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Real Estate Sustainability
The fight against Climate Change requires a path towards carbon neutrality that necessarily involves the real estate sector. This sector is responsible for over a third of CO2 emissions and global energy consumption and is naturally under pressure at a time of enormous transformation, when thinking about sustainability in real estate is increasingly urgent.
Focused on energy and financial optimisation in all our self-consumption projects, we always seek to develop solutions tailored to the needs of each client, contributing to a significant decrease in energy consumption from the grid and a consequent reduction in operating costs.
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The real estate sector produces several direct and indirect impacts on the environment. During their construction, occupation, refurbishment and demolition, buildings consume energy, water and raw materials, generate waste and contribute to the release of carbon into the atmosphere. The benefits of obtaining sustainability certifications are based not only on mitigating the impact of buildings on the environment, but also on creating healthier environments for their occupants, resulting in a higher occupancy rate of buildings, a consequent increase in the value of real estate assets and significant savings in their operating costs.
At Átomo Capital Partners we support our clients in the application of the most recognised sustainability certification systems in the market, namely BREEAM, LEED and WELL certifications, assisting in the implementation of good sustainability practices throughout the assets’ life cycle.
Real Estate Sustainability FAQ
BREEAM, which stands for Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method, is a widely used sustainability assessment method for buildings and communities. It sets a standard for best practices in sustainable design and can be used to measure an asset’s environmental performance. The BREEAM system ensures asset compliance with sustainable practices at the design, construction and operation stages, and can be used to assess existing buildings, under renovation or new developments.
BREEAM sustainability certification focuses on ten essential aspects: construction management; energy consumption; Water consumption; Contamination; materials used; health and wellness; transport; Waste Management; land use and innovation.
LEED, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design is a standard that was developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) to establish a benchmark for the design, construction, maintenance and operation of green buildings.
According to the USGBC, Green Building consists of the practice of designing, constructing and operating buildings whose objective is to maximize the health, well-being and productivity of the occupants, use fewer resources, reduce waste and negative environmental impacts and reduce operating costs, and the standard can be applied both to new constructions as well as existing buildings.
LEED sustainability certification looks at seven key aspects of green construction: sustainable plots; energy and atmosphere; indoor air quality; regional importance; efficient use of water; materials and resources used and innovation.
Unlike the BREEAM and LEED certifications, the WELL certification is a sustainability certification primarily focused on the health and well-being of the building users. In WELL certification, the focus is on people, and its aim is to promote a harmonious relationship between buildings and their occupants. WELL certification has three levels of certification: Silver, Gold and Platinum.
This real estate sustainability certification focuses on seven essential aspects: air; water; food; light; fitness; comfort and mind.
ESG is the internationally used acronym for Environmental, Social and Governance, in the original version, or Ambiente, Social e Governação Empresarial, in the Portuguese version.
The ESG criteria encompass these three axes of a company, allowing a strategic analysis that makes it possible to assess good practices and the sustainability of a company, going far beyond financial performance. In order to meet ESG criteria, investment decisions are no longer solely focused on financial factors, but also need to take into account environmental, social and governance factors.
The ESG criteria that focus on environmental issues analyze the performance of companies with regard to their environmental impact: greenhouse gas emissions, use of renewable energy, resource and waste management, choice of suppliers, among other factors. The efforts that companies make to reduce their impact on the environment are also analyzed and monitored.
Social ESG criteria analyze the relationship between companies and the social environment that surrounds them: not only their employees, but also the local community in which they operate and society in general. The company’s corporate values and their actual application are taken into account, as well as concerns with employee wages and benefits, health, safety, diversity and representation.
As for the ESG criteria of corporate governance, they are related to the management of the companies themselves, their decision-making, their transparency and rigor, the definition of objectives and mechanisms for monitoring, compliance and improvement.
It is no coincidence that ESG criteria are increasingly being taken into account when analyzing a company, namely from a financial point of view. A company with a well-defined ESG strategy, concerned with sustainability and its impact on the environment that surrounds it, brings more guarantees of security and return to its investors. The most sustainable businesses are the future, if not the present, and these policies are already determining access to funds and loans, for example.
Sustainability in real estate aggregates a set of good practices that seek to reduce the environmental impact of the real estate sector.
In order to achieve sustainability in real estate, it is necessary to look at a building throughout its entire life cycle: from land preparation; the choice of materials used in its construction; to sun exposure; the implemented energy solutions; waste management, etc. Sustainable real estate assets should be designed with a view to the long term and their durability, and their maximum autonomy, whenever possible, using renewable energies, for example.
Although initial investments may seem higher, when we think about investing in sustainability in real estate, there are currently more and more alternative materials and greener solutions. In addition, in the long term, these investments tend to bring return and appreciation to real estate assets.
Because the energy transition and concern for sustainability are a collective obligation. And, if we consider that around 37% of global carbon emissions are related to real estate assets, it is impossible to think that the solution to the problem does not have to be closely linked to real estate.
Now, it will no longer be enough to have a real estate asset that looks sustainable. The real estate assets will have to be sustainable and they will have to be able to prove that they are.
Whether by legal imposition, whether by imposition of consumers or capital markets, real estate assets will have to be rethought and real estate sustainability will have to be at the heart of the strategy, and not just be a side department of second importance.
In a market that is increasingly aware of the importance of rethinking our actions and choices, and of contributing, together, to meeting the goals defined in the context of the climate emergency, sustainability in real estate assumes a key role.
And whoever wants to win in this market will have to compare themselves with their peers and try to innovate, try to be better. You will have to use criteria to assess and evaluate the market and, above all, you will have to think about sustainability strategically. The future of real estate really depends on sustainability, and those who do not understand this will be outdated.
In a very simplistic way, we can say that the European taxonomy is a tool that is similar to a dictionary, and that classifies and details the economic activities considered environmentally sustainable by the European Union.
The taxonomy responds to two important needs: the existence of a common language to talk about sustainability, and the definition and use of objective and quantifiable criteria.
In this context, six environmental objectives considered essential by the European Union were defined:
1. Mitigation of climate change
2. Adaptation to climate change
3. Protection of water and marine resources
4. Transition to a circular economy
5. Pollution control
6. The protection of ecosystems
If, until now, the previous definitions were not very objective, the taxonomy now adopts a more rigorous and scientific approach, analyzing business activities in greater detail.
The taxonomy is designed primarily to be used as a tool for sustainable investing. By putting everyone on a level playing field, it will help investors understand more clearly where companies rank relative to each other.
The taxonomy looks at several major sectors, including agriculture, industry, transport, energy, construction, and communications. For each sector, a list of relevant activities that can be considered sustainable is established.
It is important to note that the taxonomy is still under development and is a process subject to continual revision, allowing for new industries and activities to be added over time.
It is, in fact, a huge revolution that we will all have to be aware of and that will make it possible to align economic and financial activities with the imperative need to become more sustainable.