European Sustainable Development Week: Real Estate and 'Tomorrow'

by Ludovic Chambe, CBRE Project and Sustainable Development Manager
Jun 10, 2016 9:55 AM ET

The Green Perspective

“Showing solutions, telling a feel-good story… this may be the best way to solve the ecological, economic and social crises that our countries are going through. After a special briefing for the journal Nature announced the possible extinction of a part of mankind before the end of the 21st century, Cyril Dion and Mélanie Laurent, together with a team of four people, carried out an investigation in ten different countries to figure out what may lead to this disaster and above all how to avoid it. During their journey, they met the pioneers who are re-inventing Agriculture, Energy, Economy, Democracy and Education. Joining those concrete and positive actions which are already working, they began to figure out what could be tomorrow’s world…”

So, what is the real estate sector doing to action these issues? Here, CBRE takes a look at the five key themes identified in the documentary, and provides commentary on positive stories from the French real estate industry:

French urban agriculture is on the rise. With the success of programmes such as Sous les fraises –resulting in over 150 different crops growing on the roof of the Galeries Lafayette! – innovative urban agriculture facilities, such as those seen at the Tour Maraichère, and planned initiatives like the Lyon-based Refarmers project, real estate stakeholders are tuning in to the social, economic, and environmental benefits of urban agriculture.

An ‘Energy Revolution’ for construction – over the past decade, conventional energy consumption has been halved! Ambitious players have gone further in their preparations for future energy legislation, and subscribed to schemes such as Bouygues Immobilier’s GreenOffice®.

Rapid GHG reductions for existing buildings – existing buildings are heading in the same direction, with the first ‘Facteur4’ building renovation delivered by Gecina in 2015, reducing building greenhouse gas emissions by 75%!

An improving business case for renewables – with technological developments, there are an increasing number of commercially attractive renewable energy options on the French market, such as the new Arbre à vent technology developed by NewWind. Add to this the introduction of competitive bidding processes for renewable energy, and more and more businesses are opting for green energy.

We are observing the development of a new economy; one which is not only more responsible, but also more collaborative. Investor client interest in Responsible Investment strategies is growing rapidly due to a number of drivers. As previously discussed on the Green Perspective, Responsible Property Investment is also on the up, with the development of new tools, such as Novaxia Group’s recently launched vehicle for responsible property investing. Spaces are also becoming more collaborative, with an increasing number of services available to utilise unused space, such as Bird Office for workspaces and Zen Park for car parking facilities.

When we take into account the fact that 92% of business operating costs can be attributed to staff, it becomes obvious how investing in employees can be profitable. Businesses are increasingly integrating employee comfort into corporate strategy, and real estate is no exception; as evidenced by the hot topic of Delos’ WELL Building Standard. To accelerate the presence of employee comfort solutions on the French market, ImmoWell-Lab (the “Wellness Incubator”) has been established as an ecosystem of stakeholders dedicated to well-being in the built environment.

The “human factor” is a vital component of the transition toward a more sustainable world. CUBE2020, a competitive initiative, is a tool that mobilises stakeholders to deliver energy performance improvements. Delivering average energy savings of 9.54% and in some cases more than 20%, CUBE2020 aims to demonstrate that immediate energy consumption reduction, and therefore cost savings, can be delivered through engagement and implementing good practices alone.

Lastly, measurement and a sound understanding of a building or portfolio are prerequisites for sustainability performance management. Environmental issues are now measured on a large scale, enabling the transition to smart buildings, and even smart city networks, such as ISSY Grid – the first smart area network in France.