NEW research has revealed that sustainability progress is being seen in some aspects of the built environment, but the rate of advancement needs to ‘accelerate significantly and become more widespread’.
The 2022 RICS Sustainability Report, which collated responses from almost 4,000 chartered surveyors – around 1,200 of which are from the UK – shows that some improvement has been made in the past year, notably in the commercial real estate sector as demand for green buildings increases.
However, the data shows there has been ‘little or no change’ in some areas. In construction, a ‘significant’ share of professionals say they do not measure carbon emissions on projects.
Looking at investors and occupiers separately in the UK, around 65% of contributors noted that occupier demand for green/sustainable buildings has risen over the past 12 months, however the UK is falling behind Europe as a whole.
On the investment side around 45% of survey contributors in the UK report a ‘modest’ increase in investor appetite for green/sustainable buildings, which is 5% higher than the global average. A further 21% suggest there has been a more significant increase in demand.
In another signal that people in the UK are placing more focus on sustainable property, 55% of respondents noted a rise in climate risk assessments by investors on their built assets.
RICS said the figures suggest Europe is seeing stronger progress on sustainability in the built environment due to the spotlight being turned on green buildings by the European Commission’s Green Deal.
In construction, survey respondents reported that construction professionals in the UK are beginning to embrace digital tools and technologies to complete sustainability-related analysis for projects, predominantly to assess energy needs and costs, but they are less likely to utilise these tools to reduce embodied carbon or to measure the impact on biodiversity.
47% of UK respondents report that digital tools and processes are used to complete sustainability assessments on less than half or none of their projects. By comparison, Europe’s figure is lower with 40%.
76% of professionals in the UK stated that they make no operational measurement of carbon emissions on projects, which is in line with the whole of Europe, but slightly higher when compared globally (72%).
When probed on the barriers to reducing carbon emissions, around 38% of contributors identified both the lack of established/adopted standards, guidance and tools, and high costs or low availability of low-carbon products as the most fundamental issues. Contributors also highlighted cultural issues and established practices as a challenge.
Kisa Zehra, RICS sustainability analyst, said, “It is of benefit to all to embrace climate strategy, and we must reduce our impact as the built environment. Behaviour change is happening, with higher rents and prices being seen for the more desirable sustainable properties, and climate risk assessments by investors on their built assets rising across the globe. But, measuring all forms of carbon, is also critical to the changes we need to see from the built environment.
“Barriers to progress cited in the report have included a lack of established standards, guidance and tools. However, it is equally fair to say that industry must adopt these tools and standards where they are available and should make carbon assessment and management an integral part of business practice. Industry needs to work in collaboration to succeed. The work RICS is leading with partners, for example the ICMS coalition in developing a cost measurement standard that combines cost and carbon reporting, is a key example.
“RICS will continue to promote research, and demand policy changes while working in collaboration with industry, governments and our professionals to increase the impact of the built environment on positive climate strategy.”