As published in Insider Media on 16 May 2022

Hollis’ presence in the North East has gone from strength to strength since opening their office in 2007, with the team now offering multiple services including project management, landlord and tenant matters, condition records and ESG consulting. By managing to stay stable during a turbulent few years, Hollis have been able to grow their team and expertise allowing them to adapt to market changes as we move into a post-Covid life. Here’s how Hollis have maintained their standing in the North East.

Movements in the market

Like many industries, the built environment has been largely affected by the implications of Covid-19 and has seen a distinct change in typical market behaviour. This paired with the current movement towards a greener environment, with ethical considerations edging closer to the forefront of clients’ objectives, all those in commercial real estate have needed to adapt. This is no different within the north of the country, with Newcastle noticing the effects notably in the retail and office sector. Discussing his view on the current state of the market, Senior Associate, Philip Hirst, tells us “With most businesses eager to return to the workplace, it appears that the offices sector is beginning to rise once again with take up increasing from 2020, but still falling lower than pre-Covid levels. Clients are back buying and selling properties again, so it is great to get our TDD and M&E teams back into offices and helping clients in this sector. It is no secret that the retail space has struggled to rise since the societal shift to life online. With residential demand ever-increasing, we have seen many clients looking into what options they hold with their retail assets, and the shift of shops-to-homes is an increasingly attractive option.”

Hollis have noticed repurposing becoming more popular in the last few years and are project managing the Government funded Captain Cook shopping centre in Middlesbrough, which will be repurposed for leisure use, boosting the night-time economy in the area. Building local economy remains a priority for Hollis as they continue to use local partners on projects, provide employment to the wider network and secure their presence in the North East.

Managing projects: a balancing act

Hollis’ Newcastle office are not new to project management and have the scale and range to tackle any challenge, frequently pulling together other service offerings in the team to deliver multi-faceted advice to clients. Continuing to deliver projects on time and under budget, Hollis work with clients on major, and iconic, projects in Newcastle including award-winning office refurbishments. Hollis’ previous office projects have made headline rents in the North East, benefiting the wider market, and they are now doing the same in other sectors. Head of Newcastle office, David Cox, tells us “We have seen an increase in the amount of refurbishment work for our clients in the industrial sector, with most of our project management instructions now taking place on sheds. We recently managed a net zero carbon shed refurbishment, which achieved an EPC rating ‘B’ and BREEAM rating ‘very good’. With industrial demand soaring, clients are finding people queuing to get into their sheds. Our job is to balance ESG considerations with the time and money that it takes to make changes, to essentially ensure no sheds are left empty for long periods of time.”

Investing in the future of real estate

A major change across the North East real estate space, is this increase of investment into refurbishments, mostly with a view of increasing EPC ratings. In light of the new Government energy efficiency regulations in April 2023, landlords can only continue to let a commercial property which holds an EPC with a minimum rating of ‘E’, which will later increase to a ‘B’ standard in 2030. Continuing, or starting, a lease with an EPC rating lower than this will cause landlords to be in breach of minimum energy efficiency standards (‘MEES’). Many portfolio owners are already shifting their focus and looking to make their assets more energy efficient prior to deadline day. Cox explains “Clients are prioritising ESG objectives when making decisions on buildings. We provide advice that will not only future proof their buildings in line with new energy regulations, but that will benefit their bottom line too. Our clients may have previously been put off by initial expenditure that comes with ESG investing, but now see the long-term benefits including decreased expenses, enhanced value and quality tenants. Considering this, why would they wait until 2030, or even 2023, to get started?” With the majority of Hollis’ clients coming forward with ESG objectives, the team have been bolstering their talent in this offering and cover a range of services including solar PV, BREEAM assessments, net zero carbon and EPCs.

Speaking of the recent influx of EPC instructions Hollis have received, Hirst explains the importance of tailoring advice when looking to improve ratings. “We always start consultations by understanding the needs and objectives of our clients, allowing us to offer tailored advice on assets. No one building is the same, and so neither is our advice. We consider all factors, from building fabric to building services, hot water to lighting, and even how much energy is consumed by mechanical and electrical equipment. By weighing up all elements, we provide clients with a comprehensive view of their portfolio before deciding on the best way to proceed with their ESG investing.”

Hollis’ team in Newcastle have been adapting to market changes since the firm’s expansion in 2007 and their growth of key services in recent years is representative of their ability to meet the ever-changing demands of the market. For those seeking advice on their commercial property assets, the team in Newcastle will be able to offer expert guidance covering a wide span of services, prioritising client objectives and considerations throughout.