A survey of 4,000 members of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) from around the world has revealed that they do not have the right skills or tools to reduce carbon emissions. And despite looming net zero targets, more than 70 percent of projects are not measuring carbon emissions at all.
Published this month, the survey makes up the second ever RICS sustainability report, with findings split into commercial real estate and construction, in line with the institution’s membership. The report groups building and infrastructure projects together under the ‘construction’ heading, so the results don’t show how infrastructure projects measure up to building ones. But generally, the complexity of infrastructure projects means that carbon emissions are measured less than in the building sector.
The survey results showed that just 16% of the construction sector respondents measure embodied carbon on their projects and use the results to influence decisions; a further 10% measure embodied carbon but take no related action. Measurement of operational carbon came in a little higher, with 28% of respondents saying they measured it over the expected lifecycle of their projects.
Equally surprising was the fact that less than half of respondents use digital tools for measuring and recording environmental and sustainability metrics: 47% said they used them on all or most of their projects, but 20% don’t use them at all and 20% use them on fewer than half of their projects. Only 15% said they used digital tools to measure and reduce embodied carbon.
When asked what the principal barriers to reducing carbon emissions are, over 50% said that a lack of established standards, tools and guidance was a problem. The second most cited issue was high cost or low availability of low-carbon products and coming a close third was gaps in knowledge and skills shortages.
A notable finding from the commercial real estate portion of the survey was that RICS members are seeing significant increases in investor demand for green or sustainable buildings. This was most pronounced in Europe where 80% of real estate surveyors said they had seen a rise in demand.
Responses also showed that green buildings are commanding a higher market value. Almost 50% of respondents globally reported that ‘brown’, or non-sustainable buildings, are achieving lower rents than green ones, with 25% suggesting that the discount was up to 10% and a fifth putting the discount above that.
In the conclusion to its report, RICS argues that standards and guidelines that could make up a decarbonisation toolkit already exist. RICS’s Whole Life Carbon Assessment for the Built Environment, published in 2017 and is currently being updated; the Built Environment Carbon Database (BECD) where professionals can log data on different types of construction project; and the International Cost Management Standards (ICMS 3).
You can read the report here.