RICS: 'Going for Green' means certified new and existing buildings (EU)

The market for certification of existing buildings is still under development in Europe, but some pioneering examples, could maybe set the example and buck the trend, says RICS in its publication Going for Green: Sustainable Building Certification Statistics Europe, launched today at Consense 2012 in Stuttgart (June 19, 2012).

This is the second year that the Sustainability working group of RICS in Germany collects and comments on the data displayed by the four leading international certification systems BREEAM, LEED, HQE and DGNB, with the aim of creating greater market transparency by providing an up-to-date pan-European overview with regard to 'green' certification of buildings.

According to the RICS professional group, whilst today there is unanimous agreement among policy makers, academia and real estate professionals on the importance to tackle carbon emissions in the existing stock, in practice, certificates for new buildings still outnumber certificates for existing buildings in Europe.

The energy saving potential is huge but demand for certification of existing buildings is still low. This is partly due to the challenge that processes within existing buildings cannot be as easily 'steered' as in new build where they can be aligned with potential certification from the start of the project. Comparability, transparency and value preservation and maximization represent key factors for investors. Certification of new build is already a recognized tool which addresses these factors thus simplifying decision-making.

That this could rapidly change, can be seen in the case of the US where successful LEED certification of new build and resulting higher rents and fewer void periods have put the existing stock under such pressure that it simply had to catch up. In 2010, more existing buildings were registered for certification than for new build for the first time.

With this publication, RICS also showcases some best practice case studies of certification of existing buildings in Germany, France and Belgium. These examples includes two buildings in Frankfurt: the 19th century Junghof, the seat of RICS Deutschland (awarded LEED Gold) and the most comprehensive retrofit project in Europe to date, the headquarters of Deutsche Bank which were refurbished between 2007 and 2010 (awarding LEED Platinum).

The refurbishment of the 17th century building at Oude Houtlei 140 in the historic center of Ghent, Belgium demonstrates that it is possible to achieve the BREEAM in-Use 'Excellent' rating even with a listed building. Finally, the regeneration of the impressive 97 meters high La Tour Prisma, which forms part of La Défense in Paris, France, is set to become another success story of certification of an existing high-rise building in Europe.

Rüdiger Hornung MRICS, Chairman of the Professional Group Sustainability of RICS Deutschland says: "To further push the topic of sustainability in real estate it is important not to solely focus on lighthouse projects but to also tackle the existing stock. As the figures in the 2012 survey illustrate, this trend is now clearly reflected in current certification practice."

Ursula Hartenberger, RICS Global Head of Sustainability says: "The trend towards a stronger focus on certification of the existing stock that is currently happening in the US where in 2012 there were more certifications for existing buildings than for new build for the first time is a clear indicator that targeted investments into existing buildings with subsequent certification may better future-proof these buildings against potential risks such as longer than average void periods and value depreciation.

"Against the background of the ambitious EU 2020 targets one can only hope that Europe will follow the US example."


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