• Mon. Dec 4th, 2023

    The Shift Towards Sustainable Real Estate: Meeting the Challenges of a Growing World Population

    ByNuala Hafner

    Nov 21, 2023
    The Shift Towards Sustainable Real Estate: Meeting the Challenges of a Growing World Population

    The increasing global population, predicted to exceed 9 billion by 2050, is driving the demand for real assets such as agriculture and housing. With 68% of the population projected to live in urban areas by 2050, compared to the current 55%, the need for real estate and energy in these areas is also on the rise. Addressing the challenge of decarbonizing real estate becomes crucial as the world population grows, according to Abi Dean, global head of strategic insights at Nuveen Real Assets.

    To meet the demands of a growing population, real estate must adapt and become more sustainable. The transition to sustainable practices is necessary to feed the world’s population, accommodate the expanding middle class, and reduce carbon emissions. Dean emphasizes the importance of a key transition in this regard, where responsible land management practices, natural capital investment, and decarbonization through renewable energy and green buildings play vital roles.

    Nuveen Real Assets, one of the world’s largest investment managers, highlights the significance of investing in renewable energy, responsible land management, and decarbonization efforts to create a sustainable built environment. Retrofitting existing buildings is crucial, as around 80% of the built environment in 2050 is already constructed today. Hence, reducing carbon emissions in the existing built environment by approximately 95% is needed to meet net-zero emissions targets.

    Renewable energy plays a substantial role in decarbonizing real estate. By increasing the availability of renewable energy in the grid, the reliance on fossil fuels decreases, and the need for energy efficiency measures in buildings becomes less steep. Efficient heat pumps are also highlighted as a major factor in decarbonizing real estate.

    Regulations and performance standards are critical in ensuring transparency and accountability in the real estate sector. Decarbonization goals are increasingly influencing allocation decisions, while net-zero carbon goals are transforming space requirements. Data shows that green credentials are becoming an influential factor in asset pricing, as organizations prioritize reducing their carbon footprints.

    While some sectors of the real estate market, such as anchored retail strips and industrial logistics, are thriving, the office market faces challenges due to changes in office usage and increased demand for energy efficiency. The need for retrofitting older, energy-inefficient offices has become a hindrance to leasing.

    In conclusion, the growing world population poses challenges for the real estate sector, necessitating a shift towards sustainable practices. Meeting the demands for agriculture, housing, and energy while achieving decarbonization requires investment in renewable energy, green buildings, and responsible land management. By retrofitting existing buildings and adopting efficient technologies, the real estate industry can play a crucial role in creating a sustainable future for the planet.


    1. How does the growing world population impact the demand for real estate?

    As the global population grows and urbanization increases, there is a higher demand for real estate, particularly in urban areas. This includes the need for housing, agriculture, energy, and infrastructure.

    2. Why is decarbonizing real estate important?

    Decarbonizing real estate is vital to mitigate climate change and reduce carbon emissions. As the built environment is a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, transitioning to sustainable practices is essential for a sustainable future.

    3. What are some key factors in decarbonizing real estate?

    Key factors in decarbonizing real estate include investment in renewable energy, green buildings, responsible land management practices, and energy-efficient technologies such as heat pumps. Retrofitting existing buildings is also crucial to achieve significant carbon emission reductions.

    4. How do regulations and performance standards play a role in sustainable real estate?

    Regulations and performance standards ensure transparency, accountability, and adherence to sustainability goals in the real estate sector. They guide investment decisions, encourage energy efficiency, and promote the adoption of sustainable practices.

    5. What challenges does the office market face in terms of decarbonization?

    The office market faces challenges due to changes in office usage and increasing demands for energy efficiency. Retrofitting older, energy-inefficient offices can be costly, making them harder to lease. This highlights the need for sustainable design and energy-efficient solutions in the office sector.