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Impact developer Socius has appointed Katrina Lamberton as senior project manager.

Lamberton joins the British firm from Australian developer Lendlease, where she worked for more than 20 years. She worked on projects including the 60-acre transport hub at Euston, a 5 million sq ft office development at the International Quarter East London and a 50-acre mixed-use development scheme at Silvertown Quays, London. 

At Socius she will join the project team responsible for Botanic Place (below), a £500 million “sustainable and intelligent” development in Cambridge. It will use 70% less energy than a typical office building and will be powered using renewable energy sources. 

Barry Jessup, managing director at Socius, said: “Katrina’s expertise in planning and delivering large complex schemes will be hugely valuable as we bring forward the plans for Botanic Place, which will set a new benchmark for sustainable workspace in Cambridge.”

Sustainable housebuilder Greencore Homes has secured a further £30 million ($38.4 million) in equity funding from UK investment manager M&G Investments. 

The housebuilder, which developers low carbon and energy efficient homes, will use the new capital  to drive “significant expansion”, initially by targeting land acquisitions in the South East of England.

M&G invested £15 million ($19.2 million) investment into Greencore in 2022, to help the company meet its aim of  building 10,000 homes in a decade. The £45 million investment came from Catalyst, M&G’s £5 billion “purpose-led” private assets strategy.

Greencore targets net zero carbon balance in operation and better than net zero embodied carbon for its new homes. It assembles timber-frame panels in its factory, which are insulated with natural materials including hemp, lime and wood-fibre. The panels are then assembled onsite. The homes are highly energy efficient and are designed and built to meet Passivhaus thermal performance standards.

Jon Di-Stefano, CEO of Greencore Homes, said: “Our vision is to lead the housebuilding industry in the delivery of climate positive homes and M&G’s further investment reflects their confidence in our potential to take on this role and operate at scale. This investment will enable us to secure the land needed to deliver on our targets whilst supporting local communities, jobs and the environment. We look forward to continuing our strong relationship with M&G while we seek out new partnerships to help bolster our pipeline and support our target of building 10,000 climate-positive homes.”

The real estate sector is poised at a critical juncture, with hopes of a resurgence in investment activity, claims the latest Emerging Trends in Real Estate® Global Outlook 2024, jointly released by PwC and the Urban Land Institute (ULI).

The report, amalgamating insights from thousands of real estate leaders across Europe, the United States, and Asia Pacific, suggests optimism brews for a gradual rebound from one of the most severe investment downturns in recent years.

Thomas Veith, PwC global real estate leader, emphasised the imperative for sustainable adjustments in the industry, highlighting a growing preference for alternative property sectors driven by demographic shifts, digitalisation, and decarbonisation imperatives.

Lisette van Doorn, CEO of ULI Europe, stressed the potential role of market dynamics in advancing environmental agendas, including decarbonization efforts, as investors wield greater negotiation power amid distress scenarios.

The report reveals a shifting investment landscape, with housing, logistics, and alternative sectors gaining prominence, particularly in light of challenges associated with affordable housing. Socio-political concerns such as housing affordability and social equity are gaining traction globally, influencing investor attention and political agendas.

The report also delves into changing occupier needs, stressing the importance of aligning real estate offerings with evolving demands driven by demographic shifts and climate change. 

Sustainable building certifications are becoming an essential for occupiers, lenders and investors, investment manager Axa IM Alts says. 

Justin Curlow, global head of research & strategy, real assets, at AXA IM Alts, said: “Occupiers and investors alike have seen ESG, health and wellbeing considerations catapult themselves up the priority list for both space planning and investment decisions.”

He said it was becoming clear ESG-compliant assets let faster and at higher rents, but added: “What is less quantifiable but anecdotally clear is also the greater level of interest, and therefore liquidity, as more occupiers require certifications for buildings to be considered for occupation and both lenders and equity investors insist that either certifications are in place or capital expenditures under-written in order to consider investment.”

Curlow said upgrading existing stock and new development to cater to this change in occupier requirements “will provide a wave of investment opportunities” over the coming years. 

IPUT Real Estate has secured planning permission to develop “one of Europe’s greenest logistics parks”.

The largest owner of offices and logistics assets in Dublin, will develop an additional 12 units spanning 1.7 million sq ft at the  Nexus Logistics Park, located near the Cherryhound Interchange of the M2 motorway. The new units bring the park to 2.5 million sq ft.

IPUT has committed to achieving BER A2 and LEED Gold certifications, with an emphasis on eco-friendly construction methodologies such as glue-laminated timber frames, which will reduce embodied carbon by 27% compared with steel.

Nexus Logistics Park will also incorporate a range of sustainable design elements, including roof-mounted solar panels, rainwater harvesting systems, and advanced building envelopes for enhanced thermal performance. 

IPUT plans to invest in enhancing the public realm and amenities for both occupiers and the local community. The development will feature sports facilities, cycle paths, outdoor gym facilities and cultural installations.

Michael Clarke, chief investment officer of IPUT, said: "Our ambition is for Nexus to be one of the most sustainable logistics parks in Europe. Our investment in Nexus supports a greener economy while providing amenities that serve both our occupiers and the local community.”

The British Property Federation (BPF) has called for urgent action to bolster the resources of local authorities seeking to implement mandatory biodiversity net gain (BNG) requirements in England. 

BNG, aimed at enhancing natural habitats and ensuring new developments have a positive impact on biodiversity, is set to become a pivotal part of the planning process. From February 12th, developers will be required to submit biodiversity gain plans for most projects. These plans must demonstrate a net gain of at least 10% in biodiversity and commit to maintaining this level for a minimum of 30 years. The rules will only apply in England, not the devolved regions of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

However, the BPF has voiced concerns regarding the preparedness of local authorities to assess BNG proposals. According to UK government research, only 5% of local planning authorities feel adequately equipped to scrutinize applications affecting biodiversity. Additionally, less than 10% believe their resources are sufficient to ensure compliance with the forthcoming regulations.

In response to these challenges, the BPF's 2024 election Manifesto, Building our Future, outlines proposals for reforming the planning system. Recommendations include enhanced government funding for local authority planning departments, higher fees for applicants in exchange for improved services, and the establishment of central talent pools to facilitate a more efficient response to major applications.

Rob Wall, assistant director at the BPF, said many developers were already delivering BNG but added: "The new mandatory BNG regulations will place an additional burden on already over-stretched local authority planning departments. This is why we are calling on the Government to set out a new long-term strategy for resourcing the planning system to ensure that planning departments have the capacity and capability to deliver on all front."

Institutional investors in real assets are looking to sustainability to boost financial returns but are lagging on net zero targets, a study from Aviva Investors found.

The UK investment manager surveyed 500 institutions worldwide, of which 44% had more than $25 billion of assets under management. Nearly three-quarters (73%) of institutional investors want to prioritise financial returns when investing in sustainable real assets. Furthermore, 53% see evidence of improved financial performance as driving them to invest – or increase investment – in sustainable real assets, followed closely by their ability to show sustainability-related impact (51%).

Only 5% did not consider ESG/sustainability factors when making real asset investments, down from 7% the previous year.  However, ESG was a “critical and deciding factor” for only 17% of institutions (21% in Europe). More than three-quarters of investors said ESG was one of several factors considered or a “growing but not essential” consideration. 

The key driver for investing in sustainable assets was their ability to generate financial returns, cited by 73% of investors, ahead of decarbonisation potential (cited by 53%) and excluding assets on ethical grounds (51%).

The most favoured real assets investment theme or sector for expanding sustainable investment was renewables infrastructure, cited by 49% of respondents. However, decarbonising existing assets (36%), low-carbon, new-build assets (32%), social housing and infrastructure (30%) and nature-based solutions (27%) were also cited.

For investors without sustainable assets exposure, nature-based solutions was a surprising top choice (cited by 25%), followed by social housing and infrastructure (23%), sustainable lending (23%) and low-carbon, new-build assets (20%).

Addressing the energy efficiency and carbon emissions of existing buildings hits the sweet spot of having the most ESG impact (cited by 71% of investors) and the best financial returns (70%). However, from a purely financial returns point of view, investing in emerging technologies was thought to be the best investment (73%).

Despite the high percentage of investors favouring sustainable or low-carbon investments, there has been mixed progress with net zero targets. Only 15% said they had made a net zero commitment and were reporting progress, while 17% said they had no net zero target nor any intention to develop one. This was the case for 32% of North American investors.

However, 57% overall have made a net zero commitment, even though 21% had made a commitment but not taken action. More than half those surveyed (53%) said they were either not confident at all or somewhat unsure of what was needed to meet their long-term sustainability commitments.

The key material risk for sustainable real assets investment was the difficulty in measuring positive impact, cited by 47%. The risk of poor performance was also cited as a concern, chiefly by North American investors (53%), but also Asia Pacific (46%) and Europe (36%).

Circl, a 30,000 sq ft pavilion developed by investment bank ABN AMRO next to its Amsterdam headquarters, was one of the world’s first buildings to adhere to circular economy principles.

The project’s use of recycled materials reduced the embodied carbon in its development and it also did not include elements typical to similar bank buildings, such as marble floors and elaborate glass and steel elements. The building’s final form reduced the quantity of materials used by one third, 2,425 tons, from the original plans. 

Dutch timber was used in place of a concrete structure some partition walls were previously the façade from another building. Hardwood flooring on Circl’s ground floor was recycled from a former monastery and from a Dutch football club. Insulation was created from recycling 16,000 pairs of jeans. The building’s design is such that many of these elements can be recycled at the end of its life. 

The use of recycled materials did present ABN with a particular problem: gaining a building permit took a long time because the project’s final shape was not clear until the materials had been sourced. Having design determined by materials rather than the other way round is highly unusual for modern commercial real estate, although historically it has applied to most buildings.

This article originally appeared in Sustain in 2022

Progress on the decarbonisation of real estate is being held back by a lack of understanding and collaboration between property owners and occupiers, according to a new report from the Urban Land Institute C Change programme. 

The report claims that, if better alignment between the two parties is not prioritised, it has the potential to increase total emissions from the built environment over the medium to long-term. The Occupiers and owners: Faster and further on the pathway to decarbonisation together report argues for a “fundamental questioning of many current working practices and structures”.

The research was based on interviews with heads of real estate for large corporate real estate occupiers from wide range of industry sectors.

Lisette van Doorn, CEO, ULI Europe, said: “This report demonstrates the main issues with collaboration, which are often related to historic ‘transactional’ relationships, variations in decarbonisation objectives and perspectives, and longstanding approaches to areas such as lease structures, contracts, and fit outs, which all need careful reconsideration. 

“At the heart of progress on this topic is that owners and occupiers build a trusted long-term partnership that considers each other’s objectives, which requires each side to be open about their perspectives and the wider concerns faced by each stakeholder.”

The report cites a number of factors hindering progress, including:

Going forward, the report argues for more standardised practices, including in the approach to due diligence for occupiers seeking space, and for ESG considerations to be included as standard in heads of terms with minimum requirements considered as non-negotiable. However, ULI recognises such changes will require education and industry wide commitment.

Singapore’s City Developments Limited has been rated the most sustainable real estate company in the world for the sixth consecutive year.

The accolade came in the Corporate Knights Global 100 list, now in its 20th year. This annual ranking of the world’s 100 most sustainable corporations is based on the sustainability research firm’s assessment of 6,700 publicly traded companies with revenues over $1 billion.

CDL group chief executive Sherman Kwek said: “We are honoured to be recognised again as the world's most sustainable real estate company on the Global 100 Most Sustainable Corporations in the World listing. This accolade reaffirms our commitment to a climate-positive future and achieving our initial net-zero goals by 2030. By embracing innovation, collaboration and sustainable practices, we can reduce our carbon footprint and inspire a collective shift towards a net zero future."

Companies are assessed across 25 key performance indicators, including their percentage of sustainable revenue and sustainable investment, taxes paid, carbon productivity, and racial and gender diversity. Companies engaging in activities such as thermal coal, blocking climate policy and deforestation are disqualified.

Boosting its position from 28th place last year, CDL improved its performance on energy, greenhouse gas and water productivity, ESG-linked remuneration for management, talent attraction and retention, and a sustainable supply chain.

Developer CDL was ranked 22nd in the list, one of only four real estate companies in the top 100. It was followed by shopping centre giant Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield in 70th place, industrial specialist Prologis in 87th place and Hong Kong developer Sino Land in 99th.

Pictured above, Lumina Grand will be CDL's second BCA Green Mark Platinum (Super Low Energy) building in Singapore.