Summary from event held in Triodos on June 29, 2023

Net Impact Amsterdam organized a thought-provoking evening dedicated to exploring the potential of bio-based materials as a solution in the real estate sector. The event encompassed a range of activities, including a tour of the Triodos office, renowned as one of Europe’s most sustainable buildings, as well as informative and inspiring presentations from industry leaders such as Triodos, Metabolic, Build by Nature, and PGGM. The discussions covered various topics, including the potential impact of the bio-based construction sector, Triodos Banks’ biobased real estate portfolio, and the relevant EU legislation.

Here are the key takeaways from this enlightening event:

1. The construction sector in the EU is a significant contributor to carbon emissions, emitting a staggering 277 Mt CO2e annually. The carbon budget allocated to the construction sector in the EU27+UK is set to be fully exhausted by 2026. However, transitioning to a full biobased approach by 2030 could potentially reduce emissions of new buildings by an impressive 40%.

2. Several barriers hinder the scaling of bio-based buildings, including limited access to sustainable resources, higher mortgage and insurance premiums, a lack of design expertise, insufficient data and tools for performance management, and unfavorable regulations and policies.

3. Lack of awareness remains a significant obstacle, with 62% of people unaware of the possibility of living in bio-based buildings. Additionally, only 2.1% of building materials currently utilized are bio-based (Dutch construction industry).

4. The expensive cost of timber construction poses a challenge; however, promoting local bio-based and circular materials can enhance the economic feasibility of bio-based buildings.

5. Government support, regulations, and public procurement play a crucial role in driving the growth of the bio-based construction sector. For example, ​​CBAM (Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism) is a policy that puts a price on the carbon emissions of imported goods, including materials like concrete used in non-bio-based buildings. By making carbon-intensive materials more expensive, it boosts the competitiveness of bio-based materials and encourages innovation in sustainable construction.

6. While advocating for bio-based construction, it is essential to critically evaluate the demand for new housing and prioritize adaptive reuse and circularity of existing buildings. Redirecting creative efforts towards revitalizing older structures instead of constructing new ones can yield significant benefits.

7. Effecting change requires concerted efforts from all stakeholders. Bio-based material producers must operate within planetary boundaries, regulators should establish rules to encourage the adoption of sustainable materials, and real estate professionals must demand more environmentally friendly solutions.