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Sustainability Measurement: The Heat is On

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On the heels of COP27 and the relative lack of progress towards agreement beyond the loss and damage accord, it’s clear the real estate industry and governments still have a long way to go to deliver on climate change promises. 

Knowing that close to 40% of carbon emissions are related to the built world, we (JLL) have made our own commitments and we are not alone in the industry in doing so. To reach those goals will require the deployment of technology at scale in two areas: 1) the use of buildings and 2) the construction and renovation of buildings. 

Technology in the use of buildings 

Most of today’s existing buildings will still stand in 2050. Given that, the emphasis will be on remediation – the reduction of emissions by improving the sustainability profile of these aging buildings. The first and easiest approach is to reduce energy consumption. At JLL Spark and at our larger divisional home, JLL Technologies, we’ve invested in solutions for energy efficiency: 

• Companies like Turntide Technologies have developed improved motor technology that allows significant reductions in energy use without material changes in activities or habits. Using them in building facilities can deliver up to 50% energy reductions.

• Likewise, the use of ‘central nervous systems’ like Building Engines, coupled with AI control of HVAC systems via Hank, allows for smarter usage without restrictions in terms of comfort or usability.

• Other portfolio companies like VergeSense and Infogrid use IoT sensor tech plus smart software to eliminate unnecessary energy usage, such as lighting, heating, and cleaning unoccupied areas. These efforts, plus the measurement and reduction of water use and waste production will help reduce the environmental impact of the built world. Further efforts will be required at a larger scale than single buildings, however, so expect to see startups addressing smart grids and energy distribution entering the sustainability field sooner rather than later. 

It seems inevitable that changes in behavior and the restriction of certain usage patterns will also be needed, and the ability to measure and control the consumption of energy and resources will play a role as the deadlines for carbon net zero approach, and regulations tighten. 

Technology in the construction or renovation of buildings 

The construction of buildings today is highly carbon intensive, with cement and steel significantly contributing to carbon cost. We expect that regulations will mandate every building to meet strict goals for embodied as well as generated carbon. These may also be accompanied by rules that promote retrofits and the re-use of materials. Therefore, it will be crucial for innovative startups to deliver the commercial and residential buildings of the future, for example: 

• JLL Spark has invested in Juno, a startup pioneering a viable way of creating sustainable communities using mass timber rather than traditional methods. 

Veev is another of our portfolio companies; they have created the ‘Veev System’, a vertically integrated process to deliver turnkey buildings in a near zero waste fabrication plant. 

• Other portfolio companies such as ecoworks deliver retrofits for multifamily buildings with AI-driven targets without disrupting residents. Alice Technologies maximizes the returns of a complex development project at any stage of its life cycle, not just at the start.

Despite the market conditions, sustainable solutions are gaining ground as the industry has clearly understood their importance, especially when it comes to impending regulations and the threat of stranded assets. At JLL Spark, we’re actively looking for the entrepreneurs and startups tackling these issues, so that we can jointly deliver the progress the world deserves from our industry. 

Written by Raj Singh, managing partner

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