Five Questions For...
Julie Hirigoyen, CEO of UK Green Building Council
We sat down with one of the UK's thought leaders on building sustainability for a quickfire round of Q&A.
1. Why should people invest in net zero carbon property?
The future of every industry is Net Zero, including property. In fact, almost 90% of global emissions are now covered by some kind of Net Zero pledge. This movement is not just being led by national governments, and in many cases, business and finance are also mobilizing at a more ambitious pace.
The reality is that the value of UK real estate assets without net-zero carbon plans will depreciate suddenly over the next five years, so investing in net zero carbon properties is a sure bet to future proof the value of these assets. As supply chains continue to mature, and as the investor and occupier markets demand more from real estate assets, the wider benefits of achieving net-zero to the bottom line, to health and wellbeing, to wider social good will become ever more obvious.
So frankly, I’d have to flip the question: what on earth would prevent people from investing in net zero carbon property?
2. What is one thing you're doing to make your everyday life greener?
For me, creating a greener everyday life quite literally starts at home. Having just moved into a 17th-century cottage much of my time outside of UKGBC has recently been focused on renovating this astonishingly old building. Of course, having stood the test of time and weathered many storms, it is inherently sustainable by virtue of still being functional and upright. However, I won’t pretend it’s easy to do a deep green retrofit on such a structure.
So far in our quest for a greener home we have upgraded the plumbing infrastructure, installed a new water tank that can accommodate solar PV, added roof insulation, switched to fully green energy, and introduced smart heating control systems and meters. We have also planted a cherry tree and installed an electric charging point for our leased electric vehicle.
But there is much more to be done – and we hope to transition off fossil fuel altogether in the coming years.
3. What is one building that inspires you and why?
The Empire State Building. Whilst one of the world’s most famous buildings, what makes it inspiring is the success story behind its enormous refurbishment. From top to bottom the building has been upgraded in an effort to limit its impact on the environment and reduce costs. Amongst a whole host of interventions, all 6,514 of its windows received an additional pane of coated film that helps reduce heat gain in the summer and heat loss in the winter; insulation has been installed and lightbulbs replaced - the elevators even generate energy as they move.
Overall estimates indicate the upgrades have cut the building’s energy usage by about 40% and is saving its owners more than $4 million every year. Given the history and grace of this building, that is truly inspiring.
4. Where is your favorite place in London and why?
I think it would have to be a toss-up between Richmond Park and Hampstead Heath. London’s green spaces are extraordinary oases from the hustle and bustle of the noisy cosmopolitan city – and it’s nothing short of magical to wander through these semi-wild landscapes with little consciousness of the hectic urban life all around. And catching a glimpse of those stag antlers in Richmond on a frosty winter’s day is quite unparalleled. What’s not to like?
5. Where did you grow up and what is great about that place?
I grew up in a suburban neighbourhood on the outskirts of Paris, a short distance from Versailles where I was born. Of course, you can’t mention Versailles without referencing the Chateau – home to many French monarchs and governments over the centuries. This architectural masterpiece remains as stunning today as it was in the days of Louis XIV and wandering through the pristine gardens (let alone the 2,300 rooms!) leaves one in awe of the grandeur and perfection that epitomises the era in which it was built.