Ben Lisle is raising the bar for carbon neutral property
The Green Files is a unique CEFC series where we talk to the people making a difference in the race to net zero emissions.
15 March 2022
When it comes to sustainability, Hesperia Managing Director Ben Lisle believes that Australia can – and should – do more. And he thinks action should start now, rather than be deferred into the future.
Says Ben: “We’re very proud to have established Hesperia as the first B-Corp in the property industry. We see our business as a vehicle for improving the places where we live and work in terms of environmental, social and economic outcomes. We feel it is important to take action now rather than some point in the future.”
Raising the bar
A shining example: Hesperia’s award-winning development, Roe Highway Logistics Park (ROE). The first industrial estate in Western Australia on track to be carbon neutral, ROE has raised the bar for emissions reduction in a sector that has a lot to account for.
“Property and development are big contributors to carbon emissions, so we need to work hard to reduce our impact,” says Ben.
At the time Hesperia was formed, climate change risks were becoming increasingly evident. We know that sustainability is good for the environment and community. It is also increasingly important to tenants, purchasers and financiers.Ben LisleManaging Director, Hesperia
The ROE development has benefitted from a landmark $95 million investment commitment from the CEFC – its first direct investment to reduce embodied carbon in property construction.
“We had been watching and understanding the sustainability space and were aware of the CEFC and its significance in supporting an acceleration of environmental outcomes,” explains Ben. “We saw working with the CEFC as a great way to demonstrate to other investment partners that we could deliver better sustainability outcomes in a cost-effective manner. The CEFC investment has enabled us to push forward more quickly on key sustainability aspects.”
Key sustainability innovations at ROE include new low carbon building materials, large-scale solar PV, and strategic initiatives associated with storm and wastewater management. Hesperia now plans to use these innovations across its projects, which span the medical, commercial and residential sectors in addition to industrial.
Adequate time is key
“There’s always a learning curve when you’re doing something new - the key is to allow adequate time to work through issues and manage the risk of things going wrong,” reflects Ben.
“For example, using low carbon concrete required nearly 18 months of collaboration with Boral. We worked closely together to refine the Boral Envisia® product to make it look and perform the way we needed it for industrial performance. With low carbon concretes, you replace the high-carbon element – the cement – with other by-products such as slag. Understanding how the by-products perform is critical.
“In terms of solar, we had considerable roof space on various warehouses. As a result, we can generate more energy than the site needs. We’re looking at what to do with the surplus power in a way that doesn’t negatively impact grid stability. We have also invested substantial time understanding the market for carbon offsets, which is complex and moving rapidly.”
In spite of the challenges, there’s no doubting the significance of ROE at this point in time – and the amount the industry can learn from it.
Projects like this demonstrate that carbon neutrality is possible, and it’s possible now. We’ve taken the view that we need to act on sustainability now, not in 2030 or 2050. I think it’s better to set big goals, move forward in a way that manages out major risk and then learn and adapt as you go, rather than sitting around waiting for the perfect answer.Ben LisleManaging Director, Hesperia
“Part of our strategy involves adopting internationally recognised sustainability initiatives. Hesperia signed the World Green Building Council’s Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment at the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow. This means we’ve joined with 43 international businesses to help decarbonise the built environment,” says Ben.
Unambiguous approach needed
“In our sector, one challenge will be developing a clear, unambiguous approach to measuring carbon, one that we can all agree on and understand. We’ll also face ongoing challenges adapting to new materials. For example, when it comes to batteries, there are issues around affordability, battery life and recyclability. From our experience, I’d say there will be challenges sourcing credible carbon offsets, particularly those that are biodiversity based.”
While acknowledging there’s a long way to go, Ben is optimistic.
“I believe our sector will rise to these challenges and see that the drive for sustainability creates new commercial opportunities. At Hesperia, we’ve made the commitment to carbon neutrality, so it is not a question of if or when, just how. We don’t think we have all the answers, but we love to collaborate and share – and when you take that approach, you can always find a way.”