Patrick Spiteri Staines, Managing Director of T4B Services, believes that sustainability is in investors’ self interest, and when it comes to real estate, achieving efficient – and profitable – sustainability has never been more important .
Speaking on The Boardroom, Ing. Spiteri Staines pointed out that the more self sustainable Malta becomes, the better it can withstand crises.
“We are only able to produce a very small percentage of energy locally, and this makes us vulnerable,” he said, bringing up rising gas prices and the energy crisis in Europe.
“Even as a trading bloc, the EU is very dependent on Eastern Europe, primarily Russia.”
The European Green New Deal seeks an answer to these problems by reducing carbon emissions and making Europe more sustainable.
This not only serves to reduce global warming, but also makes Europe less reliant on imported fossil fuels.
“We are seeing the effects of global warming going on around us, and we also know what the causes are,” says Ing. Spiteri Staines.
“The accelerating impact of climate change is causing a lot of harm all over the world, in both a physical and economic sense. It also results in massive loss of land and displacement of populations.”
In the face of such problems, closing the tap while brushing your teeth, or turning the lights off when leaving a room, sound almost trivial, but Ing. Spiteri Staines is adamant that such changes end up having a large effect.
He notes that buildings – both their construction and their use – are responsible for a lot of emissions, and says that the New Green Deal does a great job at giving a strong sense of direction.
Part of the New Green Deal is a drive to zero energy buildings – buildings that do not need to consume any energy from outside sources.
“While this is not possible to attain in all sectors,” says Ing. Spiteri Staines, “every sector must aim towards achieving the maximum energy efficiency.”
This can be made possible with good thermal insulation to ensure that heat does not seep in or out of the building, whether through the walls, floors, windows, or any other part of the building.
“Buildings built with a very high element of insulation, when combined with efficient ventilation, PV panels and a solar water heater, have a lot of potential to be very self reliant,” he explains.
While admitting that the building sector tends to be conservative, Ing. Spiteri Staines stresses that the realities of an unfolding climate emergency mean “we don’t have the luxury of doing things slowly”.
Speaking of luxury, he adds that zero energy buildings do not mean uncomfortable ones.
“Rather, it’s the opposite – the more efficient a building is at using and conserving energy, the more comfortable it is for its inhabitants and users.”
Addressing concerns by investors and developers that the upfront costs of energy efficient measures can mean lower returns on investment, Ing. Spiteri Staines mentions increases in the price of energy.
“First, we must acknowledge that when we speak of costs, environmental costs are almost entirely absent in most financial estimates.
“But, addressing the point on its own merit, it is good to remember that a building that uses less energy is only going to increase in value. As energy costs increase, that additional value increases too.”
In a nutshell, then, “buildings using zero energy have a higher net value to their owners”.
Ing. Spiteri Staines then turns to the assistance available from Government, partly coming from the EU, to encourage investments in energy efficiency, mentioning a Malta Enterprise scheme where energy investments are eligible for a grant of up to 50 per cent of the total value.
Asked where a business starting a new project should begin in assessing the environmental benefits versus the financial outlays, Ing. Spiteri Staines responds, “That is where energy auditing comes in.”
“Energy audits can be conducted not only on existing assets, but also on designed ones. One can envisage the energy use, the costs of various elements in the building, including the equipment and the amount of energy they will be using, and compare these with alternatives that require less energy.”
“Savings can be estimated and calculated, so that even at the design stage, one can have a clear view on the investment in cleaner energy and the returns expected.”