In his sabbatical from Jones Lang LaSalle, Andrew Gould is busy being chair of the UKGBC – where he intends to ‘educate’ rather than ‘lobby’ the government on green issues
This year will linger long in Andrew Gould’s memory. At the beginning of 2013 he stepped down as the UK chief executive of Jones Lang LaSalle, the country’s biggest property services firm, and embarked on a six-month sabbatical. Almost simultaneously he was named as the new chair of the UK Green Building Council. Add to that ambitions for the next few months that include picking up Punjabi - his wife is of Indian origin and he promised 10 years ago he would learn the language - learning “a couple of musical instruments”, hill walking, sailing and helping his wife set up an online Indian clothing boutique and Gould is a busy man.
Meeting him at Jones Lang LaSalle’s (JLL) offices off Regent Street, Gould exudes a quiet confidence. This quality was no doubt needed over the last four years: he took up the chief executive position at JLL in 2009 at the height of the global financial crisis.
He is regarded by friends and rivals as having played a key role in leading JLL out of the worst of the recession. He is also credited with spotting that one of the big trends of the global downturn would be the flood of foreign capital coming into the London property market and making sure JLL was in position to take advantage of it. Perhaps most dramatically, Gould led JLL into its merger with King Sturge in 2011, which moved the firm from being the fourth-largest company in its sector in the UK to the biggest as measured by revenue. The firm now employs about 3,000 people in the UK.
So now what impact does Gould want to make in his new role at the UKGBC?
A mainstream issue
When we meet, Gould has just concluded one of a series of “chairman’s breakfasts” with the UKGBC’s membership organisations, which number around 400. The breakfasts, he says, are indicative of a changing attitude towards sustainability issues among UK businesses. “The UKGBC’s membership was initially stronger among advisers, consultants and designers,” he says. “But now we’re seeing that it’s gone mainstream for the asset owners, the big institutional investors, the fund managers, the housebuilders and the retailers.”
Gould says that as awareness of sustainability has spread, so too it has risen up within the hierarchy of firms. Most of the people attending his breakfasts, he says, are chief executives or in other top positions. “A few years ago you’d find that within a lot of organisations the person responsible for sustainability was in the planning team or whatever. Now you ask where sustainability sits and the chief executive says ‘well, with me’.”
If [the government] set a higher regulatory standard for its stock, if it set out to create a retrofit programme, then you’ve got a market that’s big enough to prove that sustainability works
The reason for this, Gould believes, is simple. These days companies are starting to see that sustainability could be good for the bottom line. However, he says there is still a long way to go. “One of the issues has been the whole regulatory environment, including valuation methodologies, because if you look for evidence on the basis of current or past transactions in the market, where you ascribe a portion of value to sustainability performance, it’s incredibly difficult to pull out,” he says. “Valuation criteria are pretty poorly drafted at the moment - there’s very little recognition of sustainability risk in its broadest sense, or of sustainability opportunity.”
Again, things are changing. The RICS is consulting on a draft guidance note to valuers, which proposes a more meaningful approach to reflecting sustainability risk and opportunity in the way commercial buildings are valued.
“More thoughtful valuers are starting to ask questions about whether the owners of commercial buildings that have an Energy Performance Certificate rating of E or F are going to be able to lease their buildings by the end of the decade,” he says. “Some estimates reckon that 30%-40% of stock are rated E or F.”
Gould breaks down the mission of the UKGBC into three categories: being a provider of research and best practice; educating at all levels; and campaigning for legal and regulatory changes. He believes it will be most effective in its dealings with government if it approaches its role as a critical friend, rather than lambasting every failing. “It’s about educating, informing, advising and acting as a sounding board,” he says. “The UKGBC is not a lobby group. It’s in a more powerful position because it can have a dialogue and be constructive. However, it can be a tricky balance because if we think government is missing a trick on something we need to be able to say that.”
And Gould is certainly willing to comment on tricks missed. UKGBC is backing Building’s Green for Growth campaign, which sets out five areas where the government could make largely cost-free changes to policy that would have an impact on the construction industry’s growth prospects and on the sustainability agenda. In particular, Gould highlights the conspicuous absence of a programme from the government to make its own buildings more sustainable.
“Government is the biggest occupier of commercial, and it is the biggest owner of commercial space,” he says, adding that if you combine Whitehall buildings with the NHS and Ministry of Defence estates the total comes in at over 1 billion ft2.
“If it set a higher regulatory standard for the stock it owns and occupies, if it set out to create a retrofit programme and engineered the supply chain, then you’ve got a market that’s big enough for you to prove that sustainability works,” he says. “But most importantly it becomes a market opportunity, a growth opportunity for UK business. It’s an area in which UK business has a technological lead that we can exploit more in world markets. It feeds exactly into the growth agenda.”
In Gould, the UKGBC has an eloquent and influential advocate. Let’s just hope that his next role at JLL does not distract him too much.
Video interviews and more content from the world’s biggest event for sustainable design, construction and the built environment - held in March -are available to view here