Interview by George Maltezos,
principal banker of Property and Tourism at EBRD
to Symela Touchtidou
In January 2022, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) announced an additional €50 million in equity to its joint venture with Dimand. The JV focuses on brownfield redevelopment, deep refurbishment and regeneration projects in Greece.
To date, about 65% of EBRD funding in the Greek real estate sector is in green buildings or urban regeneration projects. Green buildings, the integration of sustainability practices in the real estate and tourism sectors and urban regeneration have a prominent place in the Bank’s strategy for Greece.
Greek Business Filed talked to Andreea Moraru, Regional Head of Greece and Cyprus at EBRD and George Maltezos, principal banker of Property and Tourism at EBRD about the priorities set by EBRD, investment opportunities, standards and ratings required to secure EBRD financing.
Measuring, categorizing and rating as “green”
“The Bank has developed a broad methodology that is based on basic principles, but varies across sectors,” George Maltezos, principal banker of Property and Tourism at EBRD explains to Greek Business File.
“In the real estate sector, the methodology differs based on:
- whether we are considering a European Union country or not and
- whether we are referring to new or existing buildings.
More specifically for Greece, in the cases of new constructions:
- if the property aims for an environmental certification (LEED, BREEAM, Edge, Green Key etc), then it is scored according to the level the certification. A LEED Gold or Platinum building for example will get the highest score, while a Silver will get a lower score but still account as Green.
- If there is no certification, then a comparison is made based on performance estimates of the building compared to the Nzeb level for the country. For returns better than NZeb-20%, the project gets the maximum score.
On existing buildings that are certified, we apply the same methodology to the new assets. If there is no certification, then the score is applied by comparing certain measurements before and after the retrofit. In case of properties that were previously not in use, they are compared with an average operational building of similar characteristics.
The methodology is extended to cases of acquisitions of green buildings, acquisitions or developments of building portfolios, refinancings, etc.
However, apart from the general scoring, each financing of green buildings is accompanied by a series of objectives in terms of savings (energy, water, materials, etc.) whereby actual performance of buildings at completion and full operation is compared with targets set at the approval of the financing.
The Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark (GRESB)
“Information related to sustainable development has gone from a ‘peripheral’ to a ‘key’ part of investment analysis,” George notes.
“The Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark (GRESB) is a specialized framework for providing ESG information for real estate assets. It aims to enhance and protect shareholder value by assessing and empowering sustainability practices in the real estate sector and aims to improve companies’ ability to manage sustainability risks and get insight into how to best capitalize on sustainability-related opportunities, such as reducing operating costs, meeting regulatory requirements and meeting the growing user needs.
GRESB also allows companies to get a clearer picture of their performance in ESG terms, to compare themselves with other investors and communicate to shareholders and other stakeholders their sustainability performance.
Performance on environmental and social issues such as resources use, human rights, health and safety, as well as corporate governance is increasingly being used to draw conclusions about management capacity, the company’s ability to determine its exposure to business and other risks, but also its ability to seize business opportunities. As a result, it is becoming increasingly important for companies to communicate clearly and accurately these aspects of their performance.
It is now confirmed both in research and in practice that companies that publish high-quality information about the long-term environmental and social impact of their activities are more likely to attract and retain long-term investors, but can also reduce their cost of capital and increase their capacity to raise new funds to finance sustainable projects.”
Securing EBRD financing for old buildings
“Projects may be considered for EBRD assistance if they are located in the economies we work in (such as Greece), have good prospects of being profitable, have adequate equity contributions in cash or in kind from the project sponsor, would benefit the local economy and satisfy our environmental standards as well as those of the host country. In this context, a request for Bank’s financing in the case of buildings redevelopment shall be supported by a detailed development and business plan on the intended use and any feasibility assessment that has been undertaken by the sponsor.
The sponsor’s experience and track record in delivering similar type of projects is also carefully assessed. The environmental contribution of the refurbishment is generally analyzed during the due diligence phase but an indication on the strategy in terms of capex on energy efficiency elements of the building or any envisaged building certification is considered from early stages of a project’s assessment. Interested companies can get in touch with us at the EBRD Athens Office, by sending an email to GeneralInboxAthensRO@ebrd.com with more information about the project or by filling the online form on our website https://www.ebrd.com/eform/contact/1390580844322.”
Added value for all
“For investors, the option of incorporating sustainability elements in their projects, despite the fact that it is now integrated into their culture or investment strategy, it continues to ultimately be considered in terms of value-adding contribution to the business. This added value does not necessarily have to be reflected into a higher cost of the product for users but rather the benefits are customarily related to savings (for example, saving energy, water, reducing resource consumption and improving process efficiency, higher employee productivity, etc.). In addition, the fact that users are becoming more and more sustainability-aware and determine their choices accordingly, is shifting demand to sustainable assets without burdening heavily their offering in cost terms.
Taking as examples two of our own investments, I would mention that (i) one of the first hotels in Greece certified under LEED at the level Gold is a three-star hotel (Moxy in Omonia) and (ii) the Green certified offices we developed at the former Papastratos facilities in Agios Dionysios, a former industrial area subject to urban regeneration, are located in an area where rental levels are much lower than for similar buildings in the city center or Maroussi.”
This article is published in the March/ April issue of Greek Business File, part of the cover story on the top construction industry trend of building green. The cover story presents the history of green buildings in Greece, the pioneers and market leaders. It also looks into the huge gap between the capital and the rest of the country. The March/ April issue of Greek Business File is available here.