Building for biodiversity in Asia Pacific

With the nature agenda on the rise, how is the real estate sector building better for biodiversity?

May 25, 2023

Cities heavily depend on nature yet exert immense pressure on biodiversity. According to the World Economic Forum, 44% of global GDP in cities is at risk from biodiversity and nature loss. The urgency for tackling biodiversity loss is indisputable, and there is a huge opportunity and case for real estate to intervene. From urban green spaces to biophilic offices, the real estate industry recognises the value of nature for providing benefits such as climate and flood regulation, improving the health and mental well-being of building occupants, or even enhancing the attractiveness of an asset. Green building certifications such as Singapore BCA Green Mark and Japan’s CASBEE include biodiversity and nature restoration in their rating methodologies.

JLL’s Social Value report found that 94% of organisations in Asia Pacific believe that they have a corporate responsibility to protect and enhance nature and biodiversity across their real estate portfolio. However, less than half (49%) embed nature and biodiversity in their social value strategy, and only 33% indicated that they have implemented biodiversity projects. There is much room for corporates to work on when it comes to integrating biodiversity into their sustainability strategies.

Figure 1: Opportunities for including biodiversity across the real estate life cycle

Source: Responsible Real Estate: Social Value (JLL, 2023)

At the portfolio level, investors and asset managers must assess the co-benefits of nature-based solutions and identify KPIs for quantifying and measuring biodiversity impact. Similarly, at the building level, developers should incorporate biodiversity-friendly designs such as choosing native and diverse species for green facades, creating bird and pollinator-friendly landscapes, and improving site connectivity. It is essential to note that biodiversity risks and impact extend up the value chain; therefore, responsible procurement via partnerships, contract clauses, standards, or guidelines is crucial to mitigate such risks.

The good news is that biodiversity solutions are already available in the market, whether in developing biophilic buildings such as CapitaSpring in Singapore or retrofitting existing assets to boost local wildlife in the Erdington Industrial Estate in the United Kingdom.

The pace of adopting biodiversity in real estate portfolios must be accelerated. Buildings designed and managed with biodiversity in mind will be crucial in meeting upcoming regulations and occupier demand. Ultimately, building for biodiversity will enhance the socioecological resilience of the built environment.