Sustainability in Real Estate: Why It Matters and How to Do It

From 2019 to early 2020, Australia was on fire. It was one of the worst bushfires that the nation has ever experienced. Up to 1.25 billion animals, including ones that are already dwindling in numbers, have been killed. It left up to 19 million hectares of land in ashes, mostly forests and bushlands but also affecting over 3,000 homes.

Australia is already feeling the brunt of climate change. Scientists have, for years, warned about the effects of rising global temperatures, which were caused by continuous greenhouse gas emissions. If the trend continues, Australians can expect equally or more catastrophic bushfires in the future.

To prevent this from happening, governments from around the world should cooperate and pledge to dramatically reduce emissions. However, while a global initiative has not started yet, industries and individuals can do their part by making choices that are friendly to the environment.

Sustainability in Real Estate

Australia and neighboring New Zealand are already doing their part. In 2015, both nations have been lauded for paving the way for sustainability in real estate development.

The Global Real Estate Sustainability Report assessed 707 property companies and private equity real estate funds from all over the world. They gave Australia and New Zealand a score of 69, significantly higher than the global average which was 56.

More than half of the companies and funds involved in real estate were granted green building certificates. The majority of them also have an energy rating.

Homeowners Demand Sustainability

Sustainability can mean different things to everyone but, in real estate, there is a focus on creating properties that can stand the test of time and reduce wastage of energy, water, and materials. When a piece of land for sale is acquired and a structure is built, it often creates a lot of garbage that, if not recycled or reused, ends up in a landfill or, worse, in nature.

Developers need to adopt sustainability because it is the right thing to do, but another incentive that can change the minds of investors is the desire of people to live in “green” homes.

Consumers, especially young people, are worried about the future. They know that they will experience devastating losses due to climate change within their lifetimes. Frequent extreme weather events, illnesses, famine, rising sea levels, and mass migration will happen if nothing is done to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.

One survey conducted by Nielsen found that 81% of respondents from everywhere on the planet believe that companies should aim for environmental improvement. The sentiment is shared by all genders and across all generations although Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z are the most supportive of sustainability efforts.

Salesman giving home keys to property owners

Climate Change Affects Real Estate

The real estate sector needs to adapt sustainability for self-preservation, too. In the future, when the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have created a hothouse state that melts all the ice and snow in the poles, the sea level will rise. Residential areas will experience frequent or permanent flooding, forcing people to move to higher ground.

The landscape of real estate development and investment will change. Investors and homebuyers will need to consider the susceptibility of a property to rising sea levels. Coastal locations, which currently fetch high demands and prices, would be avoided and, in the future, would probably be underwater.

How to Make Real Estate Sustainable

Every decision that an architect or an engineer makes when developing a house should not create further harm to the environment. That might mean using recycled construction materials for walls, roofs, floorings, and foundations.

If possible, they can go for natural, organic, and renewable materials, too. Concrete made from hemp, mycelium bricks, and other up-and-coming construction materials should seriously be considered for future homes.

The home, however, should also be sturdy and resilient. These houses will have to survive stronger storms, intense heat waves, and heavier snowfall in the near future. It is an added challenge, but it is necessary.

Moreover, houses should have properties that conserve energy. It should allow heat to escape from the structure during the summer and block the cold from coming in during winter. This way, residents would use less energy to keep the indoor temperature comfortable.

In addition, there needs to be a place for generating renewable energy. Having solar panels can significantly cut a household’s carbon footprint.

Sustainability is not just a new buzzword in real estate that will eventually go away. It has been around for years and will continue to be at the center of every conversation in the future. Consumers will also expect it from all industries, including real estate development. Companies should prepare for the future and prioritize sustainability today.

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