Don’t neglect social and economic sustainability

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Philip Hirst
EMEA Upstream Sustainability Services

A quick survey of sustainability news stories (and blogs like this one!) shows that when we talk about sustainability in the real estate industry, we are often talking about environmental sustainability. 

But what about the social and economic impacts of real estate?As the UK Government starts to implement an ambitious programme of decentralization through the Localism Bill and its Big Society vision this question is at the forefront of many minds.  This means local communities have more power to decide what development occurs in their local area, what benefits it should deliver for them and how it will be managed. To be successful in the UK, developers will increasingly need a deep understanding of the social and economic impacts of their buildings.

Jenny White recently blogged on the importance of data in the real estate industry and this is particularly true for sustainability. Jones Lang LaSalle is working closely with clients to close the data gap on the social and economic impacts of buildings.

In the UK, this has been done through the NextGeneration benchmark – an annual public benchmark of the top 25 UK homebuilders which we manage in partnership with the HCA and WWF-UK.  In 2010, the benchmark assessed developer performance on social and economic issues.

The benchmark revealed interesting examples from UK developers and Jones Lang LaSalle clients. For example, The Berkeley Group has set targets to deliver homes to a minimum urban design standard, Crest Nicholson incorporated roof top allotments and car clubs on its developments and Miller Homes developed a Facebook-style website for residents to meet their new neighbors and build communities. 

If the UK context is anything to go by, social and economic sustainability issues should be rising up everybody’s agendas during 2011 and I will certainly be monitoring this blog and other sources for more stories on this topic! 

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