Property Industry Sees 10.8% Increase in Greenhouse Gas Emissions in the Last Decade

Research by the next-generation virtual property viewings platform, U-See Homes, has revealed just how much work the property industry has to do to lower its impact on the environment.

Greenhouse gas emissions are falling

U-See analysed data on greenhouse gas emissions across each industry over the last decade and found that, as a whole, there’s been a reduction of –16.9%. The latest data shows that the property sector generated 980,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide in 2019, the fifth-lowest of all sectors and considerably lower than the 88,395,000 generated by the electricity, gas, steam, and air conditioning supply unit sector – the worst offending of all sectors.

However, the electricity, gas, steam, and air conditioning supply unit sector has also seen the biggest reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in the last decade, down by a notable 47.4%. An additional 12 other sectors have also managed to reduce their impact on the environment at this time.

But not across the property sector

Unfortunately, seven sectors have seen an increase, the property sector being one of them. Greenhouse gas emissions produced by the property sector have increased by 10.8% in the last 10 years, with just the accommodation and food services sector (11%), the construction sector (12.6%) and the activities of households as employers sector (14.7%) seeing a bigger increase.

What can be done?

So how can the property industry tackle its impact on the environment for the better?

Utilising technology is a good place to start, and previous research by U-See Homes found that by replacing just the first initial viewing of a property with a guided virtual tour, estate agents could save 3,216 tons of CO2 in a single year across the hundreds of thousands of property sales that take place.

Utilising a virtual platform could also bring greater benefit to the numerous property conferences and meetings held every year. Research by digital coaching platform Ezra recently found that holding just one conference of 1,000 people in a digital capacity could cut carbon emissions by nearly 95% – enough to power 17 homes for a whole year.

Of course, remote working can also play a part should the property sector stick with some form of it in life after the pandemic. Recent research by Vodafone highlighted how, before the pandemic, the total carbon saving of an employee was just 272kg. Still, as a result of remote working during the pandemic, this climbed to a huge 889kg.

Simon Dempsey heads up marketing for U-See Homes says: ‘Although the property sector may not be the worst offender in terms of its detrimental impact on the environment, it’s disappointing to see that there has been an increase in greenhouse gas emissions over the course of the last 10 years.’

‘In this day and age, there is a wealth of information and technology available to us that could, and would, allow us to reduce our carbon footprint, and so there’s really no excuse for failing to address this issue head-on. As a result of COVID-19, we currently find ourselves at a fork in the road, and there is a real opportunity to salvage something positive from the pandemic.’

‘A lengthy stint of remote working has proven that great people utilising great technology can keep the world turning, and incorporating this permanently within the industry could make a real difference to the planet. Of course, some form of physical workplace and activity can never be replicated digitally. Still, we would urge everyone within the sector to consider what sort of balance could work for them on an ongoing basis.’

Greenhouse gas emissions by industry – the mass of air emissions per annum in thousand tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent
Industry 2009 2019 Change (%), 2009–2019
Activities of households as employers 41 47 14.7%
Construction 12,279 13,827 12.6%
Accommodation and food services 3,240 3,596 11.0%
Real estate activities 885 980 10.8%
Administrative and support service activities 3,109 3,364 8.2%
Human health and social work activities 5,176 5,469 5.7%
Agriculture, forestry, and fishing 46,030 48,586 5.6%
Other service activities 987 973 –1.4%
Wholesale and retail trade; repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles 16,623 16,056 –3.4%
Transport and storage 83,685 79,546 –4.9%
Professional, scientific, and technical activities 1,981 1,861 –6.1%
Financial and insurance activities 278 260 –6.3%
Manufacturing 94,184 83,655 –11.2%
Arts, entertainment, and recreation 1,195 1,050 –12.2%
Information and communication 980 844 –13.8%
Education 3,185 2,565 –19.5%
Mining and quarrying 27,056 21,786 –19.5%
Water supply; sewerage, waste management, and remediation activities 36,408 26,211 –28.0%
Public administration and defence; compulsory social security 6,952 4,765 –31.5%
Electricity, gas, steam, and air conditioning supply 168,060 88,395 –47.4%
Total greenhouse gas emissions 663,614 551,523 –16.9%
Data sourced from the Office for National Statistics – Atmospheric emissions.