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Exploiting Green Building With EDGE: A Strategic Pathway To Decarbonization

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Together, building and construction are responsible for almost 40% of all carbon emissions globally. Currently, the built environment is not on track to meet our net zero targets.

Simply put, in order to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050, all buildings must be green. With rapid urbanisation and escalating climate change placing huge demands on our building infrastructure, it’s clear that we must move not only towards a decarbonised but also an equitable and resilient built environment.  

But what drives market transformation? How can we build green buildings at scale? Who are the key stakeholders needed to drive change?

These are just some of the questions we delved into earlier this month at our first UK event on EDGE. We teamed up with the UK government Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and IFC to host an exclusive event at the BEIS Conference Centre to explore how EDGE can be used to decarbonise building sector.

The afternoon began with Kate Hughes, Director of International Climate Change at BEIS, whose opening remarks reflected on why buildings and the construction sector will play a vital role in climate change mitigation efforts and how EDGE contributes to these efforts.

‘We know that on average the current global building stock is expected to expand by five and a half billion square meters per year- that’s a huge amount of building going on and we need to shift what we’re going to do on this – what we build in the next decade will decide whether we help address climate change or make it worse,’ she said.

She went on to explain that there has, in light of this, been a global focus on the green building sector – with COP26 dedicating a specific day to decarbonising our buildings and cities. This has been a key focus point for BEIS who have committed to doubling the UK’s international climate finance to 11.6 billion between 2021 and 2026. Through this finance, BEIS has funded initiatives such as EDGE to boost the uptake of greener construction practices and technologies in developing countries. 

Kate expressed BEIS’ support for EDGE stating: ‘The UK government is really proud to support EDGE. It is enabling mass market transformation and represents a unique opportunity for countries to deliver on this and benefit from the green transition. This is what needs to happen at pace and scale if we are going to keep one and a half degrees withing reach.’ 

Corinne Figueredo, Head of Operations for EDGE at IFC, then took to the stand to present how EDGE is already transforming the global market. Some key statistics from her presentation:

  • Certified green buildings represented 1 billion (USD) in deal flow just for IFC in the last year
  • The EDGE program certified more than 17 billion square meters in floor space, making it one of the fastest growing internationally recognized certification for green buildings in the world
  • Funding from the UK government alone has grown by 244% in the last two years
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Corinne unpacked EDGE’s journey from its beginnings in 2015 to the globally recognised brand it is today. She explained why EDGE has seen this global boom, noting that its quantifiable, accessible and scalable approach has made it attractive to asset owners and investors alike. The nature of the quantitative system has meant EDGE brings down costs low enough even for social housing across the globe. She highlighted the success of EDGE certified social housing in countries such as Colombia, which in 2022 alone achieved 5 million square meters of EDGE Certified buildings.

We then moved to a panel discussion which focused on taking a portfolio approach to decarbonisation. The only way to tackle the decarbonisation challenge is through scale, which means thinking beyond just individual buildings. We were joined by Dr Donovan Storey, Head of Global Policy and Influence at Reall; Sanjay Dutt, MD and CEO of Tata Realty & Infrastructure Limited; Carlos Viesca, Head of Sustainability at Fibra Macquarie Shruti Jhanwar, Compliance Manager at Aavas Financiers Ltd all of which have implemented EDGE at scale.

The panellists discussed the value that EDGE certification has brought to their projects stating that:

  • EDGE can be used as a homogenous tool, covering buildings that have been around for decades as well new designs to easily analyse entire portfolio of buildings
  • EDGE can be a competitive advantage as tenants benefit from lower utility costs and select buildings that align with their own sustainability strategies
  • EDGE breaks down costing and return on investment of implemented measures to allow easier budgeting
  • EDGE is a clear way to show investors and clients a sustainability commitment, easily breaking down how the building is contributing to climate change mitigation

The panellists also discussed how EDGE has been used to access green finance. ‘The green climate fund is a multi-billion dollar nest egg and it can’t find projects, so it really up to us to develop those projects and develop pipelines for this finance to grow,’ Dr Donovan Storey stated. ‘You’ll see over the next several COPs there’s going to be a much greater focus on finance, whether its for resilience, adaptation or mitigation that’s going to be a part of the discussions. Our responsibility is to create compelling projects at scale which can be quantified to bring the finance in. EDGE is a very simple measurable adaptable tool to the environments that we work in so it helps us to prove our case in a very simple way.’

In the final session the attendees split into breakout rooms for financial institutions, building owners and advisors to take a deep dive into why EDGE is beneficial for their sector and to answer any outstanding questions.  The session ended with a call to action from Michelle Farrell, Senior Operations Officer at IFC for the EDGE Green Building Program.

 ‘Our goal for the programme is to double the floor space very year. To do this we need strong partnerships, including all the financial institutions and the developers in this room. Everyone can really play the part in transforming the built environment. Our goal is to create a net zero pathway for all. We want to democratise this so that green buildings and green building certification is not something for the select few to access. We want everyone to be able to access this.’

Whilst the net zero challenge often seems like an impossible task, the event offered a glimmer of optimism that, in the case of transforming the built environment, there are solutions. EDGE has been used all over the world to help developers, asset owners and financial institutions decarbonise their building portfolios. However, collaboration is key. We need developers who are committed to change, financial institutions ready to offer green finance products, and governments and international bodies willing to offer incentives to drive change. 

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