4 min read
Addressing the social impacts of climate change: What if we unlocked the social value hidden in the UK’s industrial and logistics assets?
In the discourse on social value and the built environment, we most often hear about infrastructure, multi-residential developments, and office spaces. However, 15% of the UK’s real estate market value is held in logistics and industrial parks . These sites support many business types, with e-commerce businesses now taking up a larger proportion of tenants than in previous years. In fact, the manufacturing, transport and storage industries support just less than 4.6 million jobs in the UK alone .
In 2018, the manufacturing, transport and storage industries generated an estimated 30% of the UKs carbon emissions. Carbon emissions are a direct driver of climate change. Climate change is a global process which, carries with it significant social impacts. This short article makes the point that we should be considering the social value potential of all asset classes, especially those with greater environmental impacts.
What are the social impacts of climate change?
Impacts such as rising temperatures and poor air quality have the ability to affect the physical and mental health of the population, as well as their wider quality of life. By 2020, sustainability-conscious landlords are already familiar with monitoring consumption data to reduce their emissions. This often translates to prioritising initiatives focussed on energy usage. Although these activities are vital to reducing the extent of the climate crisis, sustainability programmes should continue to address the existing environmental, but also social impacts of climate change. This can be done by undertaking social initiatives at the asset level.
Individual assets have the scope to improve the lives of their occupants, visitors and surrounding communities. To address the social impacts of climate change, social value initiatives should seek to improve the physical and mental health of these people, as well as their wider quality of life.
There are a number of practical ways to implement social value and social impact improvements at individual assets.
- Tenant engagement can kickstart a productive, bottom-up approach to establishing specifically what these actions might be. For example, tenants may identify that due to rising temperatures or extreme weather events, their work environment is sub-optimal.
- Valuable, quick-win opportunities include provision of facilities to increase public transport use or cycling/walking, encouraging use of the stairs for building users and making healthier food options .
- Access to the natural environment both internally and externally can both improve the mental and physical health of tenants, as well as supporting climate adaptation through green infrastructure.
- Due to the location of buildings within logistics and industrial parks, there are opportunities at the wider estate and public realm level, managed by landlords to provide social benefits to tenants.
- In the longer term, employment and community initiatives can look to support education, work placement or employment opportunities for members of the community.
It is possible to quantify and report the positive impacts of the above. For example, certification schemes BREEAM and FITWEL have resources to assess and certify health and wellbeing aspects of buildings in multiple asset classes . Whilst BREEAM encompasses most asset classes, FITWEL currently covers office, multi-residential and retail buildings.
Assessing the social value outcomes for occupants and visitors to buildings can also be done through quantitative social value metrics. EVORA has used HACT in past projects to assess outcomes of community engagement programmes.
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 Statista. (2020). Commercial property investment value UK 2017 | Statista. [online] Available at: https://www.statista.com/statistics/747082/commercial-property-investment-value-in-the-united-kingdom/ [Accessed 12 Feb. 2020].
 Ons.gov.uk. (2020). EMP13: Employment by industry – Office for National Statistics. [online] Available at: https://www.ons.gov.uk/employmentandlabourmarket/peopleinwork/employmentandemployeetypes/datasets/employmentbyindustryemp13 [Accessed 12 Feb. 2020].
 Fitwel.org. (2020). Fitwel. [online] Available at: https://www.fitwel.org/ [Accessed 12 Feb. 2020].
 BREEAM. (2020). BREEAM In-Use – BREEAM. Available at: https://www.breeam.com/discover/technical-standards/breeam-in-use/ [Accessed 12 Feb. 2020]