True sustainability needs no certification

January 4, 2021

By CEO/Managing Partner, Kristian Krogh, Thylander

true sustainability needs no certification

Real estate and construction account for a large share of the world’s energy and resource consumption. As a part of the real estate industry, we are a part of a big problem, one must understand.

Once you have digested the guilt, you can soberly add that this doesn’t come as a surprise, since we deliver something that all people use every single day. To live, work, shop and live in. We provide the framework for people’s lives – and yes, it costs resources.

That said, let me immediately state that we stand by our shared responsibility for increasing sustainability and reducing CO2. That’s the way it is at Thylander and the rest of the industry – I’ve never heard anyone say otherwise.

This is not a victim’s lament, but merely a finding that we as an industry are not good enough to talk about our colossal positive contributions to society in terms of the physical setting of everyday life, employment, taxes and fees and well yes…. the environment.

However, there is one area where one can achieve honors and glory. It is with the stories of sustainable new construction (emphasizing the word: new). Here you can get newspaper front pages, toasts and handshakes from public notables as well as diplomas with gold, platinum, oak leaves and diamonds, which is the entrance ticket to the land of the truly green and sustainable.

A certification is a clear and distinct marker in a standardized format that is easier to handle in new construction. And please don’t let me be misunderstood. I am very pleased that sustainable new properties are being built. But it surprises me a little that it is basically only the new properties that makes the green headlines. The rest of us can definitely learn something from that.

Proven: Renovating old properties is more sustainable than building new

At Thylander, we are primarily involved in developing and renovating existing properties – and we have been doing so since 1986. Is it sustainable? The short answer is a clear one: Yes!

A recently published report from Ramboll documents that in the vast majority of cases (16 of 16 cases in the report) it is both economically advantageous and more sustainable to preserve the existing properties rather than build new ones.

Have we who deal with existing old properties been good enough to talk about it? The answer here is an equally clear one: No. We need to become much better at telling about and making it visible to the rest of society and politicians, and also measuring and quantifying it.

At Thylander, for example, we are in the process of a major renovation of the historic “Sankt Gertruds Kloster” property on Hauser Plads 30-32 in central Copenhagen, which will be converted into modern offices and soon becomes a hot-spot for companies with different variations of sustainability, such as The Footprint Firm, Matter and MyBanker.

In the renovation, we reuse the old rafters for furniture, we lay upcycled floors, we insulate and optimize energy with LED lighting, etc. All because it makes sense – environmentally and financially – and because in 2021 there is no contradiction between acting environmentally responsible and financially sensible.

A broader definition of sustainability

For us, there is no contradiction between sustainability and accountability on the one hand and the need to create a return for our investors on the other. On the contrary, we consider financial sustainability and accountability to be the first prerequisite when it comes to making a difference.

At Thylander, we consider it too one-sided to talk about sustainability as just kilowatt hours and CO2 footprint. For us, the quality of the built environment is part of sustainability and we do not tear down a beautiful old property to build new one in the holy name of a certain certificate.

But now it is a new year and these days you are allowed to both wish and hope. So I hope that in 2021 there will be a much greater focus on the documented, sustainable benefits of renovation and that politicians will open their eyes to the fact that renovation of existing properties is actually an important tool in the fight for a greener real estate industry – and not a enemy to be fought with increased regulation and taxation.

And with this pious hope, I wish you all a prosperous and happy New Year!

Also read: ESG – Sustainability and Responsibility