Having supported the launch of the National Infrastructure Commission’s report this month setting out the UK’s first design principles for infrastructure around climate, people, places and value, I have to wonder what role we as built environment professionals should have around the environmental, social and corporate governance agenda. The answer, I believe, is a huge one.

Amanda Clack

For many years, I have been talking about what we bring to our investor, occupier and landlord clients in terms of value creation around the three Ps – people, place and property.

For people, it is all about putting people at the heart of our decision-making and bringing local communities with us so that they feel part of the process. Place is about creating places where people want to be and that have a culture and sense of purpose. Get these two right and, of course, we then bring in property, which optimises the value of the location.

Now, we have a responsibility to add a fourth ‘p’: planet. In chairing a recent RICS Construction Forum, I was hit by a shocking statistic: that one in six houses ends up in landfill due to inefficient construction processes.

Factor in the fact that the buildings we create equate to 40% of all carbon emissions globally and it is clear we have a huge role to play in designing, constructing, repurposing and operating buildings and infrastructure with the planet in mind.

Climate change construction

Source: Shutterstock/474667861

Make no mistake: with all the focus on this area, the boardrooms of our clients are setting targets associated with doing their bit as soon as 2025, 2030 or 2040. So, whether it is for the business, its portfolio, a development or building, the planet will be at the heart of the conversation.

The UK has set the trajectory to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, or sooner, so the clock is already ticking.

Failure, or misleading information, can lead to damaging headlines. Aviation – which accounts for only 2% of all global carbon dioxide emissions – has been the subject of some pretty reputationally impactful media coverage in recent months.

One in six houses ends up in landfill due to inefficient construction processes

I think the focus will soon turn to the built environment to become greener around leading thinking on climate change, devising more efficient construction methods and mitigating harmful greenhouse gases from buildings. Now is absolutely the right time for us all to come together to solve this problem.

Whether via a focus on a design-led solution coupled with more sustainable and less wasteful construction, by seeking to achieve a carbon-neutral agenda or by being truly ambitious by seeking to be net positive by adding back to the planet and grid, our role as professionals will need to be to baseline, support and come up with the solutions that will help drive the change.

As a sector, we need to apply our skills to improve how we create, or maybe how we adapt, our buildings and infrastructure in a way that leads to a sustainable future for the planet that we can be proud to have had a role in.

Amanda Clack is an executive director and head of strategic advisory at CBRE