As published in All Things Business on 01 March 2023

In the five years since it was established, the Milton Keynes office of Hollis has reaped the rewards of strategy and forward thinking, growing into a centre of expertise in sustainability within real estate consultancy.

As international, independent real estate consultants, Hollis works with owners, occupiers, developers and funders to help them get more out of their real estate across the property lifecycle, offering services such as project management, measured surveys, due diligence surveys, dilapidations, ESG consultancy and pre-lease advice.

Opening with a team of three, the Milton Keynes office now employs 13 people, including a management team of four, each with their own specialist area:

Tom Pugh, Head of the Milton Keynes office and measured surveys and area referencing team, is an expert in property measurement – a vital component in achieving consistency in managing and reporting energy efficiency.

Carl Sablon, Head of industrial and logistics, is a project management specialist, with a particular focus on helping clients achieve top sustainability credentials on their industrial assets.

Andrew Jenkins, Building Surveyor, is highly skilled in landlord and tenant work, pre-purchase advice, technical due diligence and project delivery, providing support and advice to ensure potential risks are managed, including the implications of energy efficiency works.

Nick Lincoln is a dilapidations expert negotiating between landlords and exiting tenants regarding costs that need to be recovered.

Under their leadership, the Milton Keynes office has become something of a regional hub, experiencing growth thanks to the specialist work available to an increasing number of clients who are realising their responsibilities in terms of the buildings they are buying, building or refurbishing.

Tom Pugh said: “Hollis made a conscious effort to focus on sustainability earlier than most people really started taking it seriously, and so we’d built up a bank of experience and expertise ready for what has now begun to happen. The pandemic held things up a little, but it also led people to reassess their office space and what they need to do to make changes.

“If you want to be showing by 2030 that you are making progress on achieving net zero targets, you really need to be thinking about it now. Fortunately, across the whole of Hollis, which now has 23 offices in five different countries, we have a wide range of expertise. And our ethos is that we’re all working together as one team. We call on the skills of our colleagues and draw on resources from across the business to serve our clients.”

Hollis’ Milton Keynes office has followed the company’s approach to training and has employed four graduates in the past five years. Two of those are now chartered, with the other two on track to become so in the next couple of years. Having graduate trainees on board was part of the reason why Hollis encouraged its staff back into its offices once pandemic restrictions were lifted and people felt safe to return. The benefits, apart from ensuring the Hollis workplace was a fun and social environment where staff felt they wanted to be, are that learning happens much more effectively face-to-face and interaction between colleagues is easier and more organic.

Tom Pugh added: “There’s only a certain amount of training you can do on a video call, and so we wanted to get people back together as soon as we could. People learn from one another better, and that learning sometimes goes both ways. Graduates are discovering and experiencing things in university now that are new and innovative, and they bring that to the workplace.

“In general, I think people are gradually returning to offices, but it’s a slightly different landscape now. Employees want certain things from their workplace and that, combined with the current economic conditions, and the looming net zero targets, is making owners and landlords think seriously about how they approach business space.

“There’s still a lot of confusion, however, about the definition of how a building becomes net zero carbon. It can be difficult calculating the assumed energy consumption on a speculative development or refurbishment. The energy consumption of a parcel delivery company is very different from a manufacturing company or a building with a cold store in it. For a building to be truly net zero carbon, it needs to be monitored for a complete year to understand its tenants’ energy consumption. We can then look for ways to reduce consumption and offset any remaining carbon by installing photovoltaics to the roof. Our clients are looking for something that will have longevity and meet regulations and requirements, while tenants want good quality space that’s good value for them to occupy.

Milton Keynes is a good example of an area where buildings are coming to the end of their useful life and are either being converted to residential or demolished. What happens to those buildings has got to be at the forefront of everyone’s thoughts now.

“A lot of clients are setting themselves ambitious targets because they realise how important it is. We’re seeing investors prepared to spend a lot of money to get it right, to build something long-lasting and sustainable, and in order to do so they can only benefit from our expertise.”

Hollis’ sustainability drive in Milton Keynes and beyond has helped the business become a trusted partner to many local and national names in real estate. The past five years for the office has seen great client growth, employee development and the opportunity to work on some of the most sustainable industrial refurbishments in the UK. Now marks the time to celebrate five successful years, and look forward to an exciting time ahead.