Box CEO Graham Place took part in the ‘Investing with purpose’ panel discussion at the Senior Housing & Healthcare Association summit in Brussels on 27 June. Here, he looks at how to tackle the biggest challenges facing the residential and healthcare sector over the coming decades – and says collaboration with industry leaders and experts is crucial.
“There’s no doubt that ‘investing with purpose’ is the message of the moment. If we are to provide safe and secure futures for residents, then investors in retirement living and healthcare have a fundamental responsibility to be economically sustainable for the long-term.
These same investors need to ensure effective social sustainability, and meet the Net Zero challenge (with existing stock often in a challenging state). At the same time, there’s an increasing need to be transparent and to report on the measures being taken to improve their sustainability credentials.
“Investing with Purpose needs to be about addressing the fundamental challenges of economic, environmental and social sustainability. To do so, we will need to work as a multi-professional team to take bold steps and do things differently with a long-term approach to the future.”
Graham Place, CEO, Box Architects
Educating for Net Zero
Buildings currently account for 40% of carbon emissions in the UK and 60% of all waste. That’s unacceptable. As a result (and to stop adding to the huge retrofit challenge) the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has given the construction industry just ten years to make all new buildings zero carbon.
This is a massive challenge and we will all need to work together to find new ways of limiting the carbon within new construction and developing acceptable approaches to retrofitting. Education plays a huge part in this, and we need to learn from each other – to develop our ‘sustainability literacy’ – so we can have the discussions needed.
Reducing the silo mentality
I was encouraged recently to learn of a new MSc from the University College of Estate Management, which is focused on educating all the various professionals across the multi-disciplinary teams. Courses like this will help reduce the silo mentality that often stops innovation – which is why we’re delighted to be supporting some of the discussions UCEM are hosting.
Another way we can take a significant step in the race for Net Zero is to embrace Modern Methods of Construction (MMC). Offsite manufacture can help ‘design in’ efficiencies, reduce waste, improve the environmental impact on communities and provide better (and safer) working environments. But there is still a need to define more clearly what the Environmental, Social and Governance framework (ESG) means to the MMC sector – and to communicate the benefits more effectively. That’s why Box Architects have not only been studying and applying MMC knowledge over the last five, we have also been hosting round-table discussions through our Box Talks series to highlight opportunities and dispel myths.
Improving social sustainability
All of the above is hugely important but, as architects, we have a core need to provide quality homes for people. Social sustainability plays a big part in this thinking. I am learning a lot from our recent membership of the Senior Housing & Healthcare Association. This European-wide organisation was founded to address the challenges of growing demand and limited supply of senior living and healthcare real estate, and to share knowledge within the real estate value chain.
Board member Raoul Thomassen, the Chief Operating Officer of AEDIFICA, has highlighted how they are improving social sustainability by more integration with the local community.
“It is crucial that a care home is easily accessible and not too far from the city centre. So we need to ensure that we have buildings that can make their contribution to the local community. Not only by providing employment opportunities, but also by connecting people and providing a place where people from that community can physically come together. A great example of this comes from the Nordics, where parents can pick up their children from day care and visit grandparents at the same time, as the day care and residential care centre are housed in the same campus.”
Raoul Thomassen, Chief Operating Officer, AEDIFICA
Closer to home
Box are working with McCarthy Stone to develop homes that enable downsizing in towns where there are large stocks of low-occupancy homes. This frees up housing for families and young people, who in turn can provide a welcome boost to local shops and services, and provide economic benefits for the whole area.
- Find out how downsizing to a retirement community could help the UK decarbonise faster.
In our recent project with Eden Retirement Living, the Downlands Park project provides shared leisure and wellbeing facilities for residents and the local community. This communal hub not only benefits the wider community but could also go some way to deducing the isolation so often felt by the elderly.
To sum up, Investing with Purpose needs to be about addressing the fundamental challenges of economic, environmental and social sustainability. To do so, we will need to work as a multi-professional team to take bold steps and do things differently with a long-term approach to the future.”