The 40 Percent Symposium Takes the Initiative to boost Sustainable Building

Tue 22 Nov 2016

In this blog, 40 Percent Symposium 2016 host, Dr. Birgit Memminger-Rieve from ES EnviroSustain summaries the lively discussions which took place at the conference and looks forward to the content of the 40 Percent Symposium 2018.


On the 3rd November 2016, the 7th International Symposium on Sustainable Commercial Real Estate took place in the Berliner Regent Hotel.

Moderated by the 40 Percent Symposium’s initiator John Pike, who is RICS Chartered Surveyor and currently board member of Bellrock Properties and Facilities Management (UK), the Symposium focused on politics, economics & risks as well as global best practice.

Given the enforcement of the Paris Agreement and the pending Climate Conference (CAM1) in Marrakesh, Martin Brühl – the director of Union Investment’s Dept. for International Real Estate Investment – emphasized that the sole collection of data and facts will no longer suffice to combat climate change.


Action is now required and the Real Estate Industry that is greatly responsible now faces a challenge.


The established legal framework that has been set by the EU and the German Government was presented and explained by Mr. Thies Grothe, the ZIA - Head of dept. for Policy in the Real Estate Branch. Ambitious targets have been laid down in the Climate Control Plan 2050 requiring neutral global warming potential within the Real Estate Branch. With this in mind the German Government has set 'intermediate goals' for 2030 obliging building operators to cut CO2 emissions by 66-67% in relation to 1990. This will no doubt involve a combination of enhancing energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy forms, which in turn would require more open mindedness, technology wise from today’s legislators – “the result is what matters, keep the means flexible." 

Furthermore, as Emma Hoskyn of Jones Lang LaSalle UK indicated during her talk "it will be a quite a task getting everybody within the branch on board along the way there”. Based on legislation and regulation sustainability should be seen as an opportunity not only to minimize risks, but also to increase profitability; that is the mind-set needed to really achieve a transformation.

Similarly, Thomas Beyerle PhD., director at Catella Property Valuation, underlined that by saying: "the real estate branch is slowly beginning to realize that it is too much of risk not to be sustainable."

Towards the end of first part of the Symposium Frederike Hansen of ECE gave a glimpse of how energy efficiency measures can be successfully implemented at large shopping centres. She showed how the interaction between employees and tenants has a significant part to play and indicated that cooperation between landlord and tenant is an important ingredient to improving energy efficiency. Lupp+Partner represented by Christiane Conrads hopes to put some light on the subject by conducting a survey on the opportunities and obstacles of landlord-tenant cooperation.

During the second part of the Symposium speakers touched upon various rating methods, which serve as a guideline and tool to optimize sustainable performance. GRESB (Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark), which was talked on by Lonneke Löwik, is a comprehensive method of assessing all significant aspects ranging at funds level from company strategy and guidelines to the collection of resource data and certification at property level. The objective is to give investors more transparency sustainability wise when faced with numerous fund product offers; thereby giving them more basis to their investment decisions.

Topics such as assessment of occupant health and comfort with WELL or Green Building certification using LEED® were presented by Withney Gray (Delos) and Kay Killmann (GGBA) respectively. While LEED® has been well established within the European market for some time, WELL is a quite young and unknown system. A rating system, which has developed from society’s growing need for more health and comfort within buildings. Regarding the tenant it is said to improve the company image and attractiveness in a day and age when highly skilled staff are becoming rare. The building owner on the other hand profits from having a long-term tenant with a satisfied workforce.

On the whole, this part of the Symposium showed that existing buildings and their good management will play a key role in solving society’s energy efficiency and comfort issues.

The sole application of rating methods to new buildings within the real estate sector will not nearly be enough to achieve the political and social goals pointed out during the first part of the symposium.

'Best Practice All Around Europe' was the motto of the third part of the Symposium. The implementation of sustainability at all levels of a company and the resulting long-term successes, particularly regarding increased asset value, was impressively demonstrated by the two Scandinavian women Anna Denell (Vasakronan, Sweden) and Hanna Duraku (Sponda, Finland). It became obvious from both contributions that in addition to the technological solutions consultation between the building owner and the occupant is a vital aspect in gaining medium term success.

Obtaining valid data in the process was Chris Bennett’s (Evora, UK) credo. The collection of building data and its structured recurring analysis appears to be still in its infancy compared to other industrial branches where digitization is well advanced. Elsa Monteiro (Sonae Sierra, Portugal) and Robert Deacon (Grosvenor, UK) described some project examples of shopping centres, which generally account for large-scale resource consumption in our cities.

Further presentations involving technical innovation in the field of energy storage (Axel Popp, deematrix, Berlin) and efficient building services (Frank Räder, Grundfos, Erkrath) provided some promising solutions to energy efficiency. These could ultimately contribute to the pending energy transition. Especially interesting was to learn how regulations and legislation have been able to penetrate to the product level. The savings gained from the retrofit of a small component may seem on its own quite small but in relation to the existing building market potential savings can be huge.

All in all the organisers, sponsors, and participants will have come away with a positive opinion of the current Symposium. The instruments required to counteract climate change are available to the real estate industry but need to be widely and diversely applied.

The next sustainability conference will take place in April 2018 where we hope to discuss our successes on the road to more sustainable building.