Ramboll’s study shows sustainable buildings are becoming mainstream

6 June 2019
Today we have launched our Sustainable Buildings Market Study (SBMS), revealing insights from architects, developers, contractors and investors across the UK and Scandinavia on the latest drivers and trends related to sustainable development. 
Oodi Helsinki Library. Photo: Kuvio

Oodi Helsinki Library. Photo: Kuvio

Philippa Spence

Managing Director, UK
T: +44 20 7631 5291
Ramboll Phil Kelly

Phil Kelly

UK, Head of Sustainability, Buildings
T: +44 7583 089 005

Neil Loescher

T: +44 1225 748 420


  • Two-thirds of building owners and investors state sustainability measures increase property value
  • Yet 41% of respondents don’t know how much higher a rental yield can be commanded for a sustainable building and 37% don’t know how much higher the property value is  
  • Life Cycle Thinking, Health & Wellbeing and Carbon Neutrality were identified as the three most important trends, at 71%, 58% and 53% respectively 
  • 49% rated on-site renewable energy as the most important construction technology, followed by BIM at 47%
  • 'Client, tenant or other stakeholder requirement’, ‘Enhancement of building performance’ and ‘Improved quality’ were the most important drivers for using environmental certification schemes at 60%, 51% and 44% 
  • 100% of respondents were engaged in sustainable projects compared to 95% in 2017 57% of respondents state that half their future projects would be sustainable  

Download the Full Report

In Europe, 90% of our daily lives are spent indoors. We live, learn and work in buildings, and the environments within and around our buildings have a strong influence on our productivity, health and overall well-being. Today, buildings are responsible for more than 40% of global energy usage, and as much as one third of greenhouse gas emissions. With the UK heading towards a zero-carbon future, it is time for the industry to make sustainable buildings the norm.

Uncertainty remains on the value of sustainable buildings

Whilst the findings show that sustainable buildings are becoming more mainstream, it also confirms a lack of clarity on the costs and benefits of sustainable buildings. When asked if sustainable buildings are a good investment, close to 50% of all respondents have little or no insight if sustainable buildings cost more to build, if they have reduced operational cost or if they trade at a premium. It is clear there is a lack of hard evidence to show whether sustainable buildings yield a positive return on investment. Addressing this knowledge gap will be vital for accelerating the uptake of sustainable buildings. 

The report highlights several case studies and evidence that prove the value sustainability can deliver. Bringing market and domain insight, Ramboll’s SBMS helps to bridge the knowledge gap and provides actionable insights for investors, contractors and users of sustainable buildings.

Future generations will expect sustainability as the norm

While return on investment is a key driver, Rikke Bjerregaard Orry, Ramboll’s Global Sustainability Director for buildings, said “We anticipate an increasing interest from future generations in leading sustainable lifestyles, minimising their personal carbon footprint and working for companies that share their values and operate sustainably. Sustainable buildings tap into this trend and will increasingly become an identity marker for companies striving to make a difference”.

Phil Kelly, Ramboll’s Head of Sustainability and Building Physics in the UK added: “Let’s also not forget who we are designing these buildings for. The occupants and tenents of the buildings we’re starting to design today, are going to be trying to attract the workforce of tomorrow who are just starting their GCSEs. Considering the school’s climate change protest earlier this year, we need to understand the demands of this workforce, who are going to have very high expectations of the buildings they live, learn and work within."

Life Cycle Thinking rated the most important trend in sustainability

The study reveals the latest trends for the sector, with Life Cycle Thinking being the most important trend (71%), followed by Health & Wellbeing (58%) and Carbon Neutrality (53%). Commenting on these trends, Phil Kelly said: “The uptake of lifecycle assessment is lagging far behind other sustainable building design methodologies, digitalisation is going to be critical in bringing information earlier in the design process where it can have the greatest impact to sustainability.” 

Further trends in the report highlighted digitalisation, innovative technologies and new construction techniques that carry the promise of improving sustainability and efficiency across the entire value chain. According to respondents, wider use of Building Information Models (BIM) - not only in the design phase, but also in the operational phase and at the end-of-life-stage of a building can be expected. Creating a digital twin of a building makes it possible to consolidate different sustainability metrics, such as Life Cycle Assessment and Total Cost of Ownership into a single model, creating transparency and making it possible for the developer to base their decisions on more complete environmental and economical understanding.

Certification, a driver for sustainability?

The SBMS highlighted that ‘Client, tenant or other stakeholder requirement’ (60%), ‘Enhancement of building performance’ (51%) and ‘Improved quality’ (44%) were the most important criteria in their decision to use environmental certification schemes, yet 60% sited certification being ’too expensive/time consuming’ as the key reason for not undertaking environmental certification. 

Commenting, Paul Bosworth, a Lead Sustainability Consultant at Ramboll said: “the study highlights respondents believe sustainability certificates bring a measure of quality and added value benefits. Not surprisingly, new, issue specific schemes such as Fitwel are on the rise. We've also been working with some of the largest investment managers in the world recently to carry out operational sustainability certification using BREEAM In-Use. Ultimately, value for money and flexibility are both key to the popularity of any certification scheme.”

About the report

Ramboll’s Sustainable Buildings Market Study (previously known as the Green Market Study) was completed by 405 respondents including architects, developers, contractors and investors from across the UK, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden and Iceland. This is the 6th edition of the study but the first to include respondents from the UK. In this survey, a sustainable building is defined as a building where sustainability issues are emphasised throughout the building life cycle. Read the full report.


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