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More than 300 properties in Greece receive green stamp

Over 300 properties in Greece have received green certification, with most of them (ie 229 properties) belonging to Lidl Hellas, according to Eleni Polychroniadou, co-founder of Sintali.

Based in London, Sintali worked with Lidl Hellas in helping the supermarket gain the EDGE green certification created by the World Bank as part of a push to transform the built environment market.

In an interview with Business Daily, Polychroniadou emphasizes that Lidl Hellas also secured the EDGE Zero Carbon certification for its store in Lamia, and that it is the first certified zero carbon building with international standards in the country.

"The flagship store improved its energy efficiency by 59%," explains Polychroniadou.

There is a lot of talk about the need for green buildings in Greece but what does the data show? What kind of trends are emerging in green buildings in Greece?

According to the Sustainable Building Council in Greece (SBC), between 2012 and 2022, there were 73 certified green buildings against some of the most well-known international green building systems (LEED, BREEAM and DGNB). If we add some other international green building certification schemes such as EDGE, the number goes up to over 300 certified green buildings in Greece.

Currently the segment that is leading the market is the office space and the retail sector.

These are segments of the market where owners can get higher premiums for rental space, access green finance solutions from commercial banks and build on company branding and credibility in their corporate sustainability claims. The business case for building green is fairly straight forward, and quite compelling.

On the residential side, the government subsidy program “Εξοικονομώ” has created awareness for green buildings and efficiency solutions but given the complexity of ownership and multi-tenanted buildings, green building certification has only been applied to residential projects in very limited quantities. This is a global trend, not just in the Greek market.

Greening the existing residential stock across Europe remains a large (and rather complicated!) challenge.

The opportunity for Greece, however, remains vast. As part of the European Union, there are key pieces of legislation that require an upgrading of the national building stock, regardless of sector and age. This will act as a significant market driver as Greece starts to implement its new Climate Law. There is also the driver from the financial world. Banks and financial

institutions are under pressure to increase their proportion of green lending and align with EU Taxonomy. They are looking for green projects and at some point, will stop financing “non-green” buildings.

Greece has been slower than some of its European counterparts on the adoption of green buildings, but the ball has started rolling and more and more developers and asset owners are realising this is the only way forward. Most new developments have some green credentials. What is critical in the next phase is to see a larger portion of existing buildings get renovated, or upgraded, with green building principles in mind as the majority of the

stock in Greece is already built.

Can you tell us a little bit about Sintali and what it does?

Sintali was founded with a mission to make sure every building on this planet is green. The built environment contributes almost 40 percent to global energy-related greenhouse gas emissions. We want to get that number down as quickly as possible.

We do that by verifying the impact of the built environment around the world, acting as an independent third party to validate sustainability claims made about buildings and ensure companies, governments and financial institutions are genuinely making a positive difference.

Our core service offering is EDGE certification. EDGE was created by the International Finance Corporation (IFC), member of the World Bank Group, and is an innovative green building standard and certification. EDGE is revolutionising green buildings around the world and enabling mass market transformation of the built environment.

Since our founding, Sintali has issued over 36,000 certificates verifying the carbon reductions and efficiency improvements of a range of buildings, from social housing to hospitals to offices to schools to warehouses and shops. Overall, our clients have reduced their CO 2 impact by over 245,000 tons every year and saved 731,116 MWh of energy annually. These emissions reductions are helping to address the climate crisis, as well as the dependence on natural resources such as water and energy. We also deliver capacity building and training to help educate various stakeholders on sustainability.

There are a number of green building certifications offered on the market but Sintali works with the EDGE building certificate. What makes EDGE so special?

Every green building certification serves a purpose. It has a different focus area, a different target market and a different geography in mind. EDGE was created by the World Bank with one objective in mind: mass market transformation.

This aligns with our core principle of making sustainability accessible to all, which is one of the reasons why we support and promote EDGE. We believe that every building, whether it’s the local hospital or the high-end luxury apartment, should be green in a verifiable and transparent way.

EDGE achieves that in two ways: the first is through its free web-based platform, the EDGE App, and the second is through the process itself.

Typically you think of green building certification schemes as something that comes at the end of a process for validation. While EDGE does it, it also can be used at the beginning of a retrofit process or the design of a new building because of the free EDGE App. This becomes useful to all stakeholders in a real estate value chain, but it also means that data about green buildings and the business case becomes more accessible to all.

The EDGE App is available to anyone around the world (whether they choose to certify a project or not). While the methodology and the system are global, IFC has also built in local baselines for every country around the world which take into account different climactic conditions, building regulations and industry practices. This allows anybody to assess their building compared to their local baseline.

They can then review what efficiency measures could be implemented to improve the building or building design. The software then calculates the associated costs related to these improvements. It provides incremental cost,

the return on investment, the efficiency savings as well as the utility cost savings. This data can be used to prepare net zero roadmaps, identify how much money you could save from improving the efficiency of your asset, calculate the investment required to green a building and find the most cost-effective resource efficiency measures.

The accessibility component isn’t just the access to the data, but through the process itself. EDGE operates in every country in the world and can accommodate pretty much any building type. It is easily scalable across multiple assets and can be applied to existing buildings, to help develop a retrofit strategy, as well as for buildings in the design stage.

In Greece, Sintali helped LIDL Hellas certify all of its 229 properties against EDGE. Can you tell us about this project? What were the big challenges you came across?

LIDL Hellas is one of the leading companies in Greece in terms of corporate sustainability. The company is involved with many initiatives ranging from the UN Global Compact to the Science-Based Targets initiative. As a building owner, the carbon from its buildings contributes significantly to its overall environmental impact.

We started working with LIDL Hellas in 2018. The initial scope of the project was 220 buildings, which was then expanded to 229 are more buildings were built and/or opened.

LIDL Hellas used EDGE to validate the sustainability credentials of its buildings, but it also used the EDGE App to understand the impact of its current portfolio and identify opportunities for improvements. By assessing where the buildings are today, the company was able to develop a retrofit strategy and implement it across its portfolio. This included highlighting the most effective green technologies to adopt, such as LED lights and reduced flow water fittings in most stores.

What has been interesting about this project is that it isn’t a checklist exercise for LIDL Hellas. The company certified its progress to date, and then has gone back to see what additional improvements could be made to the buildings and then recertified its progress.

A good example of this is the EDGE Zero Carbon certification the company achieved for its flagship store in Lamia. It is the first certified zero carbon building with the international standard throughout the country. The flagship store improved energy efficiency by 59%. The use of onsite and offsite renewables, primarily solar photovoltaics enabled Lamia to then achieve EDGE Zero Carbon.

LIDL Hellas is looking at potentially upgrading more of its stores to reach zero carbon, which would require additional retrofits and recertification. To date, Lidl Hellas has achieved EDGE certification for 229 buildings throughout the country, making the company the owner of the largest portfolio of certified assets in the country.

By undergoing EDGE certification on its stores, Lidl Greece was also able to secure a 40 million Euro loan for the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) to support the energy efficiency investments and roll out of the “Green Store Concept.”

It is a truly impressive project and one that gives me hope about the future direction of the Greek real estate market. Oftentimes, property owners simply don’t believe that green buildings can be implemented at scale. Projects such as this one show that it is possible, and it can be done. In fact, it was delivered in just 3 years from start to finish.

What kind of objections do you get from property owners on going green? Where do they show resistance to certifying their buildings? Is it solely a matter of cost?

Many property owners still don’t believe that there is value in green buildings. They challenge whether green buildings will actually bring them business benefits, and why they should invest in them. One of the reasons this happens is due to lack of awareness of the tangible benefits of green buildings, but the other is also the timeframes companies make decisions on. There is a clear ROI with every green building measure, but it also matters what timeframe you look at. Some ROI will be within a year, some will be within five.

However you look at it though, there is a business case to building green.

Green-rated buildings offer both rental and sales value uplift compared with non-rated buildings, in many cases reaching a premium of up to 12.3%. One study indicated that green certified buildings translate to as high as 31% increase in sales values, 23% higher occupancy rates and an 8% increase in rental incomes. Green buildings also offer lower operating costs when focusing on energy efficiency.

Whilst, green buildings are estimated to cost 2% more to build on average, but they save 14% to 19% in operational expenditures. One study even stated that green buildings increase productivity gains by just under 5%. Green buildings also offer better and safer investments for banks and funds, who financiers are seeking out investments that account for climate risk and back projects that can make a proven contribution to reducing impact. So whilst it is obvious that green buildings provide many environmental benefits, there is a strong business case for building green.

You have been named one of the UK's most inspiring female entrepreneurs for 2023 by f:Entrepreneur. What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs trying to make it?

I think my best piece of advice is make sure you know your “why” – the reason or driver behind your dreams. It really becomes your guiding star when pursuing entrepreneurship.

We often see the path of the entrepreneur as glamorous, and it can be, but it’s also very challenging. When you’re grounded in something deeper and meaningful to you, you can handle any challenge that comes your way.

This interview was originally published on (in Greek).

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