23 August 2011 – Sustainability is the number one opportunity for the property industry over the next five years, according to the latest Construction Sentiment Monitor from Davis Langdon. In fact one of the biggest risk to the industry was the slow moving understanding of the imperatives of sustainable change, the report said.

Overall sustainability was judged the single bright spot in an outlook that is otherwise far from promising, at least for the next six to 12 months.

On the horizon are the gathering storm clouds of an unstable global economy and the difficulty of obtaining finance. Some respondents said the industry needed new ways to attract debt and equity.

According to the report there are two key elements at play in the view of sustainability, one made up of “idealistic sentiments” and the other of “real-world practicalities” of the need to adapt or be left behind.

“One respondent encapsulated the winning formula raised independently by many others: ‘adaptive and creative responses to new priorities in urban living – carbon, density and energy’ ” the report said.

“These idealistic sentiments were also paired with the necessity of real-world practicalities, including the ability to promote the long term cost and benefits of sustainable buildings and homes.

“Many pointed to the massive demand for a greater range of affordable housing options,” the report said.

“Big-picture thinkers saw opportunities for urban renewal, citing regional and fringe community development.”

Another big opportunity was seen with the advance in BIM technology, or building information modelling, or Asset Information Model Management See our recent article on BIM

Lifecycle costing with ‘better cradle to grave ownership of materials and systems” were also highlighted as opportunities.

According to the report big drivers of the move to sustainability is the fear of being left behind, on the negative side, and “smarter approaches to rejuvenating our existing building stock,” on the positive.

“Participants suggested that changes to the way we work and play will create opportunities to ‘use space more efficiently’ and transform human interactions within the office and retail sectors.”

Interestingly there was concern about how the carbon price will affect construction costs, however, most were more worried about the risks stemming from industry not investing in sustainable practices.

One respondent identified a “lack of understanding about the increasing relevance of sustainability considerations” to adapt to a carbon constrained future.