Jorge Mendonça, Portfolio Director, London Estate, tells us why Grosvenor Britain & Ireland has an exciting year ahead.
Amid rising pressures in cities around the world, such as climate change and overpopulation, it’s becoming increasingly crucial that Grosvenor does its bit to make sure its buildings and places can endure. But Jorge Mendonça, Portfolio Director, for Grosvenor’s London Estate, remains confident. “London isn’t standing still,” he says. “Our job is to make sure our part of London not only remains relevant but also improves and becomes part of the way that London evolves.”
And 2016 certainly saw Grosvenor make huge strides towards meeting this goal. Running and supporting 20 community events in and around London that attracted more than 95,000 attendees was a particular mark of triumph. Furthermore, their partnership with recycling organisation First Mile has helped them increase their recycling rate to 59%, nearly double the average recycling rate for the area. Not to mention the success they’ve had with their Retrofit programme, through which they’ve refurbished their property at 119 Ebury Street to meet a BREEAM ‘Outstanding’ rating, and their property at 11 Passmore Street to meet the highly energy-efficient EnerPHit Passivhaus standard. To date the retrofit programme has saved 2,750 tonnes of carbon, equivalent to rainforest the size of 68 Regent’s Parks.
“External recognition is great, because it proves that we are at the cutting edge of what we do – or at least very close to it,” says Mendonça. “This motivates our internal teams as well, who see all the work we’re doing is paying off.”
With these successes behind them, Grosvenor have become more ambitious. As part of their ‘Living cities’ philosophy, they are working even harder to make their neighbourhoods durable for the long-term. “We’ve always felt that sustainability was important, but we perhaps used to think of it as separate from our day-to-day work,” Mendonça explains. “Now, we’re much more focused on operating a sustainable business in every way – so this thinking is becoming part of our DNA.”
One way to achieve this is by ensuring their activity is guided by robust research helping them operate even more effectively across their portfolio. “We essentially want to be sure of the positive impact our work will have,” he says. “For example, we’re using our development at Barton Park, Oxfordshire, to analyse how much embodied carbon we’re emitting during construction. We can then use findings from this research to apply to future projects, to ensure we’re performing as efficiently as we can be.”
Of course, sustainability isn’t all about making buildings energy efficient. “Our business isn’t just about buildings; it’s about making places,” says Mendonça. “Our overall aim is to create attractive, comfortable places that communities can thrive in – sustainability is a big part of that, but ultimately it’s the people that make places worth living in.”
And part of encouraging communities to thrive is involving them in the placemaking process. “We already have our sustainability toolkit that residents and tenants can use to make their properties more energy efficient,” says Mendonça. “And we’ll soon be launching a customer portal too, which will allow them to have more direct conversations with us. It’s all about developing an ‘interactive’ estate, to help us reach our goals together.”
This conversation doesn’t just stop in the UK though. Mendonça is also part of the Grosvenor Liaison Group, which helps Grosvenor Britain & Ireland collaborate regularly with the rest of the global Grosvenor Group. “Our businesses around the world are doing some really exciting things, and we need to share that knowledge,” says Mendonça. “We’re a global business and we need to stay connected.”
One thing’s for sure: Grosvenor is well on its way to meeting their ambitions. “We’re stewards of a place that has existed for 300 years, so we need to make sure we’re doing our bit to keep it alive,” says Mendonça. “We know that it’s not just about the business we do – but how we do that business. “Ultimately, everyone here is passionate about doing the right thing for our partners, tenants and residents.”