The impact of the coronavirus crisis has taken its toll on society and experts predict that the global economy will continue to shrink. Like many other industries, the global pandemic has of course affected the housing market. As governments look to reboot their economies, organisations and experts in climate change are calling for green economic recovery. The housing sector, from real estate, to construction, to the structure of our homes could all be influenced by, or aid, greener policies and practices.
The crisis has highlighted a capability to work remotely for many businesses, and this could have a knock-on effect on the housing market and even an indirect effect on CO2 emissions. This may mean that some businesses choose to adopt a remote working lifestyle, which may be of benefit to companies in terms of saving money on overheads such as office rent and energy output. Some companies such as Twitter have announced that employees now have the option to work from home permanently if they wish to. This will not only mean that many may choose to live outside of the cities and commuter towns, but that emissions from daily commutes could be reduced.
Those people who work from home may need to look at their energy efficiency, even for the simple motive of reducing bills, as working from home will undoubtedly increase monthly energy costs. Thus, a focus on energy efficient systems may increase in popularity for buyers. Individually, home owners may want to ensure their current homes are energy efficient by investing in areas such as insulation and smart energy management systems. Smart systems, can allow a home owner to control and save energy by monitoring areas such as light usage, automatically switching them off when not in use. Smarter homes may even become a desire for many home-buyers when looking for a new home.
This is a topic that is already on the minds of many buyers, in 2018, a study published in the journal Energy for Sustainable Development, entitled, ‘Does energy efficiency matter to real estate-consumers?’, found that there was a clear willingness among new buyers to pay for energy efficiency.
For many, the coronavirus pandemic has brought into focus our global relationship with the environment. Issues such as sustainability, eco-friendliness and health and safety may be even more important to buyers. When looking at the way the COVID-19 pandemic may change Real Estate, Forbes reported: ‘With health and safety more important than ever before, buyers will look to their agents for even more valuable information, beyond which home inspections to perform. In the future, strong agents will not only be able to advise their clients about important environmental considerations such as climate change; they may also be able to help each client understand and plan for the epidemiologic and economic impact of future pandemics.’
The International Energy Agency (IEA), recently released a report that provided sustainable economic recovery plan for governments globally. It set out the ways in which climate change could be included in economy reboots, and how this could increase jobs, influence economic growth and reduce CO2 emissions. Within this report, the sustainability of buildings was highlighted as a factor.
A primary method for reducing energy demand would be to invest in retrofitting buildings, to ensure they are more energy efficient. This would mean adding insulation, improving window glazing, shifting to energy efficient equipment such as heat pumps or renewable energy, and even digital energy management. Stating that less than one third of countries have mandatory energy-related codes for new construction and these measures are ‘central to achieving near zero energy building status in both new and existing buildings.’
The IEA also suggested that governments, ‘Increase incentives for building efficiency improvements, smart energy management solutions and on-site renewables,’ alongside looking to retrofit houses and public buildings and accelerating planned efficiency programmes, among more.
The pandemic has taken its toll within the construction industry, in the report the IEA outlined: ‘Investment in building construction may decline by 20% to 30% in major advanced economies in 2020, while also falling in China and India (IEA, 2020d). About 250 million people are employed in construction across the world: estimates suggest that over 10% of jobs have been or will be lost in 2020, and up to 80% of workers have been furloughed in some countries.’
By investing in retrofitting homes to ensure they are energy efficient and sustainable, the IEA estimated that, ‘Around 9-30 jobs in manufacturing and construction would be created for every million dollars invested in retrofits or efficiency measures in new builds.’ These jobs would be local building works and widespread for the manufacturing of energy-efficient products.