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Developers Target Absolute Zero Carbon in Green Office Arms Race

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(Bloomberg) —

A small clutch of developers is upping the ante in the green arms race for office space by pledging to do away with the crutch of carbon offsetting.

Dutch developer Edge is the latest firm committing to reach absolute zero carbon on its new developments by at least 2050, according to a statement Thursday. That means its future projects will eventually be built and operated in a way that requires no tree planting to mitigate their impact, trumping the new breed of net-zero developments being promoted by many of Europe’s largest landlords that will require offsets to reach their goals. 

Sustainability has become a key battleground for landlords as companies reassess their office needs in the wake of the pandemic, which ushered in a wave of flexible working. The rents and valuations of buildings with top green credentials and modern flexible space have held up much better than those of older properties over the past five years, a trend that’s been accelerated by the coronavirus outbreak. 

The company has also pledged that all future projects will be net-zero carbon from today and set out a pathway to absolute zero carbon that covers the emissions from its 140 staff, Edge said in the statement. The absolute zero carbon target puts the company, which is part owned by a fund managed by Macquarie Group’s asset management unit, among a small handful of firms to have made the pledge, including Australia’s Lendlease Corp. and Copenhagen based Nordic Real Estate Partners A/S.

“While we are currently using offsets, we do not see these as a viable solution to our climate problems and are totally committed to reducing our reliance on them to zero,” Edge Chief Executive Officer Coen van Oostrom said in the statement.

Companies searching for new office space in London are increasingly making net zero carbon a requirement for any prospective building they will visit. That’s why most of the city’s largest developers including Land Securities Group Plc, British Land Co. and Great Portland Estates Plc are now working on plans for new net-zero carbon projects across London. 

While developers’ focus was originally on reducing operational carbon — emissions caused by air conditioning, electricity and other activities associated with running a building — the debate is increasingly turning to the carbon embodied in a building’s materials and construction. 

The switch to acknowledging the impact of embodied carbon has posed a major challenge to developers whose business models have traditionally focused on tearing down old properties and building new. 

As part of its commitment Edge plans to reduce immediately its embodied emissions for any new projects by at least 50%. That would translate into a maximum upfront embodied carbon target of 500 kilograms of CO2 for each square meter, according to the statement. 

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