By Cameron Stott, Director, Office Agency at JLL in Edinburgh

EARLIER this year the UK Government became the first G7 country to set a net-zero emissions target by 2050. “Net zero” means that emissions are balanced by absorbing an equivalent amount from the atmosphere. In order to meet the global warming target in the Paris Agreement, global carbon emissions should be reaching net zero by around mid-century.

This week the the Scottish Government re-emphasised its commitment to meet targets for Scotland to become carbon neutral by 2045. In the spirit of healthy competition between our two largest cities, Glasgow wants to reach the target “well before 2045”, while Edinburgh has set its sights on 2030, with a hard limit of 2037.

Across the UK, the operation of buildings accounts for over 30% of total greenhouse gas emissions. For new buildings, the embodied emissions from construction can account for up to half of the carbon impacts associated with the building over its lifecycle.

The good news is that emissions from buildings have fallen by 13% since 2013 and are around 20% below 1990 levels. However, uptake of energy efficiency measures has been low, and deployment of low-carbon heating options limited. Achieving the 2045 target will require substantial improvements in energy efficiency and an increase in low-carbon heating.

Some progress has already been made with many in the construction industry increasingly employing methods which are strictly carbon neutral. Steps include making sure local supply chains are developed for construction and refurbishment in low carbon design, and subscribing to the circular economy – a regenerative system aimed at minimising waste and making the most of resources through long-lasting design, maintenance, and recycling.

However, Scotland lags behind some other European countries when it comes to sustainable construction philosophies. In the Netherlands, the world’s first full-service Cradle to Cradle (C2C) optimised working environment lies a few miles outside of Amsterdam. Park 2020 was built with entirely recycled or repurposed materials and the design of its buildings has made optimal use of natural resources in accordance with C2C principles. The buildings are designed for disassembly, using materials that are suitable for future upcycling capabilities. The result is an inspiring, healthy and productive working environment.

William McDonough, the originator of the concept, is a globally recognised leader in sustainable development. His ambition to eliminate the concept of waste has been helping companies and communities think differently about how they make, use and dispose of things. At its core, C2C ensures materials are infinitely reusable in the circular economy of the future.

However, the property sector should not be waiting for Government legislation to impose regulations on the industry, we should be leading by example. That’s why JLL is already discussing C2C developments with clients and refurbishing and repurposing existing buildings bringing them back to economic use where possible by using recycled and reusable materials.

Occupiers and investors are increasingly demanding higher sustainability standards, so the demand is there. And financially these new sustainable developments are becoming more viable, particularly when investors and occupiers take a longer term view.

But beyond cost, this approach is clearly a more positive way not only to create buildings which are pleasant to work in, achieving high levels of wellness, but are safe to build and aesthetically pleasing.

The faster our industry starts thinking more than five years ahead, the sooner we will be able to future-proof our buildings and meet the targets set in front of us. Regardless of when Scotland fulfils its ambition to be net-zero, the next wave of developments will dictate how quickly we can kick start a change in our industry-wide thinking.