With the theme of this year’s Mipim being ‘Driving Urban Change’, I am looking forward to attending a truly global event with a focus on delivering the sustainable built environments of the future.
There is much to do. Cities currently consume more than two-thirds of the world’s energy and account for more than 70% of global CO2 emissions.
The key component to better understand the impact that buildings have on the wider environment is technology.
Being able to collect, collate and analyse various key data points when constructing and maintaining the built environment will allow developers and investors to gauge and reduce the environmental impact of their schemes.
This in turn should facilitate progress towards meeting challenging net-zero goals for an industry that is considerably behind the curve in this regard. The move from proptech to climate (or decarbonising) tech has already begun.
This is not just theory. Some of the world’s largest real estate companies are turning to technology as part of the answer. You only have to look at British Land’s strategic investment into Fifth Wall’s Climate Technology Fund to see that technology will play a crucial role in measuring and understanding data to identify carbon reduction opportunities.
Building automation systems are not new, but they are now far more sophisticated than just light sensors in the toilets. With the ability to manage heating, cooling and ventilation, these systems enhance the value of an asset and can improve returns.
Look out for newer phrases entering the real estate lexicon such as ‘digital twins’ – best suited to creating a connected digital replica of large multi-use and multi-building schemes, they are useful for planning efficiencies and understanding the interplay between buildings and infrastructure.
Since technology is powered by data, climate-tech will reinforce the need to develop ‘data consciousness’. This means thinking about privacy and cybersecurity, as well as being alert to wider opportunities for new revenue and valuable insights from the collected datasets.
If the attractiveness of increased returns and a more compelling building for occupiers (and their now more environmentally demanding employees) is not reason enough to invest in climate-tech, then legislators are on the case. Pushing institutional investors to back low-carbon technologies by obliging them to report on their ESG footprint is a big green stick to go with the many carrots.
I expect climate-tech to soon be as standard on an institutional grade-A building as suspended ceilings and air-conditioning – and this can only be a good thing.
Jonathan Mills is associate director at Osborne Clarke