Smarter, Greener, Better: public sector industry experts’ words of wisdom

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  • Smarter, Greener, Better: public sector industry experts’ words of wisdom
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Marie Leaphard


Marie Leaphard


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Reflections from the Government Property 23

Working smarter, greener and better was the theme at RLB’s recent panel discussion at Government Property 23, the event where property professionals across the public sector exchange ideas and discuss and debate the challenges and opportunities across the built environment. How do we work smarter and what does smarter mean? How we go about embedding sustainability across our public sector estates – whether operationally or at design, build and refurb stage? And how do we work better with the continued pressure on public sector finances and resources balanced against spiralling utility and materials costs?

At RLB, these are questions we are constantly helping our clients address and it was within our Smarter, Greener, Better framework that we recently posed questions to key stakeholders working within the public sector and RLB Partner, Marie Leaphard asked our guests on the panel, Jonathan Boulton, Head of Estate Strategy & Engagement, the Metropolitan Police and Stuart Mee, Sustainability Director, Environment and Reporting, Landsec, their thoughts and approach to.


What does a smart estate mean to you?

We started with smarter and what smart means in a public sector world? Was it always linked to digitally enabled estates and the data insights that digital can bring to estate management and optimisation? For 63% of those surveyed, smarter includes all documents held digitally and enabling meaningful data and having the ability to create digital twins of their estates.

Jonathan Boulton, The Met Police stated,

There is a three-point plan of working smarter, (1) establish what you have by understanding exactly what is in your estate (2) establish your need and (3) establish how is this estate being used on a day-to-day basis.”

Jonathan Boulton, The Metropolitan Police

With many of the public sector estates in desperate need of renewal, RLB’s Marie Leaphard asked how can public sector estates be future ready?  84% in the RLB survey admitted that their estates were not optimised but 42% thought that they were flexible to adapt to future trends.

“Although data is essential to being able to effectively manage an estate, there is also a need to understand the quantity and quality of data and use it in the right way to make informed decisions”, commented Stuart Mee of Landsec. RLB’s survey data backed this up with 67% of the respondents sayingthey know what data they’ve got but don’t have the time to keep it updated. Stuart continued, “Using AI technology to allow BMS systems to adapt to optimum efficiency for different levels of occupancy is one way that Landsec is using data at our head office. We are also exploring how we can provide live data to our customers to provide them with better visibility and engaging with our brand partners who often procure their own energy within our assets – to share data.”

Marie Leaphard, RLB


So, what is important when it comes to sustainability? Are organisations being led by Sustainability Development Goals or ESG targets and is meeting these green targets really achievable with present resources in the current economic climate?

73% of people surveyed commented they only partly have the resources or don’t have the time to meet environmental targets set with 67% are already seeing the pressure to spend money elsewhere.

Stuart Mee from Landsec comments,

“The commitment at Landsec comes from the top, complemented by ensuring the right governance to drive change and ownership throughout the organisation. This is reflected by every colleague in Landsec having an objective to support the delivery of our sustainability framework and performance against our energy and carbon targets is linked to renumeration.  There is also a demand from customers and investors to adhere to the highest environmental standards.”

Stuart Mee, Landsec


So, what equated to working better posed RLB Partner Marie Leaphard? And how can we truly understand the full extent of assets for future needs and maintenance? Only one in five of RLB’s survey respondents had admitted to knowing exactly what assets they owned and felt that they had a strategy in place to be able to record this now and in the future. From RLB’s work across its six facets reporting much of this data helps drive not just optimisation of estates but identify exact components of estates. This allows clients to be able to not just understand their estates better, but also collate data to back business cases for investment for their estates.

“It has taken two years and an investment and commitment from senior leaders to ensure that we understand our estates properly. Often the difficulty is getting the buy in for what can be a changing landscape, but once you have that data it is a game changer in terms of how you can use it.”

Jonathan Boulton, The Metropolitan Police

The Skills Gap

And finally, we discussed how to solve the skills gap in estates management to allow us to work more Smarter, Greener and Better. RLB’s Emily Walker, one of 55 apprentices at RLB, gave insights into how she applies what she is learning daily to her one study day a week as well as benefitting from learnings from the wealth of experience and expertise around her within the RLB team. 

There is no doubt there continues to be a pendulum swinging between pressures financially, skills and time on one side with many of the aims and missions of those working in the public sector on the other. However, understanding that one size doesn’t fit all and sharing meaningful data and knowledge will help us move forward in our ambition to meet these goals. Government legislation will also support this, and value-based outcomes as outlined in the Construction Playbook and Value Toolkit will also help in terms of raising the standards and creating a new norm towards a smarter, greener and better future.