Carbon neutrality

16/08/2019

Real estate’s pursuit of net zero carbon

How is the real estate sector tackling the net zero carbon challenge

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Real estate’s pursuit of net zero carbon

One of Theresa May’s last actions as Prime Minister was to commit the UK to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050. This high-profile move brought the increasing trend within large companies to reduce carbon emissions to a government level.

Until recently, the property sector has been woefully behind other sectors in the drive to net zero carbon. It’s well-known that real estate creates a large percentage of the UK’s carbon emissions, but little has been done to address this.

Today, the combined efforts of global Green Building Councils are forwarding the pursuit of net zero carbon across the world. Pressure to join this drive is increasing, both from within the industry and externally. Now is the time for property owners and managers to get on board.

What net zero carbon means for real estate

To help the real estate sector get to grips with net zero carbon, the World Green Building Council (WorldGBC) launched an initiative in September 2018, Advancing Net Zero. This global project has the ambitious goal of making 100% of buildings net zero in operation by 2050.

The WorldGBC has set out what it means by net zero carbon: ‘Net zero carbon is when the amount of carbon dioxide emissions released on an annual basis is zero or negative. Our definition for a net zero carbon building is a highly energy efficient building that is fully powered from on-site and/or off-site renewable energy sources and offsets.’

Following this overall project and announcements from other countries’ councils, the UK GBC has created a framework to provide the real estate sector with clarity about how to achieve net zero carbon in both construction and operation. This framework follows certain steps, from how to establish the net zero carbon scope during both construction and operation, how to approach renewable energy and finally how to offset any remaining carbon. 

The movement takes form

Whether or not an organisation chooses to follow the UK GBC’s framework, there’s no doubt the movement is laying roots in the real estate sector. From Grosvenor Britain & Ireland to Hammerson, many prominent property organisations have publicly announced their intention to work towards net zero emissions. As well as the City of London, organisations that have signed the WorldGBC’s net zero carbon commitment are Berkeley Group, Bruntwood and Foster + Partners.

And it’s about time. Many other sectors are far ahead of real estate in their adoption of renewables and low carbon technology. Take the automotive sector, for example; spurred on by figurehead brands such as Tesla, the development of electric vehicles has progressed rapidly in recent years and the pace continues to increase.

Of course, all large businesses are occupiers themselves and the drivers of a large amount of real estate development. As more large organisations announce their pursuit of net zero carbon in their operations, the pressure on real estate is going to increase.

How to approach net zero carbon

Achieving net zero carbon is not going to be easy for any element of the real estate sector. The UK’s properties pose many challenges in the pursuit of this target. For example, the division of control of emissions between landlord and tenant spaces; the number of old buildings being occupied; the prevalence of historic management systems that are not running as they are intended; the difficulty of getting renewables on site.

These challenges are not to be taken lightly, but they are not insurmountable. LSH has been helping clients to tackle these issues, and work with tenants to achieve these goals.

Whether you are focusing on one property or an entire portfolio, get in touch with our Sustainability team to find out more about how we can help you work towards net zero carbon.

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