In the previous episode of Urban Chronicles™, we met two founding members of IBPC (International Biodiversity and Real Estate Council), Luc Monteil and Pierre Darmet, respectively President and Secretary of IBPC.
Having discussed the current situation of global biodiversity as well as the different roles of IBPC on urban biodiversity issues last week, Pierre Darmet and Luc Monteil now elaborate on how to accelerate the awareness of real estate stakeholders in favour of biodiversity and what means are available to include biodiversity in their projects.
Green Soluce: There is a certain awareness among real estate players in favour of taking biodiversity into account, what do you think are the priority issues?
Pierre Darmet: Three key issues are crucial to accelerate stakeholder awareness:
– The place and role of nature in the city. We must move from the notion of nature as a supplement towards a notion of infrastructure. Considering nature as an infrastructure will allow for the demonstration of its added value at all scales, from the island to the entire agglomeration. This transition from an “ancillary nature” to an “infrastructure nature” is fundamental.
– The long time. The BiodiverCity® label, still in the construction phase, will eventually put into action the entire chain of actors involved in a biodiversity project. The idea is to fully integrate biodiversity into the architecture of the project rather than using it as a cosmetic element at the end. The same must be done for exploitation. We hear more and more promoters assisting nature in the city projects, especially when it comes to developing new uses such as shared gardens, saying that they finance operations during two years. It’s insufficient! From a scientific and technical point of view, working in the short term will not work to achieve balance.
– The no man’s land of spaces held by the private sector and usable by all. A lot of energy is being mobilized without an economic model for these spaces that are dedicated to a tiny part of the population. It is time to move past the extremely selling green images that are too often seen in projects to create spaces that benefit the greatest number of people and that have a viable economic model to reconnect citizens to nature.
Luc Monteil: This awareness takes its roots in financial logics. Actors such as Gecina, Altarea Cogedim and Icade are pushing the subject of biodiversity because it is corroborated by a CSR strategy that is a stake in their non-financial rating. A few years ago, an ESSEC study showed that buildings with strong integration links in terms of biodiversity were valued on a rental basis up to 12% more than standard buildings, including those that had been subject to environmental certification. There is thus a challenge of performance for companies, of convalescence for hospitals, of quality of life for residents, and of attractiveness for social landlords. IBPC’s role is to provide tools to enable and support this reintroduction of nature into and around buildings and neighbourhoods, as well as to raise awareness of these issues among all stakeholders.
Green Soluce: Why is there a real need to reconnect city dwellers with nature?
Luc Monteil: Paradoxically, the true challenges of the subject of nature in cities are not directly saving nature. It is not in cities that we are going to save global biodiversity. However, introducing nature into the city brings the urban dweller, whether a dweller or an employee, closer to nature and makes him aware of how it evolves. Bringing biodiversity back to the city will raise citizens’ awareness and sensitize them to their impacts and roles on biodiversity.
Tools are lacking to measure the impact of services provided by nature on the occupant of a building. But undoubtedly, the effects of a luxuriant nature on memory capacity, stress and brain function have been proven many times over.
Pierre Darmet: Everyone is helpless in the face of life because we have been disconnected for more than 50 years. To reconnect citizens to nature requires mediation, which is what the City of Paris is proposing through the shared management of spaces. Indeed, nature management in the city is in a deadlock because one step of the process is missing: we need qualified people to support the reconnection, such as gardening nature educators and caretakers with green skills. IBPC trains BiodiverCity® assessors who assist project owners. There are 70 of them today compared to 3 at the time of the pilot labelling. There is therefore tangible, real and measurable job creation through biodiversity.
Green Soluce: What advice would you give to real estate players who wish to take biodiversity more into account in their projects?
Luc Monteil: Whatever the actor’s profession, whether he is involved in an activity related to the development and construction of the city or whether he is a user, we must give more space to the subject of nature. Several initiatives can be undertaken: you must make your commitment to nature a reality by integrating biodiversity into your company’s CSR strategy, for example. A good way to do this is to engage as a signatory to a charter that addresses the subject.
The Association Française des Entreprises pour l’Environnement, which brings together some forty major French and international companies committed to the environment, as well as other partners, has launched an interesting initiative called Act4Nature, which brings together more than 60 major groups, such as Bolloré, committed to biodiversity.
IBPC has also launched its biodiversity charter, which focuses on the act of planning and building and is a call to action to develop green and biodiversity in cities. Certivéa is to be congratulated for giving a significant place to biodiversity in its sustainable building standards. To differentiate oneself, it is necessary to work on the subject in depth, both for biodiversity and the use value generated by this biodiversity.
Pierre Darmet: The best ambassadors are those who can hear. Even if it is said with words that are not words of specialists, even if there are some approximations, the fact that strong actors, decision-makers of the act of building or the General Management of companies commit themselves and position themselves on the subject is indicative of an ability to move from the field of good intentions to the field of practice. The movement will not take off if there is no demand for the subject from decision-makers.
Interview by François Aze and Lucille Christien for Urban Chronicles™
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