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Sustainable Cities: how we’re building the city of tomorrow

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What will our cities look like in the future? Discover how BNP Paribas Real Estate envisions the City of Tomorrow.

How BNP Paribas Real Estate is designing the city of tomorrow

What will the cities of the future look like? At BNP Paribas Real Estate, we’re already taking steps to ensure our cities will become smarter, more human and more sustainable…

Welcome to the city of tomorrow

Sustainable architecture means not just the incorporation of sustainable materials into buildings themselves, but an end-to-end process of designing urban landscapes with sustainability in mind. It is an emerging trend among architects, and indeed may represent the future of architecture in a world that is increasingly sensitive to environmental concerns.

At BNP Paribas Real Estate, we believe that designing sustainable architecture is no longer a choice, but a critical step on the path towards ensuring the longevity of our planet. That’s why we are taking significant steps to ensure all our new properties are certified HQE and BREEAM.

What are HQE and BREEAM?

HQE™ is a French certification awarded internationally to projects that meet certain standards for sustainable development, both in terms of architecture and urban planning, and that meet certain goals in creating sustainable living environments. To be certified HQE, architecture must be judged on its entire life cycle – including construction, renovation and operation – and measured according to its impacts on health, personal comfort and the indoor environment.

BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) is the world’s longest-established and leading sustainability assessment, rating and certification method. It is notoriously hard to achieve, as the award considers many aspects of a building including energy, water, health and wellbeing, pollution, transport, materials, waste, land use and ecology, and management processes. It also takes into account the entire life cycle, from new construction to in-use and refurbishment.

The human behind the city

At BNP Paribas Real Estate, we believe that architecture should be designed first and foremost for users and residents – meaning that behind every piece of real estate there must be, above all, a consideration of the humans that use it.

Therefore, as well as becoming greener, more intelligent and more connected, we believe architecture must also become more mixed. But what is a mixed building?

In the past, cities were designed by architects working in isolation. This has led to huge tracts of unplanned space where issues such as traffic, pollution and even a lack of natural lighting now negatively affect the citizens living and working there. The mixture of buildings in many cities is therefore unsustainably random and not optimised to the human lifestyle – why, for instance, have a luxury hotel next to a police station, or a nightclub next to a block of flats? Why have a gym in the centre of town, when most of the residents live on the outskirts?

But today, architects are working in collaboration with each other and city planners, designing not just buildings but large-scale real estate projects that accommodate a mix of uses.

A great example of this is shown in the recent Reinventing Paris project, which features two award-winning designs from BNP Paribas Real Estate. For one of these designs, we submitted an idea incorporating 11,000m² of offices, 6,000m² of housing and 1,000m² of shops. The plan also featured 3,000m² of landscaped areas and rooftop agriculture, a wooden superstructure and a cover-over ring road.

Co-working, co-living and co-existing

We believe that another key feature of the city of tomorrow is the emerging ‘co-economy’, in which citizens will share and pool resources more than ever before in modern times. These resources range from car sharing, bike sharing and neighbourhood concierges to co-living and co-working.

Co-working is perhaps the one element that is most clearly visible across Europe today. The term co-working only originated in 1999, when Brian De Koven defined it as ‘working together as equals’. But within just 20 years, it has become a worldwide phenomenon, and now looks set for even further growth.

In London, co-working brands rented and purchased 165,000m² of space in 2017. WeWork alone has leased more than 160,000m² in three years, and is now one of the largest property managers in the British capital. Meanwhile, in Paris, the surface area taken by co-working companies doubled between 2016 and 2017, to reach 100,000m² in 2017. But it is Barcelona that is the leader in terms of density of coworking spaces per inhabitant, according to BNP Paribas Real Estate’s Coworking Spaces in Europe: 2017 Overview.

What part does new technology have to play?

The creation of sustainable cities will not be possible without the internet, digitisation and the development of smartphone technology. Together, these factors will help to make buildings themselves more intelligent and more connected.

At BNP Paribas Real Estate, we are proud to have achieved a world first: Issy Préférence in Issy-les-Moulineaux is the first smart residential building. It is the outcome of our collaboration with Legrand, Netatmo, the Post Office and Apple.

What is a smart building? These are properties designed to offer new solutions to energy performance challenges. At BNP Paribas Real Estate, we are taking steps to ensure all our buildings in Europe have this technology integrated. You can learn more about smart buildings here.

Interestingly, smart buildings do not necessarily have to be new buildings – it is equally feasible to adapt older buildings, ensuring they can accommodate a wider range of uses, more services and more intelligence, without losing their historic value.

For instance, Station F has transformed a 34,000m² hall in the 13th Arrondissement into a space for up to 1,000 start-ups. And La Poste du Louvre, formerly a single-purpose building and an icon of Paris, is undergoing transformation into a mixed urban hub incorporating a post office, hotel, offices, shops and services for residents, such as a police station, a nursery and a co-working centre.

Meanwhile, in Lyon, the Hôtel-Dieu, formerly a hospital, is being restructured into a mixed-use site that will be the largest private restoration of a historic building in France. It will include 17,600m² of shops, 13,400m² of offices, plus a food court and an intercontinental hotel with 140 rooms.

The ‘greening’ of our cities

Global warming, deforestation and pollution poses a risk not only to our cities, but to our entire global ecosystem, and to the very existence of life on our planet. Therefore, we believe that the greening of our cities – introducing more green space and biomaterial not only to our common spaces but to our buildings too – is a necessary and indeed urgent step that we must take if we are to combat these risks.

However, we understand that the greening of the city is not just about the development of green features for buildings. Instead, we believe it is about the development of green spaces and the spread of urban agriculture. We must ensure an end-to-end impetus on sustainability. Construction sites must be clean, and buildings should be capable of autonomously limiting their energy consumption and CO2 emissions.

Can we build the city of tomorrow over the city of today?

While many cities lack the land needed to reinvent themselves, we believe there are two complementary solutions to this problem.

The first is to invest in “new land” that maximises the volume of air and space. The Porte des Lilas is a fantastic example of a regeneration that has incorporated this ideology. It includes 1.4 hectares of green space along with a cinema complex, sports and cultural facilities and a greater range of transport options.

The second thing we recommend is to take steps to change the scale of our cities, spreading them wider and further, and decentralising them so that they are no longer confined to a central area. Paris is an example of a city with a very concentrated core – but with the creation of Greater Paris, it is gradually overcoming this hyper-centralisation.

One of the big drivers behind this is the development of the Grand Paris Express – the largest urban project in Europe – which will have at least 68 stations and 200km of automatic lines. As the city grows, this infrastructure will help to ensure it can accommodate more people, connecting them to the Central Business District and other areas, while also offering them greater space to live in.