By Yiannis Misirlis*
Growing global concerns about environmental degradation and climate change have affected every economic activity. More and more companies are realizing their responsibility towards the environment and are considering ways to deal with the current situation, seeking their sustainable development. The real estate sector, which is responsible for 40% of global greenhouse gas emissions, is also expected to play an important role in the shift towards sustainability.
In particular, Real Estate is called upon to incorporate the concept of sustainability into new projects, developing environmentally friendly buildings which can contribute to the effort to reverse the course of climate change. A report by the Urban Land Institute in the USA pointed out some encouraging signs regarding the actions taken by the real estate market as a whole to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement (2015) to reduce gas emissions and limit the increase of the average temperature at levels much lower than 2°C compared to pre-industrial levels.
Sustainability in the Cypriot Real Estate
In our country, the approach taken by land development companies to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement is mainly the design of buildings with optimal energy efficiency, through the application of energy efficient technologies to meet energy needs and the installation of energy consumption control systems. The adoption of a range of high-tech solutions, such as real-time data, enable the identification and monitoring of opportunities for continuous performance improvement, while Internet of Things (IoT) platforms and building management systems have proven to be very effective. In fact, reducing the cost of acquiring this technology has accelerated and expanded its application.
It is worth noting that in recent years significant improvements have been made to the heating, ventilation and air conditioning equipment installed in new buildings, greater use of efficient lighting (LED) has been recorded and various facilities and infrastructure have been improved in terms of their energy efficiency. The most efficient lighting equipment proves to be one of the most economical and efficient ways to reduce the emissions of buildings, as it directly reduces energy consumption.
Other notable initiatives include expanding the use of renewable energy sources and introducing the principles of sustainable development into company portfolios. At the same time, companies are taking steps to enhance the resilience of buildings and increase emergency response programs to ensure that buildings are protected from the effects of climate change.
Imperio’s Sunset Gardens in Limassol, a gated community of 315 apartments, is a good example of sustainability in the Cyprus Real Estate. This residential development uses LED lighting in all private and public areas, recycled water for its 40,000 plants and trees, as well as photovoltaic panels for electricity generation, thus reducing to a minimum the consumption of electricity in all public areas and consequently operating costs.
Advantages of “green” buildings
As it is understood, the benefits of adopting solutions to achieve sustainability are not limited to reducing emissions. In addition to reducing operating costs through the ecological design of buildings aiming at increasing efficiency, is also achieved the reduction of risks, the saving of natural resources and the high quality of life of tenants and employees.
Especially in the business-office space market, research has shown that more and more employees, especially Millennials, want to work for companies that implement social and environmental responsibility policies and offer a more efficient and sustainable workplace. According to the Epson Sustainable Work Environment Index 2021, safety, efficiency and sustainability greatly affect the future success of workplaces. Smart lighting design, automation, thermal comfort, better ventilation and noise cancellation help increase productivity and maintain the workforce.
An example of a sustainable workplace in Cyprus is Imperio House, a green office space development by Imperio that is in the final stages of construction and uses a range of technologies that allow it to produce more energy than it consumes.
In addition, a research by Deutsche Bank shows that high-performing companies in environment, society and governance (ESG) have lower debt and equity costs and outperform the rest of the market, both in the medium and long term.
Strategic approach to sustainability
Although there is still a long way to go, the real estate sector can play a leading role in halting the course of climate change, a process that also presents significant opportunities for land development companies.
A strategic approach to sustainability can add value to companies while enabling them to maintain their competitive advantage. The application of sustainable and green practices in the design and construction of buildings is undoubtedly an investment, both for the builder and the user, as it can bring economic benefits many times the initial cost.
*Yiannis Misirlis is the Director of Imperio Group, Deputy Chairman of the Cyprus Land and Building Developers Association (LBDA), member of the Board of Directors of the Cyprus Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Chairman of the Real Estate Committee.