Our ambition to develop 100% brownfield sites is central to our sustainability strategy. Compared to building on unspoiled nature, brownfield sites allow us to reuse finite materials, preserve biodiversity and natural habitats, reduce our construction emissions, provide logistics facilities at strategic locations, and more.
For us, one of the most exciting reasons for developing brownfield sites is the richness of their histories, and the circular potential of their materials. It’s important to note, however, that there are often limits to what we can do with industrialised land. Wherever we can, we aim to reinvigorate forgotten urban landscapes, preserve and update heritage architecture, and reuse crucial resources such as concrete.
A brownfield site refers to any previously developed land — either industrial or commercial — that is not currently being used. In addition to this, it could also be an undeveloped site that has been polluted by previous activity, which requires regenerative work before being fit for use. Before 2020, when we formulated our strategy and commitment to brownfield developments, less than 6% of our developments were on brownfield land. Today, in 2021, 58% are brownfields — and we expect this number to increase to almost 80% in 2022. It won’t be easy, and it will take time, but we aspire towards reaching close to 100% brownfield developments in the long-term.
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According to the UN, the amount of new floorspace currently being developed across the world is the equivalent of building a new Paris, every single week. Rather than adding to this already-huge amount, we always first explore the possibility of transforming old developments into modern logistics facilities.
Brownfield locations tend to be close to highly populated areas — which is where our customers’ customers and employees are also typically located. This means that developing a brownfield site generates jobs where people live, enabling employees to come to work on foot, by bike, or via public transport. It also reduces the distance of transportation of goods out of the logistics sites, thereby reducing pollution, emissions and traffic.
A key benefit of brownfields is ensuring that undeveloped land stays undeveloped — and alive with biodiversity. However, there are occasions where it is simply impossible to fulfil our customers’ needs within available nearby brownfield sites. Therefore, in addition to our regular carbon offsetting programmes, we contribute an additional 1€/sqm of compensation towards forestation and biodiversity projects for all unavoidable greenfield developments.