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Shaping ESG through proptech

What is the role of data as an ESG enabler? How is proptech impacting ESG strategies?

Consumers and investors alike are demanding increased transparency and sustainable commitments from property developers. That means a growing pressure to consider the environmental and social impact of development projects.

We know proptech can help developers make faster decisions, but the right tech can also help them make more sustainable decisions. Here are four ways it can help.

Repurpose existing buildings

The real estate sector consumes 40% of  the world’s energy and as an industry we need to take action to start cutting this drastically. Much of the emissions from buildings come from the initial build – not just the ongoing running. Sustainable construction methods, such as having renewable and recyclable materials, can help with this. However, it can be more effective to repurpose existing buildings – and make them more energy efficient during the process.

With changes like the expansion of permitted development rights and the creation of use class E, using proptech to find viable sites for conversion can have a huge impact compared with starting from scratch.

Embrace mixed-use developments

Another way to cut down on the need for new builds is through embracing multi-use.

Remote and hybrid working patterns mean that local high streets are getting more attention and consumers are demanding more of an experience from these spaces. Mixed-use developments are also a space-conscious way of cultivating a better sense of community and they encourage people to shop locally – with the bonus of cutting down on traffic emissions.

They are also a sustainable choice for developers – like a yoga studio that transitions into a restaurant at night underneath a block of residential units, cutting the need for three separate buildings.

Incorporating renewable energy sources into these mixed-use buildings could also be a good investment for the future – for example, turning the otherwise unused roof of a warehouse into a small- scale solar panels farm.

Wandering around hoping you bump into those sites is not scalable, but proptech is making it easier to find those all-important opportunities.

Build the right buildings in the right place

It is not always possible to repurpose existing structures, so sometimes building new homes is the best option – but they must be in the right place.

Location is key, not just from a demand perspective, but also from a sustainability standpoint.

Building new homes in or near existing towns and cities makes it more likely that there will be good transportation links – so cutting emissions from private vehicles – and key infrastructure already in place – so reducing emissions from building new roads, sewer systems and so on. Finding available land in these prime locations is a constant challenge for developers, but access to ownership, policy and planning data can help developers unlock more opportunities.

There is also the green belt, which we know is a contentious issue, but our research shows that unlocking just one percent could free up enough land for over 400,000 homes. In reality, by its nature, green belt land is often near urban hubs (and not necessarily all that green), meaning that expanding those existing urban hubs, rather than building a new town further out, can have a lower carbon footprint in the long run.

Having open data to analyse means that developers and local authorities can spot these opportunities and make data-backed decisions that can have a real impact.

Work with like-minded professionals

Collaborating with individuals and companies with shared values is a great way of ensuring a wider impact, and the industry is seeing an increase in green investors, who will only invest in net zero development projects or those with similar commitments.

Increasingly, developers are having to demonstrate their ESG goals and sustainable credentials to secure funding. This has a ripple effect and helps to keep environmental and social factors front of mind for the industry.

Cultivating the right ESG credentials could open up entirely new avenues – and the right tech can help to make the right introductions.

Wandering around hoping you bump into those sites is not scalable, but proptech is making it easier to find those all-important opportunities.

The charge on sustainability

For all the points listed above, data is an invaluable resource to help make them a reality. And this is just the beginning. Even greater data visibility will help get more homes built and foster a stronger renewables sector so we can all start making changes now, at this pivotal moment, that will benefit generations to come.

At LandTech, we believe that democratised data – opening up the once-hidden corners of the profession for use by everyone – is going to help the industry to unlock new, better ways of working. We started with LandInsight, helping people to find the right off-market land, then added LandFund to help excellent projects secure finance.

Technology will not fix everything. There are still planning problems, construction issues and competing priorities to deal with. But it can offer a huge step in the right direction.

Author:

Grace Manning-Marsh, Planning and environmental specialist – LandTech

 

Read the next article in the ESG series

Disclaimer

This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information given. © Shoosmiths LLP 2022.

Insights

Read other articles from issue two or you can explore the full report here