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Report of Executive Board of Directors

Sustainability and Climate Change

Before 2050, all office buildings will have to be made sustainable one way or another to convert them to low (or even net-zero) carbon. This pertains largely to existing buildings, as new development projects will have to be close to energy neutral from 2020 onwards.

In early 2021, local governments will come up with plans for the energy transition and map out the availability of sustainable heating at district level. In the same period of time, asset owners are expected to have plans in place to make their assets ‘Paris proof’. Landlords and tenants will have to reach private (green) agreements on the split incentive (investments versus profit), which is likely to remain a challenge.

In addition, global warming and climate change is already happening and buildings need to be resilient in the face of physical climate impact. Monitoring physical climate risks (like extreme weather events) at asset level started in earnest in 2019 and this is expected to become increasingly important in the years ahead.

Well-being and healthy buildings is an increasingly important theme, especially for office buildings. It is seen as essential for the recruitment and retention of (younger) talent and to improving productivity. The health of an office building is generally related to material use, design, safety, indoor air quality, thermal comfort, daylighting, freedom from noise and the user experience. These themes have been (partly) incorporated in existing sustainability labels and certifications. However, in some cases the mitigation of building-related GHG emissions runs contrary to health aspects, such as indoor climate control installations or large windows for daylighting.

Numerous institutions are developing methods to measure the circularity of buildings and the sector is experimenting with circular building and demolition projects. For the office sector in particular this could translate into different types of contract both with suppliers and with tenants, fit-out requirements, as-a-service concepts or other new office concepts.

In 2019, construction projects and real estate markets were hampered by changes in rulings related to nitrogen emissions and PFAS levels (chemical substances) in the Netherlands. In late 2019, the government introduced new legislation for PFAS levels and temporary legal exemptions for nitrogen emissions to prevent all construction projects grinding to a halt. The political and environmental debate on how to solve the nitrogen problem are still ongoing, as it is clear a more sustainable approach is needed. Additional legislation is expected in 2020, including the 'Clean Air Agreement', which will affect future construction projects.  

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