentary around sustainability has been growing for some time, but many businesses – landlords and tenants alike – still choose to bury their head in the sand, perhaps in the belief that it will delay any perceived stress that having to address sustainability would bring.

However, acquiring a tight grasp of sustainability in real estate should be seen as an opportunity for companies to enhance their asset’s value, rather than being viewed negatively.

It can be easy for minds to instinctively turn to incoming legislation as the main driving factor in the calls for commercial property to become more sustainable.

Legislation is a major factor, of course, with CBRE NI at the forefront in making the Northern Ireland business community aware of the new rules that they need to be prepared for. At our Outlook event in January, for example, we indicated that three-quarters of Belfast’s office stock may become obsolete by 2030 due to upcoming EPC legislation.

While being fully cognisant of regulations is important, it is not the only factor that needs to be considered. More and more of the larger global firms with offices in Northern Ireland have their own internal sustainability targets to hit – and these are increasingly influencing their decisions in terms of the buildings they occupy.

A lot of key occupiers have already declared that they will exit buildings that do not align with sustainable objectives and the drive to net zero. Indeed, we recently worked with a leading global occupier that provides an interesting snapshot of the direction the market is travelling in.

The firm’s building has recently been refurbished but, because it does not meet its own company-wide sustainability goals, the business opted to pay a premium for a short three-year lease, allowing time to relocate to a suitable alternative which meets their sustainability targets.

This trend is becoming more prevalent, particularly within the office and industrial sectors.

Tapping into the global CBRE network of expertise, our CBRE NI Sustainability Panel team is working closely with clients to ensure sustainability is at the core of all of their strategic thinking and that there is more market alignment in analysing how sustainability is assessed in commercial real estate valuations.

The office market in Belfast currently has a limited supply of new build space, which creates a significant opportunity for landlords of existing office buildings to capitalise on the demand for sustainable space. Working with existing tenants to agree a programme of works during the course of the next five years is now crucial in terms of not only retaining tenants, but also in securing rental growth and protecting value.

Major lenders also want clarity when it comes to work that needs carried out from a sustainability perspective. We are regularly facilitating conversations between banks and our clients about refinancing and securing loans in order to enhance an asset’s value.

Having a detailed plan of exactly how a building can get to net zero in the most efficient way makes those conversations with banks smoother and provides lenders with something that is easier for them to buy into.

Making those in-depth plans is something CBRE NI is doing for clients, as more and more realise just how vital sustainability has become to value. Comparing it to knowing the Lottery numbers might be a stretch, but it’s still crucial that these plans are made and carried out.

Originally published in Business Eye, May Edition 2024. For more information, contact