14 October 2022 | 7 min.

Smart sustainability of real estate - five transitions

The transition to 'Paris Proof' for the built environment seems a long way off, but a.s.r. real estate is taking on a substantial challenge over the next 1,500 weeks. The aim is to make all buildings more circular, energy-efficient, healthy, climate-adaptive and sustainable by 2050, a.s.r. real estate set this goals by 2045. This will involve five different transition areas. How can you avoid having to rebuild every building five times? By getting it right first time, of course.

Elise van Herwaarden of a.s.r. real estate and Bert van Renselaar of Sweco illustrate the five transition tasks by means of sample projects. Drawing on the lessons learned, they offer tips and recommend that in future all transitions should be merged into a single project.

Elise explains: “It’s important that sustainability in a.s.r. real estate’s portfolios is achieved as efficiently as possible in the future. The insights gained in our projects tackling a single transition will be very useful to us in that regard.”

The five transitions

Bert explains: “Defining the roadmap to low-energy, low-emission real estate is a priority for most property owners. When I look at the five different transitions, I see that everyone is mainly concerned with the energy transition. Yet there is also a lot of interest in making buildings climate-adaptive. This is also one of the most difficult areas for many investors.”

Climate-adaptive, what does that mean?

Bert gives more details: “Climate adaptation focuses on the risks associated with climate change. Climate risks have a clear impact on the comfort and liveability of buildings and their immediate surroundings, so they represent a financial risk for real estate investors. A climate risk assessment is required in order to anticipate this risk.

To enable this to be done quickly, effectively and with limited resources, Sweco has developed the Sweco Climate Risk Identification & Management (KIM) tool. This awards each building a climate risk score based on an environmental and a building score. Using 20 to 40 variables, the building score indicates the vulnerability of the building to flooding or heat stress. The environmental score identifies the risk of such impacts occurring in the surrounding area. The latter score is based on the 'Framework for Climate Adaptive Buildings' method adopted by DGBC and developed by Climate Adaptation Services (CAS).

On the basis of this risk profile, we recommend measures in the vicinity or on the property itself, including their effectiveness, applicability and costs. These measures could include fitting south-facing windows, adjusting threshold heights or moving installations to the basement instead of the roof. Using the results from the tool, it is possible to make targeted investments that both guarantee future liveability and limit the negative effects of climate change.

The KIM tool works in accordance with the EU Taxonomy, which states which investments are sustainable and which are not and identifies the environmental goals that they impact.”

Down to work!

Elise explains the urgency of the measures: “Our ambitions are sky-high, although the obligations with regard to existing real estate are still only minimal. With regard to legal requirements, the C energy label is the main reason why work is started on offices. But the transitions are approaching fast and will bring new requirements.”

Bert offers three tips: “That’s exactly right, so if you integrate the various transitions intelligently now, you really are working towards the future. It will help if you focus on the following three points in your plans:

  1.  Once the low-hanging fruit has been picked, it’s difficult to carry out the rest of the required sustainability measures in a financially attractive way. Solar panels, for example, pay for themselves quickly, while insulation requires more time. It’s therefore best to integrate highly profitable and less profitable measures into a single business case. By combining both, the financially less attractive insulation can still be applied.
  2. Sometimes an improvement in one of the transitions will lead to problems in the other required transitions – that’s another reason to try for integrated solutions. Adding air conditioning helps to achieve a more pleasant indoor climate but raises energy costs. Passive cooling is not as simple as air conditioning but helps in both cases.
  3. Governance models are often organised around just one of the transitions, whereas all of them are urgent. Organise the task around a comprehensive improvement of the building rather than scoring for one transition. This will avoid the need to add a green roof two years after installing solar panels, for example.”

“In future projects, we’ll tackle the transitions on an integrated basis as far as possible, because that causes much less nuisance for users, is more cost-efficient, delivers greater actual sustainability and naturally has the greatest eternal value,” Elise concludes.