Decarbonising the real estate sector is a must, not an option, and it will only succeed by collaborating. Read our opinion document at the occasion of the inaugural C Change summit in Rotterdam on 12 October 2022. - By Sven Lenaerts
C Change: what is it?
C Change is a ULI-led programme to mobilise the European real estate industry to decarbonise. The C Change Summit was an important milestone and a call for collaboration. C stands for climate but also for collaboration and for real change. It was formed in late 2021 by a group of leading real estate players that was united in its aim to focus on collaboration to ensure that the entire sector has access to practical solutions and education on decarbonisation. Immobel, as one of the founding partners, is convinced that the sector needs common languages, common tools and access to knowledge in order to speed up the path to decarbonisation.
Renovate existing buildings
Real estate’s environmental footprint represents 40% of global carbon emissions. Therefore, the sector needs better ways to develop, build and operate buildings and the focus should be on both operational and embodied carbon.
Regulations have pushed the sector for new buildings to be operationally close to net zero while property owners have been improving the energy efficiency of their stock to attract tenants willing to pay a premium. However, buildings also comprise embodied carbon in their construction and source materials.
The best way to avoid embodied carbon is obviously to focus on the renovation of the existing stock. Operationally, this means reducing energy consumption through retrofitting to improve insulation levels, integrate efficient systems and technology, and where possible, meeting energy demands with renewable sources.
A strong preference for renovation of existing buildings instead of demolition combined with a circular approach to minimise the embodied carbon lies at the heart of Immobel’s strategy both in its development activities and its investments activities.
Urban reconversion projects such as Isala and Oxy in Brussels or Tati and Saint-Antoine in Paris all aim for the lowest embodied carbon emissions and a fossil free energy concept as part of a holistic sustainability approach recognised by international labels such as BREEAM or HQE and WELL. Through its "Green Office Impact Strategy" strategy, Immobel Capital Partners is committed to a carbon-neutral use of its assets by 2030.
As a methodology, Immobel uses LifeCycle Asessments (LCA) at the very initial design stages to improve the way we build. This may seem obvious, but the sector has not yet adopted this approach as a standard and there is a clear need to work with common standards. The LCA studies will push the industry to calculate emissions, but these calculations should not be limited to documenting the carbon footprint of a building. LCA has the potential to become a progressive design tool that supports our teams in improving the energy efficiency or for guiding towards alternative choices for steel, cement, and other materials with high carbon emissions.
In addition to LCA, every renovation project at Immobel will be subject to an inventory for reuse in the conception phase in order to optimise reuse and upcycling of materials on site or elsewhere.
Collaborating to initiate the movement
The C Change summit can be seen as the start of a movement that will drive the sector to move beyond individual actions and collaborate to create change within the industry by providing knowledge, tools and education on decarbonization topics and to avoid duplication and fragmented solutions.
The summit was an opportunity to address two important interventions points which require collective industry attention to be game-changing:
- a common industry methodology to assess transitional climate risks as part of property valuations to avoid stagnation of our investment markets and stranded assets.
- practical ways to improve alignment between tenants and landlords to create common goals for decarbonising and retrofitting.
Find out more about why the industry must collaborate on decarbonisation to support our cities, in the ULI C Change report 'Breaking the value deadlock: enabling action on decarbonisation': C Change | ULI Europe
Immobel calls upon all stakeholders in the value chain to become part of the C-change movement and to go for real change.