In recent years, the sustainable development sector had a remarkable surge, propelled by the swift adoption of global requirements such as the Green Deal / Fit for 55 regulations and vastly accentuated by intense climate changes.
The definition of sustainable development changed significantly in the past few years – from the pure set of green building tactics to more complex goals surpassing the concrete building process. These real estate market trends will continue in 2024, but other trends, outside the sustainable development area, will open fresh routes to evolution.
Here are the 5 key sustainable building trends that could gain momentum in 2024 and building owners, developers, and architects will need to adjust their sustainability strategy accordingly.
- Decarbonization – the New Era worldwide.
Faced with global pressure on CO2 emissions, virtually every industry is transitioning to a low-carbon economy. This involves substantial reductions or elimination of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to mitigate the effects of climate change. Real estate companies are key participants in this shift, focusing on sustainable development, adopting renewable energy technologies like solar, wind, and geothermal power, promoting cleaner energy sources, embracing electric vehicle (EV) transportation, and altering energy consumption and production practices for both businesses and individuals.
- Sustainable development embraces AI
AI and Decarbonization are two of the most active “influencers” in terms of global evolution of the past few years. While AI has grabbed the lever of technological evolution and Decarbonization rapidly covered virtually all global aspects, from social to business and governmental, AI seems ready to shake up the real estate market as of 2024.
Embracing changes and adjustments by real estate developers can leverage generative AI to contribute to sustainable development and reap its benefits. Just to give some examples: from simple good management of social, governmental or management projects, to more complex real estate aspects related to sustainable development (e.g. drawing accurate architectural plans or construction process in line with a specific project, location, or development challenges) – AI can help developers identify and implement more efficient sustainability actions, opening a faster and more exact path towards carbon neutrality and sustainability.
- Stronger ESG considerations in sustainable building.
Building certification programs, such as LEED and BREEAM, have already incorporated more ESG metrics. Certifications faced key changes in 2023, in order to set more concrete and stricter steps for a more thorough and concrete evaluation. Moreover, the role of green building certification switched – from its role as the main target in sustainable development, to a starting point towards sustainable development, a tool that helps developers in reaching their more complex sustainability goals.
Overall, ESG considerations will continue in 2024 and we are already seeing more complex ESG performance and reporting from building owners and developers on their sustainability initiatives. The publication of sustainability reports almost became a must, as well as the use of third-party verification to provide assurance on sustainability performance.
- Increased use of sustainable materials and technologies:
Building owners and developers continue to recognize the benefits of using sustainable materials or net-zero energy solutions, towards reduced environmental impact, lower costs, and improved occupant health and comfort. More green building solutions through nature, recycled and reclaimed materials, renewable energy or smart building technology are becoming more popular:
- Green roofs and walls to improve the energy efficiency of buildings, reduce urban heat island effects, and provide habitat for wildlife.
- Forms of green infrastructure such as rain gardens and bioswales.
- Biophilic design incorporates elements of nature into the built environment, such as natural light, plants, and natural materials.
- Zero-waste buildings, with the use of recycled and reclaimed materials and the implementation of waste reduction and recycling programs.
- Net-zero energy buildings: Designed to produce as much energy as they consume, more buildings seek to achieve this goal, with the use of renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, and geothermal energy. Energy efficiency will continue its front-page role also in 2024, via energy-efficient design features, high-performance building envelopes, efficient HVAC systems, as part of efforts to reduce GHG and operating costs.
- Smart building technology: Smart building technology uses sensors, data analytics, and automation to optimize building performance and reduce energy use. 2024 will continue to show buildings incorporating smart building technology, as the cost of these technologies continues to decline, and the benefits become more widely recognized.
5. Regulations boost corporate climate transparency.
Top real estate developers want to become a benchmark in terms of sustainable development – mainly ESG and decarbonization. Therefore, they consistently update and align themselves to the highest standards in this field, by adhering to the guidelines of international organizations that set, monitor, audit or legalize the main sustainability-related requirements.
Organizations such as GRESB, UN SDG, Sustainalytics, Measurabl, are just some examples of a major global trend in setting higher standards and the need for more stringent actions. They add strict legal packages such as SFDR, EU Taxonomy and the European Green Deal targets, intended to reorient financing and business to a more sustainable economy and drive toward net-zero.
Last year, ISSB issued amendments to the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) standards to enhance their international applicability. The amendments will be effective for annual reporting periods as of 1 January 2025, but concrete adjustments in sustainable development strategies will start this year.
Overall, sustainability will continue its massive ascent on the development segment in 2024, as stakeholders demand more action on environmental and social issues, and businesses and governments respond to stricter demands imposed by politics and climate pressure.
BuildGreen is one of the leading ESG and sustainability consultancy companies in Central and Eastern Europe specialized in sustainable design, carbon neutrality, decarbonization, audit and certification.
Founded in 2010, BuildGreen was the first company in Romania to offer advisory services for sustainable building and certification. Since its launch, BuildGreen has been recognized across Europe as an active promoter and initiator of high-standard sustainability-based strategies for real estate developers and investors – helping clients to understand their material impacts and risks, establish ESG goals and build ESG strategies that drive change. BuildGreen’s team of in-house specialists also helps clients to calculate their Scope 1, Scope 2 and Scope 3 emissions, set goals and develop carbon reduction strategies.The company stands out today with one of the largest number of properties assisted for sustainable development and certification across Europe – over 350 real estate developments in 18 EMEA countries, totaling over 10 million sq.m. and €10 billion investment.