The race for innovative sustainability solutions post COP 26

How the private sector can play its part in crowdsourcing sustainable innovations to make buildings more climate-resilient and resource-efficient

CapitaSpring (pictured), CapitaLand’s newest 280-metre integrated development in Singapore harnesses the latest workplace and lifestyle technologies. Between the premium Grade A office floors and modern serviced residences is a Green Oasis with social and activity spaces spread out over four storeys of lush greenery and trees.

The recently concluded UN climate summit in Glasgow, COP26, brought governments together to fulfil the goals of the Paris Agreement and highlight the urgent need for breakthrough action.

The 1.5°C scenario (which would limit average global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels) has become mainstream.  This scenario has an accelerated timeline for climate action under which countries will revisit and strengthen their 2030 targets to be more aligned. At COP26, more than 200 nations agreed to “phase down” coal, and more than 100 world leaders committed to end and reverse deforestation by 2030. Countries also reached a deal on Article 6 of the Paris Agreement, which will govern international carbon markets and determine how countries that exceed emissions targets sell credits to polluting nations.

Sustainable technology and innovations will be key to the decarbonisation journey. New research from McKinsey & Company has identified five areas of innovation that could attract as much as US$2 trillion of capital per year by 2025 and abate 40% of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050: electrification, agriculture, power grid, hydrogen, and carbon capture.

CapitaLand, a global real estate leader consistently ranked among the most sustainable corporations in the world, firmly believes that much can be done by the private sector. With a presence in more than 250 cities and over 30 countries, CapitaLand is stepping up its commitment to sustainability through innovation and calling on startups around the world to join its global fight against climate change.

Launched in 2020, CapitaLand Sustainability X Challenge (CSXC) is the first global-scale sustainability-focused innovation challenge in the built environment by a Singapore real estate company. Through the challenge, CapitaLand, with a portfolio spanning integrated developments, retail, office, lodging, residential and new economy sectors such as business parks, industrial, logistics and data centres, aims to accelerate its progress to meet its aggressive 2030 Sustainability Master Plan targets, with decarbonisation and circularity as key pillars. The first challenge received over 270 entries from more than 25 countries.

“Innovation is key to CapitaLand’s business and culture as we seek to deliver sustainable value to our stakeholders. Through CSXC, we take the lead in rallying the global community to catalyse new ideas to combat climate change, and we’re increasing our support for emerging innovations that can help us achieve our ambitious 2030 CapitaLand Sustainability Master Plan targets,” says Lynette Leong, CapitaLand Investment’s Chief Sustainability Officer. “We are conducting a global call for scalable and impactful innovations in the real estate ecosystem by providing sandboxes to testbed solutions and funding from our five-year S$50 million CapitaLand Innovation Fund. Our inaugural CSXC received an overwhelming response, and the winners have started piloting their innovations at our properties. And we welcome more start-ups to collaborate with us to build a sustainable planet for future generations.”

This strong commitment to innovation is vital as, according to the World Green Building Council, buildings are responsible for 39% of global energy-related carbon emissions. Key to reducing the built environment footprint are the innovative solutions and technologies in the power grid, hydrogen and carbon capture space mentioned in the McKinsey report. To move the needle further faster, the push for innovative sustainability solutions has never been greater; this will drive innovations in the near future to address today’s challenges.

How can businesses adopt sustainability innovation?

CapitaLand provides its innovators with access to a range of real estate classes globally and typologies in varying climatic conditions to apply their solutions, allowing them to demonstrate conclusively how their systems will function under real-world conditions. The two winners plus eight other promising innovations from its inaugural CSXC in 2021 took advantage of this critical differentiator to select excellent test sites to demonstrate the efficacy of their innovations.

Oregon-based INOVUES will test its insulating glass retrofit technology at one of CapitaLand’s buildings in Creekside Corporate Park in Portland, USA. By reducing heat gain in the building during summer and heat loss during winter, insulating glass retrofit is projected to lower energy consumption for cooling and heating buildings by up to 40%. This technology does not require any dismantling of existing windows and does not result in any downtime.

Singapore-based Climatec will pilot its unique process to treat cooling tower water without using chemicals or power at CapitaGreen, CapitaLand’s office tower in Singapore that has received international recognition for its sustainability features. Using photon vibration frequency technology created through strong magnetic fields and ceramic-based composites to treat water, this solution is projected to reduce energy consumption by up to 5% and achieve water savings of 60% to over 90%. The water can be recycled for other uses in the building such as plant irrigation or toilet flushing.

Even while CapitaLand is advancing piloting of innovations from CSXC 2021, it has also upped the ante for CSXC 2022 by committing up to S$500,000 to pilot 10 selected innovations.

Building a culture of innovation

Innovation can only thrive if businesses have a culture that is supportive of new ways of doing things. CapitaLand not only places sustainability at the core of what it does, it is empowering its employees to be creative in deploying solutions to make a positive impact on the environment. CapitaLand has set up a S$50 million CapitaLand Innovation Fund to further support the test bedding of sustainability and other high-tech innovations in the built environment.  Since its opening in October 2020, the Smart Urban Co-Innovation Lab brings together leaders in the smart cities space to co-create and test solutions and has welcomed over 500 companies and onboarded more than 70 members onto its ecosystem.

The climate crisis is here and is urgent. And the need to act is clear. Take climate action and submit your innovative solution to CSXC 2022 by visiting capitalandsustainabilityxchallenge.com before February 28, 2022.

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