December 1, 2022

What are the Characteristics of an Environmentally Friendly Real Estate Development?

Climate change affects all aspects of life, from the diet to the capability to survive the natural disasters that come our way from time to time. However, the real estate industry has been pretty slow in addressing the concerns of sustainability, including climate change. This trend is now changing as more stakeholders, including investors, local authorities, the international community, and neighbors demand responsible operations. If you are a real estate developer, owner, or manager, people have discovered that their actions can help to save the planet. The capital markets are also demanding actions and delisting firms that do not provide accurate and verifiable environmental, social, and governance (ESG) reports. This is why you should target making your property more environmentally friendly. Keep reading to learn more about environmentally friendly real estate, including benefits and the main characteristics.

green building

What is Sustainable Real Estate Development?

A sustainable property is developed to help protect the users/ occupants and the entire planet. It is a type of property that focuses on the efficient use of resources, from water to electricity and material use. The idea is to ensure that the property is developed in a way that does not harm the environment in the present and in the future. 

The development adheres to the principles of sustainability, which aims to help companies, businesses, institutions, and individuals to join hands and address the challenges facing the planet. For example, real estate companies are joining hands to help counter the challenge of global warming by reducing their carbon footprint. The idea is to help the planet achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050. 

To make the planet more sustainable, the real estate industry has a huge role to play. Indeed, as we are going to reveal shortly, real estate development that is environmentally friendly comes with a long list of benefits to investors, managers, users, and the entire planet. 

Advantages of Environmentally Sensitive Real Estate Development

When the UN released the Brundtland Report of 1987, "Our Common Future," it gave not only the definition of sustainable development but also the basis for the advantages that you should anticipate. Here are some of them: 

  • Helps to keep the cost of development low. 
  • Improves the health of people who use the buildings. 
  • Crucial for compliance with different laws and policies. 
  • Comes in handy in protecting the environment. 
  • Helps to cut down waste during property development and occupation. 
  • Critical to winning the support of more stakeholders, including investors. 

Main Characteristics of Environmentally Sensitive Real Estate Development 

The list of sustainability benefits that we have listed above is only a scratch on the surface. You should anticipate a lot more by making your real estate environmentally sensitive. Below are the main characteristics of environmentally friendly real estate

Uses Eco-friendly Materials 

To make your buildings and structures environmentally friendly, everything has to start from inception. The designs must be implemented with a keen focus on the flora and fauna of the area. The building should, particularly, be constructed using eco-friendly materials. 

Eco-friendly materials should be carefully selected to ensure they do not cause damage to the environment. Sustainable materials should also be sourced and processed without harming the environment. For example, the wood used for building various parts of a house can be harvested in a way that you do not compromise the planet's carbon sequestration capability. Therefore, it is advisable to only work with certified third-party forest wood. Other sustainable materials include: 

  • Recycles metal. 
  • Recycled stones. 
  • Bamboo straws. 
  • Recycles plastics.

Note: sourcing building materials locally is more sustainable compared to buying from faraway regions. Local materials allow you to support communities and their cultures, which form a crucial pillar of sustainability. Remember that no matter where you source the materials, you should always think of a way to replenish the natural system through programs such as afforestation. 

Efficient Management of Waste 

Your real estate development cannot be considered sustainable if it releases a lot of waste that harms the environment. Note that the wastes from real estate development should be looked at from the entire lifecycle of the properties. 

During the construction phase, you should ensure that the wastes are collected and processed to avoid negative impacts on the environment. For example, concrete wastes can be reused to make products like paving blocks or restoring mining sites. Also, try to minimize the waste as possible by adopting the latest technologies. Consider using factory-cut materials to ensure all pieces are cut to the expected size to reduce wastage. 

At the occupation stage, waste from the building mainly comes from the occupants. It is prudent to have a clear waste management system to ensure it does not get dumped into the environment. You can do this by partnering with waste recycling companies to pick the waste and extend the utility of their materials. Put more emphasis on waste minimization at source and sorting, which can come in handy in simplifying the process of recycling. 

Water Conservation 

About two billion people across the globe do not have access to clean water. Therefore, sustainable real estate should make water conservation an important component in its quest for a higher ESG rating. To preserve water, consider using the following strategies: 

  • Install low-flow shower heads to help reduce water used when people are bathing. 
  • Recycle water from your properties and use it for purposes such as gardening. 
  • Use intelligent faucets and taps. These facilities only release water when someone is next to the sink. 
  • Get involved in programs that promote the protection and conservation of water catchment areas. Remember that this does not have to be in your area. You can support even the programs that are located as far as South America or Africa. 

High-Quality Indoor Environment 

For your real estate company to be considered sustainable, it must factor in the people. These include those who work in the facility during the construction and occupation phases. Therefore, you should use the best strategies to ensure that the indoor environment is of high quality. This includes: 

  • Make sure the house is designed in a way to allow good air circulation. 
  • You should also orient the building to ensure all the rooms get natural lighting. 
  • Consider adding indoor plants to your property to help keep it cool and reduce indoor carbon dioxide. Plants in the building and neighborhoods can also come in handy in improving aesthetic appeal. 

Staff Training on Sustainability 

To make your company sustainable, it is important to adopt regular training on ESG matters. By involving your staff, it becomes easy for employees to take actions, such as turning off lamps when not in use and reporting damaged machinery, for timely action. To be more impactful, consider working with international organizations, such as Climate Fresk

Climate Fresk uses internationally accredited resources to train companies, departments, and organizations on sustainability. You can use their experts to build a stronger strategy, enhance energy efficiency, and improve ESG rating.  

Energy Conservation 

Buildings consume a lot of energy at all stages of their lifecycle. High energy use does not just mean high electricity bills but also points to elevated levels of carbon footprint. Your company should have a clear strategy to conserve energy without reducing the effectiveness of different systems. Here are some strategies your real estate development company can use to increase energy efficiency. 

  • Install CONTINEWM in your HVAC system: CONTINEWM is an innovative device developed to help improve the efficiency of the air conditioning system. It works by clearing positive electrostatic charges and improving the flow of air into the HVAC system. Another benefit of CONTINEWM is that it is easy to install, can help to clear odors from the air, and has very limited maintenance needs. 
  • Shift to renewable energy sources: Using renewable energy sources means that you are able to say goodbye to electricity bills. Remember that even if it is only a section of the company that is moved to solar, the impact of cutting down carbon footprint will still be significant. 

Other methods you can use to improve energy efficiency include using a smart lighting energy management system and regular maintenance of the company machinery.  

ESG Reporting 

Today, sustainability in any company or industry needs to be reported so that stakeholders can appreciate the efforts. Indeed, more governments and authorities are calling for comprehensive reporting of all the sustainability efforts adopted by companies. Here, we must say that sustainability ceases to be "accidental" as policies require companies to have a clear plan for it. This means that even if you take some actions, such as buying new bulbs to increase energy efficiency, without a plan, that could be stamped greenwashing. 

Instead, sustainability reporting requires you to carefully review your real estate's risks and opportunities. Then, material topics are identified, and key objectives are set. Finally, a clear course of action or plan is defined. For example, if your real estate company targets to cut down on its carbon footprint, some of the actions of interest might be improving energy efficiency and reducing electricity use. 

When reporting the sustainability of your real estate company, make sure to adhere to the principles of ESG disclosure. These include verifiability, accuracy, and reliability. Again, the reporting should be incremental, which means that the results for sustainability achieved in one reporting phase should form the baseline for the next. If you aim to achieve net-zero emissions by 2040, a good target might be reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 33% every five years.