Green initiatives News Research

Total returns in green certified Prime & A-grade offices outperformed non-certified offices in 2022

Green certified Prime & A-grade offices produced an improved total return in 2022, outperforming non-certified office assets of a similar quality by 50 basis points during the year, according to the MSCI South Africa Green Annual Property Index for 2022.

Released annually since 2016, in conjunction with the Green Building Council of South Africa (GBCSA) and sponsored by Growthpoint properties, the index provides an independent, globally consistent view on the investment performance of green-certified and non-certified offices.

The MSCI index once again shows that green buildings are good investments. But, more than that, it reflects lower power and water costs in these properties. At a time when tenants are looking at ‘total cost of occupation’, and utility prices keep escalating, it makes sense to rent space in a green efficient building. Added to that, the cost of providing backup power to these properties will be reduced, because consumption is lower,” comments Paul Kollenberg, Growthpoint Head of Asset Management: Offices.

At the end of 2022, the index sample comprised 303 prime and A-grade office assets valued at R58.2 billion of which 164 were green-certified buildings. These were compared to 112 non-certified offices of a similar quality.

For the year ended December 2022, the green-certified office sample delivered a total return of 6.1%, 50 basis points above the non-certified sample’s return of 5.6%. Since the index’s inception in 2016, the sample of green-certified offices outperformed the non-certified sample by a cumulative 20.9%.

Over this seven-year period, green certified offices had a 2.1% lower vacancy rate and 1.0% higher net operating income (NOI) growth. This robust NOI growth underpinned green offices’ income return which was in-line with that of non-certified offices despite a 25% higher capital value per square metre. A 30% higher NOI per square meter compared to non-certified office buildings reinforced the premium blue-chip occupiers are placing on green office accommodation.

Green certified offices boasted significantly lower per square meter usage of electricity (-4.5%) and water (-14.3%) when compared to non-certified offices. With administered costs rising at rates more than inflation, these costs can have a significant impact on performance over the lifecycle of a property. In 2022, the green-certified office sample’s gross cost to income ratio was 39.7%, substantially lower than the 43.0% of the non-certified subset. As a result, green offices had a 20bp lower capitalisation rate and a higher forward income growth implying that its future cashflows were deemed both lower risk and likely to grow at a faster rate.

Released in April 2023, the MSCI South Africa Green Annual Property Index demonstrated the positive relationship between green-certified buildings and investment returns but also of its impact on property fundamentals that could underpin future performance.

The highlight of these results lies in the reduced cost to income ratios. It shows that through certification, owners can manage costs better because they have future proofed their assets. In the current market where rentals are difficult to increase, managing costs are more important than ever, especially water and electricity, so efficiency is paramount” says Eileen Andrew from MSCI.

Lisa Reynolds, CEO of GBCSA, states: “In the last few years, the conversation has shifted. Green certified buildings always made business sense due to the financial savings in the utility bills. Currently we add the concepts of risk into the conversations – the risks due to the impact climate change, the risks due to the lack of resource security and, most importantly, the risk of stranded assets. Certified green buildings play a huge role in mitigating these risks. I believe that this is confirmed by the MSCI results.”