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Real Estate and Climate Change

The impact of climate change is undeniable, and as we face this challenge, every sector of our economy has a role to play in creating a more sustainable future. One area that's often overlooked but has enormous potential for positive impact is real estate. Buildings are responsible for around 40% of global greenhouse gas emissions, which means that making our buildings more energy-efficient and sustainable is critical to reducing our carbon footprint. Fortunately, there are many ways that real estate can help us do just that.

Let's take a closer look at some of the scientific evidence behind these ideas.


The Environmental Impact of Buildings

Buildings have a significant environmental impact, from the energy used to power them to the resources required to construct and maintain them. According to the International Energy Agency, the building sector is responsible for 36% of global final energy consumption and nearly 40% of energy-related carbon dioxide emissions.

Green Building Standards

One way to reduce the carbon footprint of buildings is through green building standards like LEED and BREEAM. These standards encourage developers and architects to design and construct buildings that use less energy, produce less waste, and rely on renewable resources. By adhering to these standards, we can significantly reduce the carbon footprint of new construction projects. In fact, a study by the World Green Building Council found that green buildings can reduce carbon emissions by up to 39%, energy use by up to 50%, and water use by up to 40%, compared to conventional buildings.

Energy Retrofits for Existing Buildings

But what about the vast majority of buildings that already exist? There are many strategies that can make a difference here as well. For example, retrofitting existing buildings can significantly reduce their energy use and carbon emissions. According to a study by the US Department of Energy, retrofits can reduce energy use by 30% on average, with a payback period of around 7 years.

Green Infrastructure

Green infrastructure is another important tool in the fight against climate change. Trees and other vegetation planted on or around buildings can absorb and store carbon, while green roofs and walls can help regulate temperature and reduce the urban heat island effect. According to the Nature Conservancy, urban trees and forests can sequester significant amounts of carbon, with estimates ranging from 0.7 to 10.5 metric tons per hectare per year.

Incorporating Sustainable Transportation

Sustainable transportation is also a crucial element of a sustainable built environment. By incorporating bike lanes, pedestrian paths, and public transit into our communities, we can reduce the need for single-occupancy vehicles, which are a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.

The Bottom Line

Real estate can be a powerful force for positive change in the fight against climate change. By investing in green building practices, reducing energy consumption, and promoting sustainable transportation and lifestyles, we can create a future that's healthier and more livable for all. As we look for solutions to this global challenge, let's not overlook the critical role that real estate can play.


In summary, the scientific evidence behind the role of real estate in mitigating climate change is compelling. Buildings have a significant environmental impact, but green building standards, energy retrofits for existing buildings, green infrastructure, and sustainable transportation can all help reduce that impact, and the time to start is now.

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