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Argosy Property Limited (Argosy) is an Auckland-based property company that was founded in 2002. The company invests in and manages properties including industrial, office, and large-format retail properties. Their innovative solution involves the development of green buildings that prioritize sustainability and contribute to multiple United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
My initial discussions were with Steve Freundlich, Head of Corporate Communications & Investor Relations. Steve has been at Argosy for 6 years and shoulders a broad range of responsibilities including the preparation and delivery of annual reports, presentations, and stakeholder communications. Steve articulated that an aspect of his role he finds enjoyable is organizing asset tours for analysts and investors, particularly assets that have been redeveloped into green buildings. Steve connected me with Saatyesh Bhana, who is directly involved with green buildings in his role as Head of Sustainability. Saatyesh has been at Argosy for more than 16 years and advises the internal team and clients on the sustainability impacts of Argosy. Saatyesh shared that it is particularly rewarding when tenants and investors are pleased with the buildings and when third-party recognition is received from organizations such as Greenstar, NabersNZ, or carbon zero certifications. A specific milestone for Saatyesh was successfully delivering Wellington’s first and second five-Greenstar-rated office buildings. At a personal level, it was a privilege to talk to Steve and Saatyesh given their significant roles at Argosy and their demanding schedules.
Green buildings are designed, constructed, and operated with a focus on minimizing environmental impact while maximizing resource efficiency and occupant well-being. The features of green buildings include efficient resource use, renewable energy use, pollution and waste reduction, high-quality indoor air, use of sustainable materials, and consideration of occupant wellbeing. The scalability of green buildings is limitless because any property can qualify as green given it adheres to some or all of the required features. Saatyesh revealed that he is particularly proud to have been involved in the concept designs for all Greenstar buildings at Argosy. The Greenstar rating is a certification from The New Zealand Green Building Council (NZGBC) to distinguish between assets that have been designed to ‘green standards’ and those that have not. Argosy uses this certification alongside NabersNZ energy efficiency ratings, zero carbon certifications from Toitu, and quantifiable reductions in utilities, gas, water & electricity usage as tools to measure the success of Argosy's green buildings.
Green buildings advance several United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). For example, green buildings align with SDG 7 (Affordable and Clean Energy) by prioritizing energy efficiency, integration of renewable energy sources, and reduction of carbon emissions. Additionally, green buildings align with SDG 9 (Resilient Infrastructure and Innovation) because they encourage innovative technologies, materials, and construction practices. Moreover, green buildings reduce the environmental impact of cities and improve the quality of life for residents which aligns with the objectives of SDG 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities) while also promoting responsible resource utilization, waste reduction, and sustainable consumption habits in order to advance SDG 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production). Finally, green buildings contribute to SDG 13 (Climate Action) by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and enhancing resilience to climate change. Whilst green buildings advance the SDGs listed above, they also contribute to others such as SDG 1 (No Poverty), SDG 3 (Good Health and Well-being), SDG 6 (Clean Water and Sanitation), SDG 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth), SDG 15 (Life on Land), and SDG 17 (Partnership for the Goals). In essence, green buildings are integral in the journey toward a sustainable future because they advance a multitude of interconnected SDGs.
Green Building 8 Willis Street, Wellington. Targeting 5 Star NABERSNZ rating and 6 Green Star rating - Source: https://www.argosy.co.nz/assets/documents/Investor-Update_Sept-2022_web.pdf
Green buildings initially emerged in Argosy’s portfolio around 13 years ago when Saatyesh assumed management of the Wellington portfolio. Saatyesh noticed that there was a building that was acquired from a developer that had a significant number of complaints. In addressing the concerns, Saatyesh determined the building refurbishment had been completed with a “developer mentality” using “value engineering,” which led to a functional building but one that lacked a positive and enjoyable user experience. This inspired Saatyesh to complete a concept design under the guidance of Peter Mence (CEO) that addressed the tenant’s concerns. Saatyesh commented, “The project did not involve demolishing the building as it was heritage listed but rather reused it with an energy efficiency and sustainable design process.” Saatyesh further stated, “The completed building was reviewed and assessed by the NZGBC using the Greenstar tool and was Wellington’s first five-Greenstar-rated office building.” Saatyesh comments highlight that green buildings embody a sense of purpose aimed at “improving the quality of the portfolio, having happier tenants, fewer complaints, higher value assets, and resilient buildings.”
Green buildings have not only impacted Argosy’s business strategy but also positively benefited the environment and society. Steve commented, “Argosy has been developing green buildings for almost a decade, leading the sector as opposed to following it.” Since Saatyesh’s initial concept design about 13 years ago, 31% of Arogsy’s portfolio now carries the green distinction. This commitment to sustainable progress remains resolute for the near future as evidenced by their target 50% weighting for green assets in the portfolio by 2031. Saatyesh shared, “Through increasing the number of certified green buildings, Argosy has been able to reposition the portfolio to be higher quality and more resilient.” Saatyesh further highlighted, “As we manage our buildings, we learn from our experiences and adjust to improve future designs.”
Steve commented that the benefit of green buildings for Argosy is “less about the short term and very much a long-term view”. Steve articulated how the benefits are about “being true to our strategy and creating long-term value for shareholders whilst growing credibility in the market and developing a leadership position in the sector, including thought leadership”. Argosy uses a forward-thinking mindset that shapes sustainable progress rather than trailing behind. Nonetheless, Steve conveyed that there is growing evidence of the corporate benefits of green buildings. The first benefit is that green buildings are attracting longer lease terms which provide cash-flow certainty and, therefore, dividend sustainability for shareholders. Steve highlighted that green buildings return higher rents, have lower vacancies, and lower up-front costs which collectively increase property valuations. In addition, green buildings reduce operating costs through lower resource consumption and mitigate risks associated with factors such as weather exposure, technology, and regulations. This suggests that, in addition to the sustainability benefits, green buildings are positively influencing financial performance and shareholder value creation.
Steve and Saatyesh provided an extensive number of benefits that green buildings have on the environment and society. In terms of environmental benefits, Steve highlighted reductions in carbon emissions, waste generation, energy consumption, stormwater demand, and light pollution. In addition, Steve substantiated this with statistics from Green Building Council Australia (GBCA). For instance, the GBCA report found that Greenstar-certified buildings use 66% less electricity, 51% less potable water, and produce 62% fewer greenhouse gases than buildings constructed to meet the minimum standards. These short-term benefits will translate into the long-term with sustained energy savings, resource preservation, enhanced resilience to climate change, and positive contributions to addressing climate change.
Furthermore, many of the environmental benefits are interconnected with societal benefits. For instance, energy savings and resource preservation ease the burden on infrastructure such as power generation facilities and water supply. This leads to more reliable services for the whole community. Moreover, resilience to climate change enhances community safety during times of crisis, while the contribution to addressing climate change promotes a more sustainable future for everyone. Steve also highlights that green buildings are simply “great spaces for people to work”. Steve elaborates that the lighting, layouts, and health and wellness features such as showers and bike storage make the green buildings an enjoyable experience. These green design attributes improve worker productivity and overall health and well-being. Again, Steve substantiated this with data from the GBCA, indicating a 27% reduction in staff churn, 90% satisfaction levels, and a reduction of four sick days per employee per year. The societal benefits yield both short-term and long-term benefits. These benefits range from satisfaction with the everyday workspace to combating the enduring challenges of climate change.
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Steve Freundlich, Head of Corporate Communications & Investor Relations
Saatyesh Bhana, Head of Sustainability
Argosy Property Limited (Argosy) is an Auckland-based property company that was founded in 2002. The company invests in and manages properties including industrial, office, and large-format retail properties. With the support of a team of 37 skilled professionals, Argosy manages a portfolio of 54 buildings valued at a collective $2.2 billion as of May 17, 2023. The company is listed on the New Zealand Stock Exchange (NZX) and, therefore, is accountable to a broad base of shareholders.