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‘Everyone is doing something now’

There is a new can-do attitude when it comes to sustainability, as the real estate sector is finally cooperating on solutions rather than focusing on problems.

‘Everyone is finally starting to do something,’ Marco Abdallah, Head of Engineering UK, Drees & Sommer, told The Real Estate Day. ‘It will be interesting to see where this leads and what results will be achieved in two or three years’ time’.

Marco Abdallah, Head of Engineering, UK, Drees & Sommer, Felicity Beasley, Head of Client Capital & Investor Relations, CAIN INTERNATIONAL, Alexandra Boot, Managing Director, Blue Building Institute and Elsa Monteiro, Head of Sustainability and Corporate Communication, Sonae Sierra discuss the latest trends in ESG and their effects on the Real Estate Investment Market. Filmed at the International Investors Lounge, EXPO REAL by Real Asset Media.

Things are moving in the right direction, said Felicity Beasley, Head of Client Capital & Investor Relations, CAIN International: ‘There is more cooperation across the industry on all sides and a positive attitude from the authorities, as well as a push from below, as young people are demanding answers and action’.

They are the occupiers of tomorrow and they will demand sustainability is built into their homes and offices. Local authorities also have a crucial role to play because they can drive change. ‘Sustainability measures have to built in, otherwise you will not get the necessary permits,’ Beasley said.

Cooperation will go beyond real estate companies and across sectors.

‘There will be more joint ventures and integration between companies in different fields, sharing information and working together on sustainability and health,’ said Alexandra Boot, Managing Director, Blue Building Institute. ‘You want to invest in real human sustainability, health and wellbeing in your surroundings, not just energy savings’.

Change will happen, but it may still be too slow for some. ‘More investors will incorporate sustainability in their business and there will be more focus on sustainable investments, but I don’t expect drastic change,’ said Elsa Monteiro, Head of Sustainability and Corporate Communications, Sonae Sierra.

There are reasons to be optimistic but also many challenges to overcome, such as the number and variety of regulations. 

‘There are a lot of different standards and benchmarks to grapple with, which is challenging for developers,’ said Beasley.

Another challenge that the sector must tackle is waste. Real estate accounts for 60% of waste produced and over 30% of Co2 emissions.

‘The average building in London uses up twice the energy originally contemplated in the design of the building,’ said Abdallah. ‘There is a huge opportunity for investors to improve on existing buildings, but during refurbishment and renovation, it is important to minimise the amount of material that goes to landfill’.

A new approach to waste is needed.

‘The next revolution will be the circular economy,’ he said. ‘People will realize that a building at the end of its life is still an asset, and its components and materials can be re-used’.

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