More than 80% of the 170,000 buildings in Dubai will still exist in 2050, so finding ways to decarbonise them is important for the journey to net zero.
The UAE’s journey to net zero has real estate at its heart, and using advancing technology to find ways to be more energy efficient will be a key part of that, JLL experts told a roundtable.
Louise Collins, JLL’s head of project and development services, UAE, and head of engineering and energy, MEA, said as an example that chillers produced today are far more efficient than they were just three years ago from the same manufacturer.
She said 35% energy bill cost reductions were possible through improvements such as window rehabilitation and insulation. Onsite renewable energy production is another way to make buildings more energy-efficient and create lower carbon emissions.
Older buildings will not necessarily perform less well, she said, noting that Mashreq Bank’s 40-year-old building in Abu Dhabi is one of the best performing JLL had ever seen.
That real estate accounts for 40% of global carbon emissions and 36% of energy consumed was one of the key statements at JLL’s launch of its white paper, "The Green Revolution: A Call for Sustainability in Real Estate", held one week before the UAE hosts the UN climate summit, COP28.
James Allan, MEA CEO, JLL, said the discussion around sustainability in the industry had come a long way in 20 years and was now in “a very good place”.
Just two decades ago, sustainability was a short conversation, he said, with a “circle of blame” of developers saying occupiers would not pay increased rents to allow for sustainable building and occupiers blaming developers for not building sustainably.
“We are very much through that journey,” he said, with regulation being the key to making sure the industry continues on the path to sustainability.
“The UK is definitely in the front and that is purely down to regulations that have come out from the government on that.
“Australia is leading the charge in APAC, and regulation is a very important for that, and that’s why COP28 is very important. The more legislation we are going to get in that space, the quicker we are going to move through,” he said.
Every CEO has a carbon net zero goal key performance indicator (KPI) against their name, no matter what industry they are in, he said, with real estate often the first port of call for those trying to reduce emissions.
Occupiers are starting to demand sustainable buildings and legislation is coming in, he said, and that is driving developers to retrofit existing portfolios.
The audience heard that Dubai had committed to upgrade 30,000 buildings by 2030 to make them more energy efficient and has upgraded 8,000 so far. Abu Dhabi has committed to save around 2.7 terawatt hours of electricity by 2030, or 22% of its energy used.
However, Collins said carbon offsets should always be a last resort.
When it comes to sustainable real estate, the first step is trying to find ways to make it perform with the lowest carbon footprint, then look to using onsite renewable energy and as a third option look to carbon offsets.
“What people seem to do is skip point one and point two and say: My buildings is using twice as much energy as it should be, but I’m just going to buy carbon credits to offset that and I’m certified,” she said.
JLL was reducing its own emissions and is being held to account by its work with HSBC, she explained, holding a global account with the bank, under which it is targeted to reduce global emissions by 3% every year.
(Reporting by Imogen Lillywhite; editing by Seban Scaria)