By Eric Coll Costa and Fiona Halpin
The word ‘home’ can have several meanings, and depending on whom you ask, it will mean different things. Not only is the concept of a ‘home’ constantly changing, but so are the ways in which they are constructed. Aspects such as sustainability, health and well-being, and safety have started to play a significantly larger role among residents demands.
Today, as regulations around energy consumption and green development are surging, consumers have a growing awareness for sustainability. As a result, the real estate industry is building new forms of housing that consider aspects such as affordability, eco-friendliness, flexibility, style, and health. According to research from Boston Consulting Group, alternatives to traditional homes already make up 4%-6% of all new residential units built in any given year. All these circumstances, combined with future demand, are driving the creation of eco-friendly housing options. To stay competitive, industry players must consider this rising trend and adapt to the future demands around sustainable housing.
Green residential buildings present a range of opportunities to increase energy efficiency and create a healthy environment with enhanced residential comfort. Environmental assessment methods are seen as effective ways to improve the overall efficiency of buildings. Sustainability tools include classifying, predicting, and assessing the impact within various sustainability-related categories of buildings. Correspondingly, building certifications can be considered a robust quality assurance technique which also increase the overall value of an asset. In fact, the green rating assessment tools assess, endorse and improve green practices amongst buildings by providing a framework that guides the industry towards more sustainable best practices.
Sustainability Certification and BREEAM In-Use
While there are different certifications to choose from, with each of them having its own features, the leading green certification is BREEAM. Designed by the Building Research Establishment (BRE), it sets the best practice standards and at the same time acts as a building benchmark between all kind of buildings, relatively to the building end use.
In 2020 the BRE launched a new version (V6) of their In-Use certification scheme. The new framework includes improved features that build upon industry leading standards for driving environmental performance and occupant health and wellbeing, with particular emphasis on resilience to climate change, social value, and circular economy aspects. Additionally, the updated V6 offers the possibility to improve homes through a separate technical manual for Residential assets.
With this update, BREEAM In-Use continues to encourage and support the improvement of all types of buildings. In Fact, Longevity Partners was among the first to promote and use this new Residential certification scheme and already successfully certified several assets across the Nordics with ‘Very Good’ and ‘Excellent’ ratings. Longevity Partners is now the largest assessors of residential properties with BREEAM In-Use. Different studies point to the multiple benefits that this certification brings to the table for all stakeholders:
- For developers: Relative increase of the building value of around 10%.
- For residents: Reduction of the maintenance costs and carbon footprint and increase on comfort and wellbeing. A building certified with BREEAM In-Use Residential will reduce its carbon footprint between 7 and 56% and water consumption by 20 to 35%.
- For homebuyers: 36.4% of homebuyers prefer buying a certified sustainable home. 21.8% of them are interested in energy savings, 8.5% due to health and wellbeing, and 6.1% look at overall sustainability.
The importance of Health & Wellbeing
As the construction industry is evolving and introducing new forms of residential housing, so are the consumer trends that create demand for new forms of housing. In addition to green building certifications, there is a growing demand for buildings that promote Health and Wellbeing aspects. Different studies are quantifying the total amount of time spent in your home, which depends on the country, age, or outdoor conditions. The common finding of all studies is that the total time spent at home ranges from 60-80% of the day. Due to the current pandemic, this number is expected to increase as working from home has become the new normal.
As stated above, 8.5% of home buyers would consider health and wellbeing a priority when finding a home. While BREEAM In-Use covers health and wellbeing and has a whole module dedicated to this topic, there are standalone certifications that are designed specifically to maximise the benefits of such aspects. WELL and Fitwel are two certifications that share many aspects with BREEAM In-Use. Hence, the possibility of combining BREEAM with one of the two can maximise the overall sustainability and wellness performance of assets.
More strict policies and awareness of climate change and the role that each individual can play to help the planet will only highlight the importance of sustainable homes. The current pandemic has strengthened and accelerated the demand for healthy homes, and this demand is expected to grow. The availability of sustainable building certification systems for residential buildings can offer a pathway for the real estate industry to comply with industry best practices. Today’s key priorities involve the implementation of ESG and net zero carbon strategies to real asset portfolios. The focus is rapidly shifting to include all asset types, not just commercial ones. It is of paramount importance for investors and their managers to understand their climate risk and certification is the most robust tool available to validate risk exposure. If the diagnosis is third party verified and robust, it makes a strong basis for the development of mitigation and adaptation plans while at the same time tracking performance improvement over time.
The certification of residential assets continues to create, protect, and grow asset value by encouraging real estate owners to invest in their assets’ overall performance. At Longevity Partners, we have the world's largest team of in-house assessors to support clients in the transition towards an increasingly sustainable housing market and we have certified more residential assets than any other validation organisations.