In a rapidly urbanising world, the property industry lies at the centre of an unprecedented level of activity and growth. Delivering sustainable development is key to the success of our emerging built environment and necessary to reach climate and environmental sustainability targets.
38 per cent of global emissions can be attributed to the built environment, this needs to change, and we should be adopting transformative changes in the way we work. In November 2021, the Environment Act 2021 became law, introducing a wave of measures set to impact land and property developers, setting clear targets for the improvement of air-quality, biodiversity, and waste in the UK.
These are the key things to consider:
Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG)
The Act amends the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 so that an applicant seeking approval for a development will have to demonstrate that the development will achieve a 10% BNG. If it is not possible to achieve the net gain on the application site, the applicant will either a) propose improvement of the biodiversity of an alternative area of land or b) purchase what will be known as “bio-diversity credits”. Whilst new policy, it a clear the Government’s aspiration to mainstream BNG in the planning system and move towards approaches that integrate natural capital benefits.
Energy Usage and Air Quality
When it comes to the residential market, public awareness of air pollution is currently low but beginning to rise. The real-estate sector must do more than it is currently, with focus on:
reducing the amount of heating and cooling in homes and use of green technology
measuring air quality and installing passive filtration systems
banning gas and wood-fired heat sources and transition to electric and alternative cleaner energy sources
As awareness of the health risks grows, consumers and other key stakeholders such as funders are becoming more interested about the property they purchase. This becomes even more polarising for large landlords as the push for all rental properties to be EPC C over the next five to ten years.
The real estate industry relies on development and construction as its means for growth, but historically creates vast amounts of waste. Sustainable construction practices are becoming a focus, such as modular / offsite which offers amongst other benefits a reduced amount of waste materials. This combined with the increasing demand for new products is changing how we construct our buildings.
The construction and development industry has a major role in changing its construction practices to consider sustainability rather than bottom line cost. There is a growing shift, being driven from more educated purchasers who are increasingly considering these factors when purchasing real estate.