Identifying and implementing solutions for the decarbonisation revolution

08 / 11 / 23 - 5 minute read

Revolutions take time. Whether it’s political upheavals, such as the French revolution in the late-19th century or the Bolshevik version in Russia two generations later, or societal transformation, such as the industrial revolution in the 18th and early 19th centuries, the pace of change can seem extremely quick but, in reality, such events are years and lifetimes in the making.


Andrew Belt

Consider the digital transformation – arguably the most modern entry to the list of revolutions – over the past 30 years. We’ve gone from large, cumbersome computers in centralised locations to the equivalent on phones in our pockets and watches on our wrists. Video calls from phones, once believed to be possibilities only for a world a lifetime away or in science fiction, are now commonplace. The pace of change has been sudden, but the journey has been years in the making, with its origins firmly rooted in imagined possibilities of a digital future.

Of greater urgency is the need to decarbonise the planet to bring about a net-zero future. The built environment is responsible for roughly 40% of the world’s carbon emissions and 80% of the buildings we have today will still be in use in 2050. Those involved in the management of building stock, therefore, have a key role to play in the world’s decarbonisation efforts. With climate change rapidly becoming more extreme and life-threatening, evolution in the built environment won’t do. Worldwide efforts to decarbonise represent an environmental revolution – something which can only be achieved through technology and the fruits of the ongoing digital revolution.


But, to an industry slow to fully embrace ESG and facing rapidly approaching legislation which will demand buildings adhere to the highest of sustainability standards, how do you implement decarbonisation of your assets? In the same way you can track your energy bills with smart meters, monitor running performance with apps and check your temperature with a thermometer, diagnosis of your building stock begins with one thing: measurement.

“The most sustainable building is the one that is already built, because what we need to tackle is the operational carbon,” says Shreya Sheth, PATRIZIA Head of Smart Buildings. “The embodied carbon is already in the air for such buildings. To target the low-hanging fruit, we firstly need to measure the data coming out of buildings and optimise them. For good data, we need to measure the impact of a newly introduced technological solution for a year to understand patterns in effect with the weather. We have started measuring but it’s too early to share results on a wider scale. The goal is always to reduce consumption in a building, by optimising how we use resources such as water and how we heat, cool and ventilate our buildings.”

Fortunately for PATRIZIA, its focus on smart building technology isn’t new, with its internal platform introduced in 2020 and Shreya joined in the team by Senior Associate, David Strobel. They are both part of the wider Asset Management department, where their expertise is shared with real estate colleagues who can incorporate the technology considerations into their active building management.

PATRIZIA’s smart building experts

Shreya Sheth

Shreya has built her 10+ years of real estate career driving technology strategies for companies such as Barclays, Turner & Townsend and Battersea Power Station before joining PATRIZIA in 2021 and playing a key role in developing its smart building platform. Her decade-long career has seen her deliver technology for more than 4 million sq m with technology budgets ranging from £20,000 to £75 million.

She is an expert in smart buildings, project management and technology infrastructure services with projects experience across three continents. Her goal is to deliver digital strategies with return on investment (environmental, commercial and behavioural) whilst enabling state-of-the-art smart and intelligent buildings within PATRIZIA.

“I had my own technology blog website whilst I studied on my engineering course and, with my background of coming from a small city that has a real estate niche, it was a perfect blend for me to fit in and drive change with real estate technology.”

David Strobel

David has been part of PATRIZIA’s smart building platform since its inception in 2020. His main role is leading the collaboration with the various technology suppliers. This includes selecting the best offers in the smart building market, and then testing and scaling them within the portfolio.

References include shaping energy efficiency products which are currently being tested within PATRIZIA. In addition, he has led the roll-out of indoor air quality and space utilisation technologies across multiple buildings.

David is very passionate about sustainability. He had his first touch points with the topic during his study stay in the USA at the Paul H. O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs.

“Through the great courses there, I was shown for the first time how technology can create efficiencies that will help us create a more sustainable future. This is still extremely important to me today and my main goal is to make buildings more sustainable through the use of technology.”

‘Smart opportunities’

Shreya and David run health checks on buildings to identify ‘smart opportunities’. Selecting a bespoke stack of the best technologies to steer assets’ sustainable transformation, PATRIZIA’s approach uses data to generate unbiased recommendations of the best technologies at competitive prices.

“It’s a long process to define partnerships and technology solutions to ensure they are right for every unique asset,” Shreya shares. “We continuously stay on top of the smart building market, which is huge and fragmented.

“We create partnerships with technology companies and continuously vet the market and set clear KPIs with our technology partners to achieve the desired implementation and results. Through using our research and experience, we’ve developed PATRIZIA’s own scoreboards across 40 key smart building technologies related to systems, health and wellbeing, security, resources and digital aspects of assets. Each item on our scoreboard has three levels. We check against this when we look at a new or an existing building.

“To be able to implement solutions quickly and at scale, you need to have a team mature enough, with the right skills to do this in-house, which is where David and I come in.”

‘Low-hanging fruit’

When assessing assets, technology implementation often can  secure the first 30% of carbon savings, referred to as the ‘low-hanging fruit’. “The first 30% of carbon reductions can be achieved with efficient operations of the technologies in the building, from gathering the data to optimising HVAC [heating, ventilation and air conditioning] run times with AI and finally, having the operations in autonomous mode,” Shreya says.

Happily, this implementation can be done without adversely affecting the building’s operations or the occupiers. “Once we understand the building, we install the technology, we monitor and analyse the data and prove return on investment via lower utilities and service charges whilst reducing CO2 emissions,” Shreya says. “We visit each asset and create a bespoke action plan. We work with asset managers and fund managers to understand the asset strategy and the market, which helps us establish what a particular asset needs.”

The remaining 70%

It’s then over to the real estate teams to assess the remaining 70% of possible CO2 reductions on the drive to net zero, which comes from CAPEX investments, retrofitting and the procurement of green energy. Internal collaboration, therefore, is a crucial ingredient, alongside the partnerships with technology companies, in finding the right recipe for PATRIZIA’s decarbonisation of its building stock.

“We’ve learnt that to ensure implementation and get the desired results, all relevant stakeholders need to be working towards the same goal of decarbonisation,” Shreya explains. “From the onsite facility manager to the property manager and the asset manager to the fund manager. No technology can be called a success unless it’s not operationally utilised in an effective way.”

So, when the decarbonisation revolution arrives, you can be sure that the groundwork being carried out today to smarten its assets will ensure that PATRIZIA will be an active participant.