Carolyn Brady: Commercial real estate has key role in driving economic growth

Delivering safe and warm homes, with easy access to essential services and future-proofed digital and physical infrastructure, will drive up living standards and unlock our collective potential
Carolyn Brady

COMMERCIAL property has a key role to play in driving economic growth, and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics) is calling on our political parties in Northern Ireland to prioritise bringing about positive change in the built and natural environment to support this.

Rics has eight calls to action in a bid to embed net-zero targets, support economic recovery and growth and create a sustainable future.

We are pushing for an Executive to form so that the role of the built and natural environment in promoting a healthy, sustainable, and productive regional economy can be recognised. The built and natural environment impacts every aspect of our lives.

Delivering safe and warm homes for our citizens, with easy access to essential services and future-proofed digital and physical infrastructure, will drive up living standards and unlock our collective potential. Buildings which are people-centred can transform places of work and study and elevate the productivity of their inhabitants.

As we emerge out of the pandemic, we must recognise the value of commercial real estate in supporting economic recovery, with commercial real estate offering significant opportunities for driving inward UK investment, with capital value having nearly doubled since 2000, according to the Rics Commercial Real Estate impact report.

Commercial real estate has the potential to become a key driver in levelling up the UK as a whole, increasing sustainability and wellbeing, and building communities. According to the report, commercial real estate contributes 3.5 per cent of UK employment (1,088,500 people), with every £1m spent on the sector generating employment for 11.2 people.

Covid has significantly impacted how we interact with commercial property and with more people returning to work, Rics has implemented the International Building Operation Standard (IBOS) framework as a new approach to measure and manage how buildings perform for people through data.

IBOS is set to support organisations in attracting people back to the workplace, by delivering confidence for end users that the building they’re in is supporting their wellness, and benchmarking success against driving down the commercial sector’s carbon footprint.

In saying that, there is a significant skills gap in the built environment. To meet the future needs of communities, we need to attract and retain a larger, more diverse workforce, and we need to upskill them in retrofitting solutions. Rics is calling for an Executive to support more apprenticeships and to work with industry to deliver training which will close this gap.

Whilst we are pushing commercial real estate as a key economic driver, we must continue to recognise and protect the role of the built environment in maintaining Northern Ireland’s rich heritage and history.

Protecting Northern Ireland’s heritage assets is vital to place-making and brings substantial economic and social benefits. The Stormont Executive should improve the stewardship of these assets for future generations by embedding industry best practice Planned Preventative Maintenance (PPM) Guidance, undertaken by competent and regulated professionals.

We recognise that the next 10 years will be unprecedented for the built environment and as the pandemic recedes, we are calling for an Executive to acknowledge the importance of the built environment as a key economic driver and the role it can play in promoting a sustainable regional economy.

:: Carolyn Brady is chair of the RICS NI High Street & Commercial Insight Forum

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