Greening up the city: challenges for real estate

Greening up the city: challenges for real estate

Over the past few years, “greening” the city and our built environment has become an increasingly common concern. For architects, developers, residents, businesses, and local governments alike, it’s moved beyond just meeting a modest green space quota. Today, most real estate actors agree that initiatives need to be taken to conceive urban and real estate projects where nature plays a central role.

The study "Smart City Paris 2050” made public this in January 2015, was commissioned by the City of Paris in order to identify solutions to serious issue affecting the city - land scarcity, deteriorating air quality and climate change. This study underscores the larger dynamic where land scarcity means that vegetation needs to be part of the built environment: in the study, author and architect Vincent Callebaut imagines a city that showcases high-rise buildings literally covered with vegetation. We talk a lot about smart cities, but should we more accurately be talking about green cities?

This new paradigm begs two questions, on which our work at the Real Estate and Sustainable Development Chair has been focused. First, we should ask why: what purpose will greening the city really serve? And second, we should ask how: what technical and economic conditions will ensure the green cities realization and broad diffusion? These questions can be answered by looking at three key points:

  • A greener city is a more attractive city

In a worrisome environmental context, particularly in terms of air pollution, the ability of cities to provide a new urban model based on a better interaction of green spaces is becoming increasingly critical. But beyond this, our recent study showed that greener cities would be better equipped to attract the best talent: 54% of new graduates would be prepared to refuse a job offer in a city with poor air quality. Greening is also a lever for innovation. New jobs – like urban agriculturalist – are sprouting up to address the ecological, economical and aesthetic questions related to greening the city.

  • A greener city has a better quality of life

When addressing the issue of quality of life, density and diversity are often the first subjects discussed, taking the question strictly from a social perspective. But in this conversation about quality of life, biodiversity is just as important an issue: plant and animal species can be present around the city and on the buildings themselves. Nature isn’t just what grows in the ground in a square or a garden.

  • A greener city encourages business development

Sustainability, in this sense, becomes both economic and environmental.  Greening the city represents a new approach to the challenges of sustainable development, related to the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) of local businesses, it can help companies save money. Plus, the quality of workspaces is intrinsically linked to firm productivity. It’s important to remember that the greening of workplaces represents a significant constituent of the quality of these workspaces, and its positive impact on performance has been amply demonstrated. Still, the absence of a clearly identified economic model is a major impediment to the future development of this trend.

For a long time, vegetation and biodiversity were obscure topics for many city stakeholders and local businesses. In a context of the growing urbanization of the planet and fragmentation of green spaces, they have since become a real vector of differentiation and attractiveness while allowing innovative positioning in terms of sustainable development.

These issues and more are addressed the Real Estate and Sustainable Development Chair’s Cahier # 3. Released March 10, 2015 at the MIPIM, and produced with the support of Poste Immo, Foncière des Régions, and BNP Paribas Real Estate, it presents the analysis of twenty experts on the question "Greening up the city: challenges for real estate".

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