If you ever look up as you walk about Manchester, chances are you’ll see a red oval “Bruntwood” sign above you. The omni-present commercial property group (www.bruntwood.co.uk) specialises in taking buildings that might well get torn down and making them not just habitable and profitable, but energy-efficient to boot. They’re also backing Manchester University’s “EcoCities Project”, which aims to provide the blueprint for a climate change adaptation strategy for the city. So, it seemed like a good idea to sit down with Mike Oglesby, Bruntwood’s founder, and talk about why climate change matters to him and the business.
Oglesby, who founded the Bruntwood group in 1978, explained that the company is focused on the long-term future and also on the need to create the right sort of environment for their customers (never, as we learned, call them tenants!). “It just makes commercial sense to be the ‘green choice’ and at the end of the day – this is what I keep saying to people – it makes good financial sense. There are all sort of arguments, but even to the most hard-nosed accountant it makes sense.”
Preaching the financial gains of more sustainable practices, Bruntwood are currently running various recycling schemes, green roofing projects and the like. They are keen to show people the advantages of retrofitting rather than demolishing buildings in the city. “If you take the improvements that you can make and compare it to the cost of replacing it all, we believe that people should be clambering to save these old buildings and not pull them down.”
Bruntwood, which owns 38 office building in Manchester’s city centre alone, also has projects in the pipeline to encourage car-sharing. “The key thing is being able to say to people ‘do this and it will really make a difference’, to point it out and educate them.” In fact, this seems to be the motivation behind supporting the university project: they want the evidence.
“You know people actually enjoy being virtuous, maybe that’s a bad choice of words but it does make them feel good. What we have got to do is to find the right ways of making people feel good about it and that’s why we need the universities to say ‘that does have that effect’, ‘that’s the key thing’.”
On a different note, we asked his opinion on the proposal for an elected mayor in the city. He was robust in stating he didn’t think it was necessary. “In fact, I’d go further than that, as I think London has shown that you don’t necessarily get the right type of leadership by electing a mayor. I believe that the political leadership that we have throughout the region is sound.”
You’ll be able to read the full transcript of the interview imminently, here on the MCFly blog.
MCFly will, over the coming months, be interviewing other businesses about their climate change activities.