Author: Germien Cox, Madaster
Are you looking to find out more about current trends and developments in the international real estate sector? Or what’s at the top of office users’ wish list? There’s a good chance that international real estate advisor CBRE has already researched what you’re interested in, and published a report. Knowledge of the market is the ultimate key to being able to offer real estate and accommodation solutions to every unique investor, financer and end user. How much of a role does circularity play in these real estate solutions? It’s time to have a serious chat with Tim Habraken, Associate Director Sustainability at CBRE Nederland.
Tim Habraken and his team at CBRE Nederland are working to make their clients’ real estate portfolio more sustainable. That can vary from researching energy-saving measures to WELL building certification, a certification standard that focuses on employees’ health and well-being. Tim Habraken is also involved in internal efforts to increase sustainability at CBRE Nederland.
A true sustainability fanatic, Tim is of course well aware that the Netherlands has to achieve circularity by 2050. Are we going to make it? In Tim Habraken’s words: “We’re going to have to. It’s not really a matter of choice. The real question is: do we – individuals, businesses and governments – really recognise its importance? There is general agreement that things aren’t going great with our linear economy, and we talk about it a lot, but no one seems to know what a 100% circular economy actually means.” That doesn’t sound too hopeful for the future, but Tim is by no means depressed. “15 years ago, when I said I was interested in sustainability, people would sometimes look at me like I was a hippy who was going to chain myself to trees. That’s all changed: even the most conservative investors are talking about the topic now. I expect to see a massive acceleration in the transition to a circular economy in the next few years. The people who are active in this area at the moment are mostly pioneers, and we’re still working out how we can all get it done.”
Is CBRE also still in the research phase when it comes to the transformation from linear to circular business models? “Circularity has played a role in CBRE’s projects and procedures for some time now,” says Tim Habraken, ‘but you could say it hasn’t always received the level of attention we might have liked. Apart from the fact that there’s a greater drive to work on this, the market is also pushing us to keep this item on the agenda.” It goes without saying that legislation also has an important part to play. Tim Habraken sees that clearly, from both investors and end users. “Changes in the legislation, such as the requirement for offices to achieve energy label C, mean that all businesses are actively working on this, not just the sustainable pioneers,” Tim explains. “That’s important to the investors, too, because they don’t want to invest in projects that aren’t compliant with the legislation. The time we’re living in has a lot to offer circular business models, and legislation can be the accelerating factor.”
CBRE Nederland is keen for its new head office, The CORE, to set an example for the accommodation of the future. This office reflects CBRE’s ambitions in terms of collaboration, technology, health and sustainability. CBRE chose to settle in a former car dealership in Amsterdam’s Schinkelgebied area –miles away from the shiny new office buildings in the Zuidas business district. Tim Habraken explains: “We wanted more than just a new office. Our primary goal with The CORE is to show what you can achieve when you grant a new lease of life to an old building, and to be open and honest about that. Not everything is perfect, but if we can come together to experiment I have no doubt we’ll find great solutions for the future.”
The former car dealership is currently undergoing thorough renovation work so it can be brought into use in the spring of 2019 as a Smart Building. Employees will be able to choose a workspace that suits their specific duties and needs on a given day, surrounded by just the right greenery, in a building whose functions can be tailored to meet users’ needs. And if it turns out that in ten years’ time it all has to change again, almost nothing from The CORE will end up on the waste heap. All kinds of things can be sent straight back to the producer, to be placed back on the market, and materials can be offered on the marketplace for raw materials. Finally, thanks to the ‘Madaster’ materials passport, it is now possible to see exactly which materials and products are available.
That said, Tim suggests that the Madaster materials passport can be tricky to translate into a strong business case for investors: “The time horizons don’t match up. The average horizon for an investor is five years, whereas many projects in the field of circularity, including the materials passport, are actually more concerned with the longer term – a period of ten or even 25 years.” So what made CBRE Nederland register The CORE in the Madaster, and why did CBRE enter into partnership with Madaster? “Don’t forget the link between the real estate market and pension funds’ investments,” Tim Habraken answers. “They do look at the long term, and they’re very interested in sustainable developments such as the materials passport, because these developments can minimise their long-term risk. Our aim in working with Madaster and renovating The CORE is to show the market that sustainable, circular and responsible (re)construction really is achievable.”