Zim’s real estate sector acts on environmental degradation

Zimbabwe’s real estate sector has started to look at new ways of developing property in order to curb environmental damage.

Property developers say they are including designs in building that are both sustainable and energy efficient as part of efforts to reduce the sector’s contribution towards environmental degradation.

Commercial and household buildings account for more than 20 percent of the global carbon emissions total, say scientists.

Real estate is central to urban development, but the sector also forms one of the largest consumers of energy, mostly fossil fuels.

“(It) would be wrong to suggest that the real estate industry has not acknowledged environmental sustainability in its decision-making,” Ms Alleta Nyahuye, a sustainable development expert, told the REIZ annual conference in Victoria Falls recently.

“In development, there has been a slight shift towards the production of “more environmentally sustainable buildings.

“Green buildings can deliver a range of tangible and intangible financial performance benefits to developers, investors, occupiers and other stakeholders,” she said.

Zimbabwe has Eastgate Shopping Mall as its classic example of an environmentally friendly building revered world over for its design.

Eastgate Mall was designed to be ventilated and cooled by natural means and could be the first building in the world to use natural cooling to this level of sophistication, according to Wikipedia.

Incorporating sustainable designs, including use of natural resources for long term benefits, for instance harnessing the abundance of sunshine for solar energy could save the country billions of dollars in the long-term, Ms Nyahuye said.

She spoke about the need to follow recent trends that are now skewed towards environmentally friendly developments.

Globally, it is estimated that 40 percent to 48 percent of new commercial buildings are “green”, compared to only 2 percent in 2005.

This is expected to rise to 55 percent by 2020 as new regulations on construction specifications are enforced.

World class cities such as New York City, Copenhagen, Amsterdam and Singapore are ranked among the most livable cities. Despite the massive industrialization that polluted them, these came up with green plans to tackle clean water, clean air and land.

Amsterdam for example, has bike infrastructure and therefore people uses bicycles more as it cuts on carbon emissions from vehicles.

Leading exchanges such as the Wall Street and Johannesburg added environmental sustainability as a requirement for listing and the local bourse is in the process of reviewing listing requirements to include environmental sustainability disclosure.

“At the core of the business case for green buildings is improved returns and reduced risk as investors and occupiers can share a bundle of benefits such as direct cost savings, image improvements, increased liquidity and lettability, lower depreciation and reduced regulatory risk, among others.

“The real estate sector should further ensure that all assets contribute to city-wide resilience efforts to minimize the impact of extreme weather events and to speed recovery.

The benefits of managing the environment far outweigh the costs of cleaning up and restoration,” said Ms Nyahuye.

Environmentally sustainable buildings should also incorporate residential developments.

Zimbabwe and the rest of Africa has experienced rapid urbanisation in the past two decades as people seek employment in main urban centres.

This has resulted in more developments sprouting and experts said there was need for developers to adhere to set procedures in town planning and housing with high priority on becoming environmentally sustainable.

“There are opportunities to embrace new technology and innovation to meet environmental goals and enhance business performance,” she said.

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