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2022 – The year to redefine cities as first tiers of urban governance

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2022—The year to redefine cities as the first tiers of urban governance is by SAYLI UDAS⎯MANKIKAR, published in Observer Research Foundation might hold some inspiring words for the MENA region’s own particular and diverse built environment. Seriously would 2022 be the year to redefine cities as first tiers of urban governance anywhere else than India? Does it really; let us find out.

A holistic restructuring of federal, systemic, and financial governance is required to empower our city governments

Nations debate over issues of climate change and pandemic response amongst others, but it is finally the cities that have the unenviable task of executing the ambitious agendas set up by the national elites. Cities find themselves burdened and crippled to deliver on these promises due to the following factors. First, the lack of adequate authority, federally, to run a city. Second, the funds allocated to cities do not quite match the duties they have to perform. And third, is the lack of capacities to plan, monitor, and execute tasks adequately.

It is time that the first responders to crisis, our cities, are no longer treated as mere urban local bodies that ensure water flows through our taps, garbage is picked up, and roads are tarred, but are actually treated as the custodians of urban governance in India.

In 2022, we must make serious federal and systemic amends to enable and strengthen cities to play out this role, and not only criticise these pale urban structures when they fail to respond to our large requirements. With the Glasgow Pact endorsing ‘the urgent need for multilevel and cooperative action’ at the local level, it was for the first time that the role of cities was officially appreciated and recognised in a COP summit. The new pact has also highlighted the need for climate adaptation through planning at the local government level. This is a cue that, globally, the way cities are being perceived is changing.  Decentralisation and devolution of power should be the axis around which federal reforms should be implemented and reimagined in cities. While we constantly invoke the 74th Amendment  of the Indian Constitution, which brought in the concept of devolution, the three tiers of government which placed urban local bodies at the lowest level, must be redefined 25 years after its conception. We have to assess the reasons why most cities were not able to implement many of these reforms.

With the Glasgow Pact endorsing ‘the urgent need for multilevel and cooperative action’ at the local level, it was for the first time that the role of cities was officially appreciated and recognised in a COP summit.

During the pandemic, even within the cities, a strong and successful model that emerged in high density population areas was ward-level management. Formation of ward committees, and the involvement of citizen voices and a local say at the hyper local level was a part of the 74th Amendment, which haven’t found resonance with many city authorities. There is reluctance, even within city governments, in passing over power to the lowest level and empowering citizens and their direct representatives.

The Second Administrative Reforms Commission, 2008 recommended that cities adopt a bottom-up approach of functioning on the principle of subsidiarity, which puts wards as the first level of governance that has people closest to it. The tasks are then pushed upwards to higher authorities when the local units are not enabled to perform them. The delegation of work is bottom-up. Such citizen involvement has been tried in Mumbai through its Advanced Locality Management (ALM) groups, and in Delhi through the Bhagidari scheme, where Resident Welfare Groups are set up to work on local civic issues. However, these were never empowered in their participation, through funds or functions. Recently, cities like Vishakapatnam have made requests to the government that the devolution should not be restricted to power but to development, where authorities of the region are able to administer all development work of that region and not be dependent on centrally-allocated funds for an infrastructure push.

The delegation of work is bottom-up. Such citizen involvement has been tried in Mumbai through its Advanced Locality Management (ALM) groups, and in Delhi through the Bhagidari scheme, where Resident Welfare Groups are set up to work on local civic issues.

The 15th Finance Commission report tabled in the Budget Session in 2021 was a ray of hope for urban governance. The issue of devolution of taxes to cities after local taxes like Octroi and VAT were subsumed into Goods and Services Taxes (GST) had attracted a lot of clamour and there was demand that a separate City GST must be constituted. But while the consideration of this demand still seems a long time away, the 15th Finance Commission has made an absolute allocation of 4.15 percent of the divisible pool—approximately INR 3,464 billion from the divisible pool of taxes—to local governments. After it is distributed, this will constitute almost 25 percent of the total municipal budgets of most cities. The Commission has also given a fiscal thrust to metropolitan governance by introducing outcome funding to 50 million metropolitan regions with population of over 150 million. Here, an outlay of INR 380 billion has been laid out for 100-percent funding for indicators related to water and sanitation, air quality, and other services.

But this is again a double whammy, considering it is still going to flow top-down from the centre to state governments, which then devolve the money to cities. There has always been a question mark on whether the amounts allocated to a city get used completely, since this will depend on the absorption capacities of cities and their ability to spend municipal funds.

The Commission has also suggested that other avenues such as city incubation grants should be used to develop smaller towns and regions in the country. This has gained significance in areas with strong political leadership or cities supported by the Smart Cities Mission, which encourages, handholds, and sets up guarantee mechanisms for private investment into the urban sector.

City governments must make their own efforts to ensure that the taxes which are within their ambit—like property tax—are paid by citizens, for which unique mechanisms need to be put in place for ensuring collections are made.

Along with devolution of financial or other powers comes transparency and accountability in its systems, the onus for which lies on the city governments. The first step to transparency will be to ensure that city budgets are put in the public domain and follow a simple format that is both easy to understand and comprehensible. City governments must make their own efforts to ensure that the taxes which are within their ambit—like property tax—are paid by citizens, for which unique mechanisms need to be put in place for ensuring collections are made. As issues like climate change gain ground, city governments must introduce tax rebates for green infrastructure to achieve their targets.

In conclusion, a three-pronged holistic approach of reimagining federal governance, reworking financial governance, and restructuring systemic governance in urban agglomerations might be the magic pill for creating strong cities. If we want our first responders and drivers of our quality of life to succeed, our political leaders and administrators will need to lend their muscle to put cities first.

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Why the Luster on Once-Vaunted ‘Smart Cities’ Is Fading

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Why the Luster on Once-Vaunted ‘Smart Cities’ Is Fading by Jim Robbins and published in Yale Environment 360 cannot be overlooked or worse ignored. It’s a matter of literally vital if not existentialist presence in the built environment. Especially in those countries of the MENA region.

“Smart cities” built from scratch have so far failed to live up to their much-hyped promise. Some critics argue that rather than grafting a new city onto the landscape, it is better to integrate high-tech for clean, efficient energy and transportation into existing cities.

1st December 2021

Last February, the Toyota Motor Company broke ground on what it calls Woven City, a built-from-scratch futuristic urban center on 175 acres in the shadow of Mount Fuji. Woven City is a reference to the way the project plans to weave together cars, robots, data, and computers to create a city that the builders say, is highly efficient, pollution-free, and sustainable.

The new city will be carbon neutral, Toyota says. Autonomous cars will run on non-polluting green hydrogen, while solar and wind provide other energy needs. And sensors embedded throughout Woven City will gather a range of metrics and process them with artificial intelligence to help the city constantly become cleaner and run more smoothly.

Woven City is one of a burgeoning number of “smart cities” that have been recently built or are now being planned or constructed. NEOM is a $500 billion sprawling futuristic city for a million people under construction in Saudi Arabia. Egypt is building a new smart capital near Cairo that planners say could eventually be home to 6.5 million people. Telosa, proposed by a former Walmart executive, would be a city of 50,000 in the western United States “in a place yet to be determined.” Numerous smart cities have been or are being built in China.

There’s no single concept of a smart city. But the basic definition is a city filled with sensors that monitor myriad aspects of life, from traffic to pollution to energy and water use. In the case of the Woven City, “smart homes” will feature sensors that will monitor the occupants’ health. All the monitors in these cities are connected to the backbone of these prototype communities, the Internet of Things (IoT), meaning the interconnection of tiny computers placed in everyday objects. The massive trove of collected data will be interpreted with artificial intelligence to make cities greener and more livable.

Some prominent smart cities have faced serious obstacles to realizing their utopian visions.

While proponents say these communities represent the future of a healthier planet, some prominent smart cities have faced serious obstacles to realizing their utopian visions. Masdar City in Abu Dhabi abandoned its smart city master plan because of financial problems that began in 2008 and continued because the cost of some aspects of the city was far more than forecast. Songdo is a completed smart city with a population of 170,000 in South Korea that has not been able to fill its buildings. It’s sometimes described as a ghost town, or, variously, as cold, impersonal, homogenous, and dully predictable.

One recent paper on smart cites grappled with ways these cities can introduce serendipity into daily life to combat their monotonous nature.

“There are a lot of good things that can come of” smart city concepts, “especially for the environmental applications,” said Shannon Mattern, a professor of anthropology at The New School for Social Research and the author of A City is Not a Computer. “But it really limits your [ways] of intervention to the types of things that lend themselves to quantitative measurement,” she said. “When you take messy ambiguous dimensions of human nature and try to find ways to algorithmicize them, there is always a failure there, something that slips through the cracks.” History, culture, and the spiritual aspects of life are among those aspects that critics cite as missing from — or are diminished — in smart cities.

There has been criticism, as well, of smart cities being alien to the landscape on which they are built. In her book Spaceship in the Desert, about Masdar City, Göckcę Günel, an anthropologist at Rice University, said both Masdar City and Neom “share the vision that the desert is an empty zone on which any kind of ideal can be projected,” she said. “That’s why I compared Masdar City to a spaceship insulated from the rest of the world.”

Songdo, a “smart city'” in South Korea, has struggled to get people and businesses to move there. AP PHOTO / THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR, ANN HERMES

Despite the fact that trillions of dollars are being spent to create these spectacular, Oz-like, all-encompassing cities of the future, some leading analysts believe in a very different concept of smarter cities.

“I hate almost every effort at building a greenfield smart city,” said Boyd Cohen, a professor at EADA, a business school in Barcelona, who is one of the pioneers of the smart city concept and a longtime climate strategist. “A smart city without people is a dumb city. You are building a smart city in the absence of people, in the absence of history, in the absence of culture. The developers say, ‘We are going to build this great, amazing city and people will come,’ and they don’t. People want to live in communities and have culture around them.”

An alternative to a spanking new city rising on virgin land is to incorporate smart technologies into existing cities, Cohen said. Singapore, London, and Barcelona, are among the cities that lead the world in adopting smart technologies to more efficiently operate their infrastructure and become greener. In London, for example, sensors on light poles monitor air pollution and show particularly polluted spots that can be avoided. Because collecting trash is the most expensive part of the waste disposal process, Barcelona adopted “smart bins” that signal when they are full and ready for pick up. But technology is not always a be-all and end-all.

Cohen believes cities are on the front line of climate change and need to become smarter to survive it. “In 2009 [at the UN climate conference in Copenhagen] everyone thought Obama and the United Nations were going to save the world” with agreements to restrict CO2 emissions, he said. “It didn’t happen and still isn’t happening. So I turned my attention to cities. That’s the place where we will get faster action on climate change.”

Smart cities have run into trouble over the issue of who owns the data collected and how it will be used.

Urban planning, says Cohen, may be the single most important way to reduce fossil fuel pollution and consumption. Effective urban design — density, walkability, mixed use so people don’t have to drive long distances, and efficient, clean electric or hydrogen public transportation — is the foundation. “Then you layer in tech,” he said. “Technology around renewable and distributed energy. And to make our buildings more energy efficient. If you tackle energy consumption and transportation and urban planning, you have gone a long way toward solving the climate problem.”

Smart grids are a key component of smart cities. These power grids optimize the delivery of electricity by receiving information from users over the IoT. This data provides experts with information about how, where, and when energy is used. In some models, it interprets that data with artificial intelligence. But as energy sources are diversified — solar and wind from large and small sources, even individual homes, as well as traditional sources — it makes it harder for electrical systems to efficiently sense where power is needed and to allocate it. Because it can better manage available power, a smart grid avoids waste and can make the most of renewables.

A host of other smart applications are being used in cities. Parking is the bane of urban dwellers, so smart parking has gotten a lot of attention. Santander, Spain, for example, is considered one of the world’s smartest cities because it has 20,000 parking sensors connected to the IoT. Sensors under parking spaces can tell when they are empty and send that information to antennas that beam it to a control center. Signs guide drivers to the empty spots, limiting time spent driving around looking for a space and reducing fuel use, carbon dioxide and automobile pollution, and traffic congestion.

In Utrecht in the Netherlands, people ride “sniffer bikes” that measure three types of particulate air pollution, as well recording their location, speed, battery voltage, temperature and humidity, road conditions, and organic gases, which are sent to a central data hub. People can choose the cleanest route and are themselves de facto sensors, providing information to city managers.

A street view in Masdar City, United Arab Emirates, showing a tower that circulates cooler air. HUFTON+CROW / VIEW PICTURES / UNIVERSAL IMAGES GROUP VIA GETTY IMAGES

Water use is another prime target of smart applications. A smartphone app, for example, can alert residents to an undetected leak in their plumbing and allows them to monitor consumption and quality.

Barcelona has pioneered a smart water irrigation system in its public spaces. Officials inventoried the species of plants in each park and determined precisely how much water they need. Water and humidity sensors, coupled with data from weather stations and rain gauges, provide information on how moist the soil and air are, and allow delivery of the right amount of water. The city says it saves 25 percent on its water bill — more than 400,000 euros a year.

But smart cities have run into trouble over the issue of who owns the data that is collected and how it will be used. A Google affiliate called Sidewalk Labs had plans for a 12-acre smart city development, called Quayside, on Toronto’s lakefront. The project ran into a buzz saw of opposition, largely over whether it could be trusted to manage the data. Roger McNamee, a venture capitalist, wrote a letter to the city council and said the information technology behemoth could not be trusted. “The smart city project on the Toronto waterfront is the most highly evolved version to date … of surveillance capitalism,” he wrote. The company will use “algorithms to nudge human behavior” in the direction “that favors its business.”

Sidewalk Labs CEO Daniel L. Doctoroff said the 2020 cancellation of the project was largely a result of the pandemic and economic uncertainty in the Toronto real estate market. “It has become too difficult to make the 12-acre project financially viable without sacrificing core parts of the plan,” Doctoroff wrote last year.

It’s clear that the vision of what works as a smart city is still in the early stages, especially as technology and concepts continue to evolve. “It will take time to scale up the most sustainable models across a city, let alone the world,” said Cohen.

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What is the smart city, and why is cloud storage key?

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David Friend, a specialist in cloud storage elaborates on What is the smart city, and why is cloud storage key?

Smart cities will demand a new paradigm for storage

(The image above is of Jamesteohart / Shutterstock)

Today, analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning (ML) have become big business. Throughout the 2020s, Harvard Business Review[1] estimates that these technologies will add $13 trillion to the global economy, impacting virtually every sector in the process.

One of the biggest drivers of the value-add provided by AI/ML will come from smart cities: cities that leverage enhancements in such technologies to deliver improved services for citizens. Smart cities promise to provide data-driven decisions for essential public services like sanitation, transportation, and communications. In this way, they can help improve the quality of life for both the general public and public sector employees, while also reducing environmental footprints and providing more efficient and more cost-effective public services.

Whether it be improved traffic flow, better waste collection practices, video surveillance, or maintenance schedules for infrastructure – the smart city represents a cleaner, safer, and more affordable future for our urban centers. But realizing these benefits will require us to redefine our approach towards networking, data storage, and the systems underpinning and connecting both. To capitalize on the smart city paradigm, we’ll need to adopt a new and dynamic approach to computing and storage.

Providing bottomless storage for the urban environment

In practice, the smart city will require the use of vast arrays of interconnected devices, whether it be sensors, networked vehicles, and machinery for service delivery. These will all generate an ever-growing quantity and variety of data that must be processed and stored, and made accessible to the rest of the smart city’s network for both ongoing tasks and city-wide analytics. While a smart city may not need access to all the relevant data at once, there’s always the possibility of historic data needing to be accessed on recall to help train and calibrate ML models or perform detailed analytics.

All of this means that a more traditional system architecture that processes data through a central enterprise data center – whether it be on-premise or cloud – can’t meet the scaling or performance requirements of the smart city.

This is because, given its geographic removal from the places where data is generated and used, a centralized store can’t be counted on to provide the rapid and reliable service that’s needed for smart city analytics or delivery. Ultimately, the smart city will demand a decentralized approach to data storage. Such a decentralized approach will enable data from devices, sensors, and applications that serve the smart city to be analyzed and processed locally before being transferred to an enterprise data center or the cloud, reducing latency and response times.

To achieve the cost-effectiveness needed when operating at the scale of data variety and volume expected of a smart city, they’ll need access to “bottomless clouds”: storage arrangements where prices per terabyte are so low that development and IT teams won’t need to worry about the costs of provisioning for smart city infrastructure. This gives teams the ability to store all the data they need without the stress of draining their budget, or having to arbitrarily reduce the data pool they’ll be able to draw from for smart city applications or analytics.

Freeing up resources for the smart city with IaaS

Infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) is based around a simple principle: users should only pay for the resources they actually use. When it comes to computing and storage resources, this is going to be essential to economically deliver on the vision of the smart city, given the ever-expanding need for provisioning while also keeping down costs within the public sector.

For the smart city in particular, IaaS offers managed, on-demand, and secure edge computing and storage services. IaaS will furnish cities with the components needed to deliver on their vision – whether it be storage, virtualization environments, or network structures. Through being able to scale up provisioning based on current demand while also removing the procurement and administrative burden of handling the actual hardware to a specialist third party, smart cities can benefit from economies of scale that have underpinned much of the cloud computing revolution over the past decade.

In fact, IaaS may be the only way to go, when it comes to ensuring that the data of the smart city is stored and delivered in a reliable way. While handling infrastructure in-house may be tempting from a security perspective, market competition between IaaS providers incentivizes better service provision from all angles, whether customer experience, reliability and redundancy, or the latest standards in security.

Delivering the smart city is a 21st century necessity

The world’s top cities are already transforming to keep up with ever-expanding populations and in turn their ever-expanding needs. Before we know it, various sectors of urban life will have to be connected through intelligent technology to optimize the use of shared resources – not because we want to, but because we need to.

Whether it be a question of social justice, fiscal prudence, or environmental conscience, intelligently allocating and using the resources of the city is the big question facing our urban centers in this century. But the smart city can only be delivered through a smart approach to data handling and storage. Optimizing a city’s cloud infrastructure and guaranteeing cost-effective and quality provisioning through IaaS will be essential to delivering on the promise of the smart city, and thus meet some of our time’ most pressing challenges.

David Friend is the co-founder and CEO of Wasabi Technologies, a revolutionary cloud storage company. David’s first company, ARP Instruments developed synthesizers used by Stevie Wonder, David Bowie, Led Zeppelin and even helped Steven Spielberg communicate with aliens providing that legendary five-note communication in Close Encounters of the ThirdKind. Friend founded or co-founded five other companies: Computer Pictures Corporation – an early player in computer graphics, Pilot Software – a company that pioneered multidimensional databases for crunching large amounts of customer data, Faxnet – which became the world’s largest provider of fax-to-email services, Sonexis – a VoIP conferencing company, and immediately prior to Wasabi, what is now one of the world’s leading cloud backup companies, Carbonite. David is a respected philanthropist and is on the board of Berklee College of Music, where there is a concert hall named in his honor, serves as president of the board of Boston Baroque, an orchestra and chorus that has received 7 Grammy nominations. An avid mineral and gem collector he donated Friend Gem and Mineral Hall at the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History. David graduated from Yale and attended the Princeton University Graduate School of Engineering where he was a David Sarnoff Fellow.

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Sustainable construction must consider the whole business operation

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Imagine a sustainable construction company: what do you picture? Luke Deamer provides an answer such as Sustainable construction must consider the whole business operation . . .

Luke Deamer

Often our first thought is to imagine a construction site. With COP26 now wrapped up, perhaps we think of zero emission piling rigs and construction equipment. Perhaps we picture innovative low carbon cements, or designs that make use of off-site construction. In fact, it can be easy to forget all the other operations of a construction company. Yet other parts of our businesses, such as HR and finance, have a big impact on sustainability. It’s time to start thinking outside of our projects.

There is still a lot of work to be done on site projects. But solely focusing sustainability improvements on site processes limits what we can achieve. Likewise, only focusing on environmental accreditations and innovations means we miss opportunities to improve social and economic sustainability. We need to think bigger. Every business function, from procurement to IT, has a role to play in improving sustainability.

This was the challenge addressed in a research collaboration between Keller and the University of Surrey’s Centre for Environment and Sustainability. Together, they assessed the sustainability of every process carried out across a construction company. This investigation covered everything from annual leave policies to the way piling rigs are washed down in maintenance yards. The results were surprising – it turns out nearly every process has an impact on sustainability.

Some of these impacts are more obvious than others. Take how HR processes impact social sustainability. It is probably no surprise that key processes impact employee education and diversity, equity and inclusion. But HR also has other impacts. For example, by controlling the company car scheme, HR can have a big impact on carbon emissions and air quality. Likewise, through managing subsistence allowances on site, HR have an impact on reducing hunger and improving the health of employees.

We see these same hidden impacts across other functions as well. As it turns out, many are of these impacts are positive. IT use firewalls to help prevent online discrimination and harassment. Procurement help reduce modern slavery in the supply chain through pre-qualifications and audits. Finance help cost out climate risks and opportunities, as well as planning for green capital expenditure. By diving into individual procedures, method statements and policies, we can reveal these additional sustainability impacts.

So, what does this mean for construction companies?

Firstly, we need to look outside our site projects. This means encouraging all functions to investigate and improve their own sustainability impacts. Across environmental, social and economic sustainability, functions are often surprised by what they can impact.

Secondly, once we know about these wider impacts, we need to capture them. Sustainability reporting shouldn’t be restricted to sites and maintenance yards. Likewise, companies shouldn’t stop at carbon or diversity reporting. As important as these metrics are, we impact far more areas of sustainability. There are great things going on already, we just need to make sure we record them.

Thirdly, we need to look at the process level. Too often, we just focus on pushing sustainability from the top-down. There is still a place for corporate targets and metrics, but great sustainability reporting is meaningless unless we know how we can improve those metrics. To make these improvements, we need to look at the individual tasks we all carry out. It’s these individual changes to key procedures, approaches and policies that actually make a difference. No matter what function or role we’re in, we can drive actual change from the bottom-up.

Finally, everyone has a part to play in improving sustainability. We all have a different impact on sustainability, but we can all do something about it. Everyone, from site operatives to the finance team, can improve company sustainability. Sustainability is not someone else’s problem. It’s an opportunity for us all.

Luke Deamer is a doctoral practitioner in sustainability with Keller

Businesses can’t afford not to invest in Sustainability

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Businesses generally today can’t afford not to invest in Sustainability. This is getting obvious by the day, if only because of all related losses and dire consequences of non-sustainable investments.

We are at a time where sustainability strategies would be considered because these can foster the longevity of the business.

Here is something on Why real estate businesses can’t afford not to invest in sustainability.

The above image is for illustration and is of Zawya.

Why real estate businesses can’t afford not to invest in sustainability

By Jayne Smith • EnvironmentNews

The World Green Building Council (WorldGBC), a global network accelerating sustainability and decarbonisation in the building and construction sector, has set out the updated value proposition to drive investment in a sustainable built environment by launching a new flagship report ‘Beyond the Business Case’ at COP26 in Glasgow.

In the lead up to Cities, Regions and Built Environment Day at COP26 on Thursday 11 November, the report ‘Beyond the Business Case’ provides a timely and unique perspective for decision makers to accelerate the industry’s sustainability transformation by capitalising on the economic opportunities, addressing risk mitigation and, importantly, also embracing the social value case.

Why this report matters

This report draws from and embraces the rapidly growing sustainability agenda across the built environment. The evolving scope of sustainability, broadening of what we call ‘green’, and closer alignment with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, and finally the rise in social value as not just a consideration, but a business driver for developers and investors.

The report demonstrates seven irrefutable co-benefits for investing in a sustainable built environment, across both the financial and social value case. These are:

• Social benefits, to building occupants through health, productivity & wellbeing
• Lower or equivalent costs at supply chain, construction, and operational phases
• Risk mitigation, providing resilience to inevitable climate impacts, environmentally and financially, as well as future-proofing against legislative changes or corporate expectations and reputational risk
• Higher asset values linked both to performance and asset desirability
• Investment opportunities through a rapidly transitioning finance sector protecting investments, supporting share prices, and increasing requirements on Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) reporting
• Access to finance due to availability of finance for green buildings, from banks, bonds and institutional investors.

All of these findings are supported by evidence-based research through innovative case studies which bolster both the current, and future, business case for a sustainable built environment.

Going beyond the business case

A central innovation of this report is the analysis of climate-science aligned 2050 scenario modelling, proving that there is a stronger value proposition for investment in sustainable and quality real estate today. This is presented against a backdrop of recent trends. For example, wellness in real estate is projected to rise to a $198 billion industry in 2022 — heightening demand for healthy, sustainable spaces.

A powerful and up to date business case is essential to drive investment into green, sustainable buildings. With the built environment being responsible for 75 percent of annual global greenhouse gas emissions, and real estate alone accounting for 37 percent, plus 40-50 percent of global resources extraction, the critical requirement for enhancing sustainability in the sector is undeniably clear. For the development of new buildings and the required upgrades of existing ones, the financial input will be monumental — new sustainable buildings alone are set to represent a $24.7 trillion investment opportunity in emerging markets alone by 2030, so tackling barriers to mass market engagement is essential.

WorldGBC unpacks the financial business case to explore drivers including the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), or country climate pledges within the Paris Agreement, regulatory change such as the European Union’s Taxonomy, and the rise in sustainable finance and the growth of Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) reporting.

Beyond the Business Case also outlines reasons for the optimal economic opportunity from green assets, including greater access to investment, corporate reputation, higher asset value and investment resilience, lower build and operational costs and return on investment through occupant productivity.

Leadership and collaboration from across the globe

This report has been developed by the WorldGBC global network, with collaboration and support from a development task force including the Laudes Foundation, WSP, Johnson Controls, Buro Happold, Saint-Gobain, Mott Macdonald, Foster + Partners, Kingspan, SOM, CBRE, Lendlease, Institute for Human Rights and Business and our member Green Building Councils around the world.

“No business can afford not to embrace sustainability in real estate”

Cristina Gamboa, CEO, World Green Building Council, said: “As WorldGBC prepares for the dedicated Cities, Regions and Built Environment day at COP26, we recognise the need for a compelling value proposition for all actors across the global real estate sector, as well as the increasing importance of social value. People must be put at the heart of the business case, particularly in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, which continues to challenge us.

“Real estate alone accounts for 37 percent of annual global greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, our report inspires urgency — but urgency with optimism. We champion an achievable transformation that brings future climate scenarios into today’s business decision making, demonstrating total clarity on why no business can afford not to embrace sustainability in real estate.”

Image: WorldGBC

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