The statement was made during the Building Better and Greener debate at yesterday’s (10th November) FP Show, during which Aleksandra, together with Edward Clark, founder of Uplift Finance; David Travers, CEO at Impact Lending; and Chris Gardner, founder and joint managing director of Atelier, shared their views on the necessary steps to make the development sector greener.
“We can’t just build ourselves out of this,” Aleksandra argued, noting that while net-zero carbon new builds are important in helping achieve the UK’s sustainability target, improving existing homes — which make up the majority of the current built sector — should be the primary focus.
“If you’re not decarbonising your existing assets, you have a huge risk of stranding a large proportion of your portfolio.”
She added that the development sector must also look at making property more resilient in order to overcome the currently physical changes we are experiencing due to climate change — such as hotter summers — and continue to operate.
When discussing the main stumbling blocks to becoming sustainable, Chris explained the importance of adopting green gas and energy.
“We’ve got millions of tonnes of gas being pumped into houses, and we’ve still got lots of unsustainable electricity being used.
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“If you really want to get to net zero and you’re really serious about it, changing construction behaviour is one thing. That’s going to take years. But decarbonising the energy supply in the first place is the low-hanging fruit.”
When it came to who is responsible for driving the move towards sustainability in the built environment, Aleksandra believes the government needs to implement mandatory requirements for every developer to adopt so that there is a level playing field. However, Edward hopes that this shift will be born out of the value energy-efficient homes will bring, as opposed to regulation.
David said lenders must also play their part in incentivising developers to be more sustainable — such as through changes in criteria and higher LTCs. Despite this, he feels a lot of finance providers are not currently considering this.
According to Chris, the reason why lenders have been reluctant to make changes boils down to them being pushed out of their comfort zone and having to find solutions to problems they’ve never had to consider before.
Nevertheless, he noted that changes bring opportunities and warned companies not to be left behind.
“Whatever your view is on climate change, this regulation to get us to net zero is coming — so get on with it.”
Pictured above (L-R): Chris Gardner, founder and joint managing director of Atelier; David Travers, CEO at Impact Lending; Aleksandra Njagulj, global head of ESG for real estate at DWS; Edward Clark, founder of Uplift Finance