We need a green recovery to lead us out of a crisis that has changed the way we look at assets and cities, delegates heard at Real Asset Media’s ESG, Resilience and Driving Sustainable Returns Investment Briefing, which took place online recently.
‘There has been a strong government response to the crisis, now we must drive a green recovery and change the way investors, occupiers and citizens make their choices,’ said Clemens Brenninkmejer, Head of Sustainable Business Operations, REDEVCO.
‘The virus has taught us to pay more attention to the social element and to the importance of data gathering from a social point of view,’ said Douglas Edwards, Managing Director, Head of Equity Raising & Client Service, CORESTATE Capital Group.
The last few years have been all about relentless urbanisation and the emergence of city centres, but Covid 19 is likely to will change our cities and possibly determine how and where we choose to live.
‘Will high-density, busy cities stay on top or will greener, smaller towns be more in demand?,’ said Thomas Veith, Partner, Real Estate, PwC. ‘The same applies to buildings. For example, are tall skyscrapers viable if only one person at a time can use the elevator?’
The repercussions will be wide. The epidemic is also likely to change the investment landscape. As supply chains change and near-shoring intensifies, some places and economies will become stronger and investments will follow.
Owners can do a lot at asset level but they cannot change the big picture, said Brenninkmejer: ‘We can incorporate social distancing and bring in technical changes like better ventilation and so on, but the problem is the interaction between private assets and the public domain’.
However green, compliant and resilient a building might be, its location in the right environment remains key. Assets can be more easily fixed than cities or the environment.
‘We watch at city level what is being done at asset level, and there are only about 30 cities in Europe that have grade A status,’ said Damian Harrington, Director, Head of EMEA Research, Colliers International. ‘Investments in renewables are still limited, yet air quality and how cities are powered matters, because it can negate or contradict all the good things you might do at asset level’.
This is why collaboration is key. Many actors have to come together for things to work, said Brenninkmejer: ‘A future-proof, dynamic urban environment can’t be created without more transparency on data and more cooperation between stakeholders. Hopefully this crisis will be a wake-up call’.