The pace of change in legislation, supply and demand in connection with sustainable property has increased dramatically in the last 12 months. But where will we be in another 12 months?

How do you define a sustainable building? There are several assessment tools, such as the Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs), Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) and, the most popular, BREEAM Certificates and the Code for Sustainable Homes. Residential properties with three or more bedrooms now require EPCs. We also had the changes to Part L of the Building Regulations in April 2006. No news yet though on when smaller residential properties will require EPCs, although it won’t be long.

Commercial buildings of more than 10,000m2 will require an EPC when they are constructed, sold or let after 6 April 2008. Buildings over 2,500m2 will require an EPC after 1 July 2008, with all remaining buildings following on 1 October 2008. The “Merton Rule”, whereby some local authorities require that 10 per cent of a new development’s energy is derived from renewable sources, is as strong as ever. The GLA is proposing to increase this to 20 per cent and others, such as Brighton & Hove, are following suit. The Government is showing little appetite to prescribe similar demands at a national level, but is encouraging local authorities.

All these changes will help a market that is currently in its infancy – green property funds. The setting up of the first funds has been announced, but they are focusing on new developments, which are relatively straightforward to develop as “green” properties, and it will be harder to differentiate them from “standard” new buildings given the current legislation and commercial drivers.  The challenge is to capture the existing building stock, to make it sustainable and to add value to it. To do so will take an element of looking into the future to see how buildings can be designed and constructed to be sustainable for not only today’s standards, but for tomorrow’s as well.