Environmental responsibility in retail dilapidations

06 June 2022

Nyree Applegarth, Head of Property Disputes, feels encouraged by an increased leaning towards environmental responsibility in retail dilapidations.

I recently took part in an RICS dilapidations conference where it was very encouraging to see that the agenda was dominated by considerations of green dilapidations and a commitment to sustainability. 

All too often when a tenant moves out of a commercial building landlords instruct their contractors to rip out anything that they consider to be outdated or beyond economic repair and little thought is given to waste reduction and net zero carbon. 

It is, therefore, really encouraging to see that professional firms are now offering greener alternatives to the usual dilapidations process for retail, commercial and industrial property occupiers across the UK. 

Specialist property consultancies are now developing green dilapidations processes to try and reduce the time and resource on both sides and carbon emissions throughout.  If dilapidations are dealt with in a greener and more sustainable way landlords can reduce the additional materials resources and costs associated with repeatedly fitting out and stripping out commercial property spaces repeatedly over their lifetime. 

Currently the quantities of waste that are produced and carbon which is wasted in a traditional model, where premises are stripped out each time a tenant moves out and a new tenant moves in, are uneconomical and unsustainable. 

Landlords are therefore being encouraged to now take a longer term view of tenancies, occupiers and market conditions and offering solutions that are more sustainable in terms of the materials that are being used and the processes that are being adopted.  

Instead of stripping out a tenant’s fitout when a lease comes to an end, I’ve seen professional firms for landlords being encouraged to consider alternatives. When a tenant applies for consent to alter the premises, it’s sensible to consider whether items that are being removed from the premises are capable of reuse.

So, what can you as a landlord do to minimise the carbon footprint? This is an ever changing picture, but some basic considerations include:

Whether items introduced into the premises should be on their second life or beyond and whether or not they are capable of further reuse.

Any design detailing should enable future disassembly. 

What materials are being used? The use of concrete should be avoided and any steel that is being used should have a high recycled content. 

Is timber being obtained from a sustainable source? If not, why not? 

Any fitout design should also be such that it could reasonably be expected to be reused by a future tenant and would not have a detriment to future marketing if the premises was left in situ. 

Items that are being used should also be solvent free, formaldehyde free and low in volatile organic compounds. 

Associated carbon emissions for any works including manufacture transportation in materials and contractors maintenance and removal, should also be minimised wherever possible and emissions should be offset. 

We all have a responsibility to operate as sustainably as possible, and it is fantastic to see the RICS taking the lead on such an important issue.

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