Invest in our planet for Earth Day

Amy Van de Sande, GL Hearn’s Air Quality and Climate Change Associate, shares her thoughts on how our Air Quality and Climate Change team, part of GL Hearn’s National Planning team, is helping clients tackle the climate crisis, reducing carbon emissions and delivering environmental and social value right from the start.

Earth Day aims to raise awareness and demonstrate support for environmental protection. This year’s theme is Invest in Our Planet – so what are the Air Quality and Climate Change team focusing on to help clients achieve just that?

UK real estate is responsible for 30% of total greenhouse gas emissions. Innovative, purposeful, and practical solutions are required if the industry is to reduce emissions. For us, it is mission critical to support clients in their efforts to tackle the climate crisis, helping them to deliver environmental and social value through their planning and development plans.

One of the key sources of carbon emissions in real estate is the construction and renovation of buildings and the materials they use such as cement, concrete, and steel. We advise clients how best to reduce the use of these materials and look at ways to reuse and recycle existing materials when renovating existing assets. We also advise on the latest market options on lower carbon materials, such as concrete, which are becoming more readily available, and which automatically reduce the associated carbon emissions when compared to standard materials.  

We work to meet operational net zero carbon targets by reducing energy requirements, utilising renewable solutions as well as ensuring the building fabric is designed to a high standard. Acting now to meet net zero carbon, negating the need to retrofit at a later date which can be complicated and costly. Designing to net zero doesn’t just reduce the carbon emissions, it also reduces the running costs for future occupants, both of which are attractive to environmentally savvy occupiers.

It is not only occupants who can benefit from cost savings. Helping to protect the environment doesn’t have to mean increased costs with no additional return if considered early and effectively. Realising the benefits of consideration of the environmental impacts during the design and construction of a building far outweighs the CAPEX spend. As an example, considering environmental risks can increase CAPEX spend by up to 3%, and the value added can be up to four times that invested.

The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us that our buildings need to be flexible and provide spaces for different uses, both at a personal and community level. We don’t need to unnecessarily build buildings that will sit redundant for hours and days on end, but instead we can make the most of what we have and build effectively for the future. People want greener outdoor spaces; easy access to local services; lower running costs, and affordable and safe local transport services. Considering this way of thinking naturally lends itself to providing more sustainable developments. Businesses need to come together and go above and beyond the minimum targets and minimum standards if we are to achieve environmental net gain within real estate and provide higher quality wellbeing for building occupiers.

For more information about how we can help you today, get in touch with Amy Van de Sande.

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