Commercial Property Blog
All posts from: March 2012
Mark Lewin of IFG International Limited invited me to join him at Berry Bros. & Rudd, 3 St James’s Street for an evening entitled ‘France versus the New World.’
The Napoleon Cellar is a particularly appropriate venue for such an occasion as it was here that Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte, as Napoleon III, founded the Deuxième Empire in 1851. It remained to be seen whether France would prevail this time around on the battleground generously provided by IFG.
I started with a white Burgundy: 2009 Mâcon-Cruzille, Clos des Vignes du Maynes, Soufrandière, Bret Bros. (£24.50). Plenty of oak on the nose, balanced with a good dose of citrus fruit and acidity on the palate; but, overall a touch one-dimensional. I preferred the less expensive Australian 2008 Toolangi Vineyards, Estate Chardonnay, Yarra Valley, Victoria (£18.50) as it offered a richer range of ripe fruit on the nose and palate. In addition, the oak was far less dominant adding complexity and length rather than overpowering the wine as with the Mâcon-Cruzille making it an easy call to give the New World its first point.
Pinot Noir was far closer. I expected 2007 Nuits-St. Georges, Clos de la Maréchale, 1er Cru, Domaine Mugnier (£49.00) to walk it: buckets of red fruit on the nose; floral characteristics on the palate; good weight; firm tannins; and a good length. I really enjoyed drinking this wine with several of the spicier canapés. The 2008 Mountford Estate Pinot Noir, Waipara (£38.95) was, however, not going to concede without a fight: intense ripe red fruit; impressive structure; silky tannins; acidity; and length. The Mountford Estate was declared the winner; first, on the basis of value for money, and secondly the fact that it could be enjoyed more easily without food making it 2-0 to the New World.
The playing field was far from level for the final round: Bordeaux blends. Australia’s 2007 Yarra Yering Dry Red No.1., Yarra Valley, Victoria (£51.00) did not stand a chance against a mature Bordeaux Second Growth from a legendary vintage: 1996 Ch. Gruaud Larose, 2ème Cru Classé, St. Julien (£118.00). As much as I love Yarra Yering, having taken delivery the same day of a case of 2005, bought through Berry’s online brokerage platform BBX, the density of black fruit, liquorice, tobacco and sweet spice flavours of the Gruaud Larose prevailed.
The final result 2-1 might appear to favour the New World; however, the French, as ever, have a joker to play. As all of the New World wines are aged in French oak a rebalancing of the scores would seem to be fair; suggesting a score draw as a more politic conclusion. Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte would, no doubt have, approved.
Many of the larger UK retailers are taking sustainability very seriously, but until now the sector has struggled to find a way of measuring the environmental impact of fit-out or refurbishment.
This is a serious blind spot for an industry where growth is enabled via taking space in existing buildings or shopping centres or expanding existing units, rather than building new stores. Indeed, an estimated 11% of total UK construction spending is on fit-out and buildings may have 30 to 40 fit-outs during their lifetime.
In addition, as retail’s outlook remains bleak, cost drivers are key, and sustainability is being approached as a means of delivering efficiencies, as well as enhancing CSR. Whatever the incentive, this is positive. With 18% of the UK’s carbon emissions coming from the existing stock of non-domestic buildings, a major battle in the drive to achieve a more sustainable retail industry needs to be greening the retail space itself.
RICS’ Ska Rating for Retail enables retailers, retail banks and restaurant owners to balance business realities with the need to improve environmental performance.
Based on the offices version of Ska Rating, launched in 2009, the retail methodology gives retailers demonstrable evidence of their green credentials. With several hundred projects registered for assessment, the methodology is now being used to address the unique challenges and opportunities of fit out and refurbishment projects run by retailers, banks and restaurants.
Created with a team of development partners including Whitbread, Royal Bank of Scotland, Green Room Retail, ISG, AECOM, the Association of Interiors Specialists and the National Association of Shopfitters, the tool rates the environmental impact of the fit-out against a series of good practice measures regardless of the base building. Ska embraces energy consumption, CO2 emissions, waste, water, material use and wellbeing to award a gold, silver or bronze rating.
Pilot projects have been successfully completed at Lush in Birmingham and Newcastle, Wahaca at Bluewater Shopping Centre and Nationwide Building Society on Oxford High Street. All the projects realised quantifiable efficiencies, with pilot teams reporting that the Ska Rating has helped them across a broad spectrum, enabling employee engagement in sustainability, the strengthening of brand image and achievement of substantial savings in both financial and environmental terms. Projects reported the diversion of an average 80% of waste from landfill, use of recycled materials and 30% reduction in energy use, all of which translate directly into savings for the retailers’ bottom lines.
As the assessment system continues to be rolled out and adopted across the retail sector, we anticipate a better balancing of business realities with the need to improve environmental performance, as well as an improved ability to benchmark the environmental performance of a sector worth over £5bn last year alone.
To get involved, and for more information,visit www.rics.org/ska or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Tim Robinson is Director of Information Products Group at RICS
Last weekend marked the start of the new Formula 1 season, with a host of complicated new rules no one understands along with the promise of - wait for it - ‘greener’ engines. Whether you’re nuts about F1 or would rather chew your own elbows off through boredom, you’d be hard-pressed to make any kind of environmental case for its existence. Everything about F1 is indulgence: from the fanfare of cheerleaders and luxury motorhomes, through to the fact this whole travelling circus now takes in a whopping 20 cities.
Munchkin F1 billionaire Bernie Ecclestone – tipped to float F1 in Singapore shortly – is a very clever man though. And with cigarette sponsorship stubbed out across the board, he’s clicked that a bit of fuel recovery here and slightly less powerful engines there can dress up F1 to a new bunch of sponsors. Making. Him. More. Money.
What’s rather ironic here is that the world’s un-greenest sport can find a way to make sustainability work, yet an industry responsible for half of the country’s emissions cannot. Not en masse, at least. And despite whatever bluster we get from agents who “realize the importance of green buildings” but can’t “put an exact figure on“, the reality is as PW’s Green Issue showed: lenders take a three-to-five year view and sustainability doesn’t figure.
Moves by Land Securities, Quintain, Legal & General and others are highly commendable and I know from personal experience how committed their respective chiefs are with reforming the sector. But what about those individually-owned shops and sheds across the land that don’t have the cash to hire Drivers Jonas Deloitte to come and run a green audit then refurbish the place?
One of the main reasons for investors and people generally paying “lip service” to sustainability (as Mike Philips succinctly put it in his column) is because many of the ratings and grades we have bear little resemblance to reality. Take the BRE certificates: they’re often based on nothing more than designs, or work in progress constructions. Does anyone remember when Lewis Hamilton won the world championship in 2008 and everyone said he’d win everything? How many has he won since? None.
One great example is LSE’s new £24m students centre on Sheffield Street, WC2, which it proudly boasts has been given a BREEAM rating of ‘outstanding’. Julian Robinson, LSE’s director of estates at LSE, gushes how delighted he is about having the ‘greenest’ ever building, before the press release says that construction won’t actually finish until next year. Maybe I’m being simple, but how can you actually measure the true ‘greenness’ of a building until a) it’s finished and b) it’s occupied?
Just as this advance praise indubitably hinders sportsmen who need to grow into their own futures, similarly, all this show-boating around green buildings that haven’t been built is, I dare say, one of the components that drives some of the mass cynicism around sustainability. As Francis Salway has said, and as I have written repeatedly over the years, it should be about operational use, measured through display energy certificates (DECs) or something similar. Whatever is used should reflect some kind of actual reality, not drawings on a computer, as fantastic as they may be.
Trying to provide service is one of the most challenging things ever. If we can truly meet everyone’s expectations it would be a miracle. If we can ever find a way to manage that achieves what every person wants, then surely the Holy Grail has been found.
One of the beauties of being humans is our differences, but it is also one of our frustrations. The fact that others do not see things as we would want them to, react as we require, or comply as we need, gives a source of annoyance that can seem never ending.
If a mistake is made, surely a genuine and heartfelt apology is sufficient. But for some an apology is never enough and they will never let the issue go. Whenever chance presents itself, the mistake is bound to be raised time and again.
For the amount of industries, professions and operations that are entirely reliant on customers and customer service, there needs to be focus on the impact of veering from the right direction.
That direction can be different for all manner of people but what is overriding is the need to make sure activities and communication stay flexible to accommodate everyone. A lot easier said than done. In some instances there will be those that will not listen nor want to be reasonable under any circumstances – the bliss of human nature and variety.
The challenge for service providers is to make sure their reputation is not compromised by those who will always be unsatisfied; those for whom nothing is good enough whatever is done or provided to them; for those whom nothing has a value they are willing to pay for.
Of course the real challenge comes when, in a community, one rotten apple spoils the relationship and the service for all. Those providing good service will rise over these challenges.
A week ago, sodden and shivering after returning back to my apartment somewhere off Christian Dior Street, I questioned why I had recontrar-ed to Mipim. I figured some of the boats may had departed since my last visit in 2009. I knew I probably wouldn’t see anyone from the SFO downing canapés on the Tchenguiz yacht, but I never thought the weather would be as angry as that recent mid-market tabloid splash hideously implying that Mipim was all about public officials embarking on seedy pursuits.
While JLL’s Monday night bash with London First and the deputy mayor was a who’s who of industry folk, the vibe around Cannes was admittedly akin to an Italian cruise liner: cold, wet and sinking fast.
Switch forward to Friday, and Tom Bloxham ushering property A-listers into his mountain-top pool with the promise of one final glass of bubbly was a sight to behold. It was a wonderful afternoon spent in the company of Mancunia and luckily for all concerned, those dipping in were urban splashers rather flashers.
Other parts of Mipim were a bit more bare, however. Anyone who snuck down in the basement of ‘the bunker’ – the not-so-affectionate term given to Mipim’s conference centre – couldn’t have helped noticing the sparseness of quality developers. Various Russian stands extolled the virtues of faraway lands while Formula One-style female flag wavers swooned from great heights, hanging out free kittens to anyone who’d take a brochure. As the girls shimmied around, stilt-like, with thighs at most people’s shoulder height, there was the overriding feeling that we perhaps needed two Mipims.
One would be for all the real stuff that might one day be built and the other could house all the Playmobil stuff in made-up places.
But many people thought Qatar was a made-up place until a few years back. And one pointed remark made by one senior observer was how much closer the Qatar stand was getting to the London Stand. Next year it will have totally swallowed it up.
The prominence of London certainly irked many of Mipim’s regional UK representatives. But as investment continues to pile in to the capital, the two-tier recovery shows little signs of levelling out. And even those investment firms based in the North admitted much of their business was focused down South.
And what of criticism around the attendance of public bodies, such as councils and the Crown Estate and by war-hero Olympics minister Hugh Robertson? Well, like much of the gutter press currently in the dock, most will have the good sense to ignore it. They very thought that – in a time of mass austerity – public developments shouldn’t be actively seeking foreign investment on the only real world stage available to them if frankly ludicrous. But one week ahead of the Budget, there’s little value in too many seeking a big debate on the subject.
As the weather perked up from Tuesday, so did the fizz in the air. Parties were toned down and some resembled Travel Lodge weddings, but the atmosphere was one of positivity
Despite Mipim legend and former Hogan Lovells boss Bob Kidby retiring a couple of years back, the legal elite still managed to rock their way through Cannes led by Kidby’s protégée, HL partner Matthew Ditchburn, the industry’s best known insolvency lawyer. It’s fair to say he’s a bit more fresh-faced than some of the other legal elite who were in attendance and renditions of The Killers and Kings of Leon’s hits certainly offered a new backdrop for people to grab a ‘Partner’ by the hand to.
And as some of the UK’s signature regeneration projects around Stratford, Kings Cross and Salford begin to breath new life into our economy, we should be looking to project ourselves abroad. Just as ministers are beginning to realise we’re competing on a global stage with aviation, so we are with property. And if attendance at the Tom’s Friday Urban Splash-athon is indicative of a healthy market, maybe we’ll see a few more developers – rather than developments – under water this time next year.