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How the logistics real estate industry should serve as a role model

Thursday, 29 April 2021

Opinion article of Philippe Van der Beken, General Manager of Goodman for Continental Europe, published by elEconomista

We often hear the phrase, “the future can only be sustainable or nothing at all” applied to a wide range of industries. This statement is a call to action that reignites the debate over the role we should play as an industry in building a more sustainable world. The matter is of considerable significance in the realm of public policy: the EU has established energy efficiency, the circular economy and climate change, among other themes, as 2050 targets aimed at responding to the challenge of achieving sustainable competitiveness within the framework of urban regeneration.

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Sustainability is - and should always be - an integral part of our business and with a long-term vision. The logistics real estate industry needs to abandon designing and developing logistics properties simply for their first use anchored in a short-term mentality and instead adopt visionary strategies that illustrate a commitment to making developments that will stand the test of time thanks to their flexibility and future-proof. And this implies building in sustainability in the initial stages of the project, establishing it as a key pillar from the moment the project is conceived through to its design and development. Achieving the highest international standards, such as BREEAM certification, in all our projects is a reflection of our commitment to the development of sustainable and innovative facilities that stand the test of time.

This long-term focus inspired the concept of the circular building, defined in terms of its flexibility and versatility to respond to current and future needs. The growing trend towards this kind of logistics facility comes in response to greater environmental awareness, as a driver of transformation in the way we consume and in how the business world works.

The choice of location plays a vital role in the circular building. The great shortage of land near to major urban centres, -the most attractive sites for the logistics industry-, should not be an excuse to continue building on green spaces. In addition to giving a second life to brownfield sites, we must make a firm commitment to the recycling and reuse of building materials. By analysing the materials’ life cycle (LCA), the existing infrastructures can be integrated in the new building and the materials generated when reconditioning the land can be efficiently recycled and reused in the construction. Why not leverage the thousands of cubic metres of materials arising from a demolition for the foundations of a new facility? By reducing, reusing and recycling, the logistics real estate industry contributes actively to reducing CO2 emissions.

Performing projects on this scale is a huge challenge and requires considerable investment in innovation and creativity. The design of multilevel buildings, of which we have been a pioneer in Spain, is a clear example of a technically complex solution that nevertheless makes better use of the scarce land available on premium sites, speeding up the delivery of goods, reducing transport times and decreasing the carbon footprint.

This capability for innovation is what allows our industry to actively contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Together, the building industry accounts for around about 40% of all greenhouse gas emissions and has the objective of reducing this figure by one third in 2030 and by 80% in 2050. The first steps have already been taken to develop zero carbon logistics buildings through the introduction of smart metres, sustainable insulation, solar panels, more efficient HVAC systems and natural and LED lighting, alongside improved water and waste management. In this sense, we predict, for example, that the green energy generated by our solar panels reaches a capacity of 91 MW by 2025 and satisfies the operational energy needs of our clients.

However, the focus on sustainability needs to be at the heart of everything we do. We need to be ambitious in our commitment to reaching carbon neutrality and this is not an easy task. Progressing along the path to reducing CO2 emissions implies measuring the environmental impact of our developments to compensate for them. This is a task that Goodman already performed some time ago and that, by way of specific initiatives, allows us to offset our carbon footprint. To this end, we are replacing our entire fleet with electric vehicles, planting a tree for every square metre we develop and, in 2025, we will use 100% renewable energy in our operations.

Forward-thinking companies lend great importance to sustainability and integrate it in their business. Our customers do not only demand from us, as experts in logistics real estate, a privileged location, and high-quality facilities, but also give growing importance to sustainability in the decision-making process. They also expect their partners to share their environmental concerns because the future of logistics real estate will, undoubtedly, be sustainable.