For a ‘virtuous circle’
The future of the built environment lies in professionals’ acceptance of sustainable practices, writes Sachin Sandhir
Over the last decade or so, energy security and sustainable development have taken higher precedence in the global agenda. The impact of high and often volatile energy prices and concerns over environmental sustainability, particularly in relation to climate change have turned the spotlight on the built environment, which is at the fore of economic growth activity across most nations.
Internationally amongst the highest energy consumers, the built environment needs to ensure that a broad range of measures involving conserving and raising energy efficiency, rationalizing pricing and taxation systems, improving energy governance and diversifying energy supplies with greater use of alternative and renewable resources are followed, to reduce impact on economic and social development and on the natural environment and global climate.
To counter this trend, RICS as an organisation has affirmed to take concrete action globally, stressing on the value and potential of an emerging low carbon property market. Through its ‘Global Climate Change Strategy’ it is helping members across the built environment in providing standards, guidance and information to enable qualified professionals to understand climate change and promote best practices. To assess the extent to which professionals are continuing to engage with the sustainability agenda, the second ‘Green Gauge’ survey was commissioned by the RICS to Oxford Institute for Sustainable Development (OISD).
The agenda has been primarily to track and monitor attitudes of practitioners towards sustainability, over a three year period to enable an examination in the attitude change towards this priority issue on a global and professional scale. The findings of this survey will further help identify, chalk-out and prioritise its policy actions to monitor and improve the level of service offered to members in this regard.
It is heartening to see from the findings that nearly three quarters of RICS members consider sustainability as highly relevant to their work. This figure has increased by 13% since the last survey conducted in 2006-07. Leading this change are professional groups engaged in facilities management, environment and minerals and waste management. The role of sustainability is more important today than it was a year ago.
Judging by the responses, the most important drivers of sustainability globally have been determined as legal compliance, responsibility to the environment and business bottom lines. Clients demanding sustainability is another important and growing force for change in member perceptions.
Several key barriers such as lack of knowledge and expertise, which reflect inadequacy of training and education, continue to exist. Our efforts to mainstream sustainability are founded on these grounds with a focus to be an effective and efficient deliverer of information, tools and techniques on sustainable practices, which will add further value to our existing services for members.
While undeniably progress has been made over the last few years, there is still a while to go before sustainability is ranked as the key priority in professional practice globally. Thus, RICS and its member community, along with training and education providers have a role to play in creating a ‘virtuous circle’ for improved engagement with sustainability by the built environment as a whole.