Sustainability and the luxury real estate sector: an unlikely marriage?


Turn the clock back four or five years and sustainability and luxury real estate is not a marriage that naturally springs to mind. It would be fair to say that developers, architects, designers and homebuyers involved in the sector have not always been at the forefront of the environmental agenda. But things are changing.

Out of both necessity and choice, the luxury real estate sector is at the centre of a wider cultural shift being adopted by the industry at large.

No cop-out

To be clear: a serious attitude towards sustainability is required of anyone and everyone in real estate if we are to address the defining issue of our time. Thankfully that is a sentiment being shared across the board.

Sustainable investment, ESG and smart technology are just a few of the central themes that have been shaping the industry agenda of the last few years, while the airtime lent to real estate at COP26 is evidence of a growing political perspective.

When it comes to the luxury real estate sector more specifically, some argue the responsibility is even greater given its financial muscle and ability to create and innovate.

Luxury, as a whole, has always taken up that mantle with pride and enthusiasm, whether in the fashion, automotive, travel or real estate sectors. Market competition is also an inevitable factor at play.

Drastically reducing our carbon output does not necessarily have to entail going back to basics. It is about using the exceptional progress that we have made in the areas of science, technology and business to build a better world. Capitalism and the innovation facilitated by the free market is an imperative part of that.

There are few industries in which this is better evidenced than luxury real estate.

An ambitious sustainability strategy has become a huge selling point for developers, designers, architects and other key stakeholders.

Prime housebuilders are in fierce competition with one another to incorporate the newest technologies – the likes of living roofs and walls, premium automation systems and conservation systems have leapt up the priority list.

Expansive woodlands, lakes and eco preserves often associated with the second-hand prime market are being appreciated in a new light and more commonly used for practical reasons.

Vegetable gardens and orchards are being installed for organic food production and other lifecycle purposes, while lake filtration systems are growing in popularity.

Luxury homeowners have a growing interest in being at one with nature. By the same token, they are increasingly including cutting-edge eco-friendly features in their search criteria, happy to pay what many commentators have labelled the green premium. There is also a growing recognition of the long-term financial benefits of a home with a diminishing environmental footprint.

solar panels rooftop
High-end developers, architects, designers and homebuyers have not always been at the forefront of the environmental agenda, but things are changing.
Taking the lead

Our network, which incorporates the world’s premier independent luxury real estate brokerages and agents, are reporting unprecedented demand in this respect.

We are even seeing the sustainability agenda implemented offland.

Eco-friendly considerations are the underpinning of many artificial islands being constructed in luxury hubs across the world.

Dubai’s Heart of Europe project, which will deliver hotels, luxury villas, retail and leisure facilities across six islands, will become the world’s first ever zero-discharge and zero-microplastics project, and the developer is also building and conserving the surrounding coral reefs.

All of this fantastic progress is taking place against an evolving political framework. Decision makers have been taking the necessary steps to ensure that everyone plays their part.

Ongoing conversations around environmental benchmarking procedures and unified standards will continue to be high on the agenda, which includes the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system devised in the United States.

Despite being launched back in the 1990s, LEED is something that luxury real estate operators are increasingly viewing as the Holy Grail.

Perhaps that is symbolic of the relationship between luxury real estate and sustainability – one that took a while to come to fruition, yet which is now very much front and centre.

This article first appeared on PrimeResi.