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How sustainable cities are developed with the United Nations Environment Programme

From solar-canopied apartments to net-zero energy public libraries, we’ve discussed many of the ways that sustainability is impacting today’s architecture. Have you wondered what this might look like on a wider level? The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is a leading global initiative crafting the eco-friendly cities of tomorrow. Here’s what property investors and homeowners alike should know.

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- Learn how to make a greener property investment using UNEP guidelines.

What is the United Nations Environment Programme?

Coordinating UN activities relating to the environment, monitoring worldwide environmental changes and helping to craft international laws are just a few missions of the United Nations Environment Programme. The broad goal is to set an environmental agenda that can be followed by all nations, creating clear steps towards sustainable development in both emerging and first-world economies. UNEP’s global base is in Kenya, but this organisation oversees separate programmes adapted to each region’s unique sustainability concerns.

Sustainability in real estate

The housing sector represents over one third of global greenhouse gas emissions, using a staggering 40% of Earth’s resources. It’s perhaps no surprise that designing better housing is at the top of the wish list for UNEP planners. In July 2018, the organisation worked with Yale University and UN Habitat to unveil an ‘Ecological Living Module’ blending affordability with sustainability. Measuring 22 square metres, the prototype is fully powered with renewable energy, constructed from locally sourced materials, and designed to operate independently. Its built-in systems range from on-site water collection to solar energy generation, reducing its impact on natural ecosystems.

UNEP city planning targets

Although cities only account for 3% of our planet’s land mass, they create 75% of our carbon emissions and up to 80% of energy consumption. With growing urban populations, future cities need to accommodate residents without overly straining environmental resources. UNEP’s urban planning guidelines acknowledge that these resources are finite, and that the consequences of ignoring this fact could result in a lower quality of life through enhanced demand for jobs, land and housing. This is without considering the impact of climate change, which is more severe in urban areas with high population densities. It’s up to the city manager to develop infrastructure that supports rapid urbanisation, by integrating environmental concerns within the framework of urban planning.

UNEP has put forth a list of targets to strive for by 2030 in tomorrow’s cities. These goals include improved public transport systems, universal access to green spaces and reducing the environmental impact of urban pollution and waste management. There’s also a call to strengthen preparations for natural disasters, particularly flooding.

Impact for homeowners

On an individual level, homeowners can future-proof investments by keeping these UNEP targets in mind. Look for properties like the Ecological Living Module that are naturally integrated into their surroundings and made from local materials to reduce their carbon footprint. Stay abreast of the latest market trends to see how sustainability is driving new development, including the growing correlation between investment performance and green building characteristics. An energy-efficient building will be more attractive to buyers in the long run, according to UNEP research that shows increased client demand and reduced depreciation rates.

Whether you’re interested in the latest green investment news or making your existing property more sustainable, keeping a close eye on UNEP’s initiatives is a smart way to help future-proof your real estate.

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