Q&A: CREtech’s Michael Beckerman on the CRE Industry’s Power to Stop the Climate Crisis

Coming up in Copenhagen, May 17 to 19, 2022: People from across the real estate industry and around the globe will come together for the CREtech Climate Global Leadership Summit.

Upflex’s Christophe Garnier caught up with Michael Beckerman, CEO of CREtech — the largest global consulting, media and conference company devoted to technological innovation in real estate — about the real estate industry’s disproportionate impact on the climate crisis, and where he sees the biggest opportunities to turn the ship around.

Next week, Beckerman is hosting CREtech Climate in Copenhagen — an initiative of CREtech and the voice of the real estate industry’s commitment to climate technology, sharing solutions to galvanize the industry to reduce its carbon footprint throughout the built world.

Michael Beckerman, CREtech

GARNIER:  As you say, the real estate industry is the largest single contributor to the climate crisis, responsible for 40% of all greenhouse gas emissions. What are some of the factors that make this number so high?

BECKERMAN: About 29% is attributable to real estate’s operational aspect — heating, lighting and cooling — whereas 11% is attributable to embodied carbon, i.e. the portion of carbon created during the construction and raw materials extraction process.

GARNIER:  We need to get creative about ways to use space more efficiently, and chop those numbers way down. I love how you noted in the video you shared that climate presents not only a massive challenge, but also an opportunity for the industry. Talk to us about that opportunity. 

BECKERMAN: Climate touches on each and every economic industry. Larry Fink recently said that the next 1,000 unicorns will be minted by green energy companies, while Chris Sacca believes the world’s next trillion-dollar companies will be focused on climate change.

However, one of the single greatest wealth creation opportunities of our time is presented by the mission to decarbonize the built world. It is simultaneously the world’s single largest asset class (worth north of $326 trillion dollars) and contributor to GHG emissions.

Opportunities are bifurcated into, one, the design and construction of new, net-zero buildings, as well as, two, retrofitting existing buildings. Moreover, it also presents an opportunity for the real estate industry to realign its operational mandate with the environment and the communities that they serve.

GARNIER:  Right, and if we’re looking for cities where these sorts of opportunities are already being acted upon, Copenhagen is a great example — I understand you picked Copenhagen because it is one of the world’s most, if not the most, sustainable cities. In fact, they’re aiming to become the world’s first carbon-neutral capital city by 2025, which is right around the corner. How is Denmark’s real estate industry rising to this challenge? 

BECKERMAN: Denmark’s real estate industry is pushing the envelope in terms of sustainable construction and real estate, driven by both the public and private sectors. Leveraging Copenhagen’s impetus to become the world’s first net zero carbon city has granted it with unique strengths to both pilot and adopt new solutions.

2022’s CREtech Climate Summit will take place in Copenhagen, Denmark, May 17-19.

GARNIER: Amazing. How do you think CRE companies can best participate in meeting these goals?

BECKERMAN: I believe that the global CRE industry can emulate Denmark’s openness to innovation, whilst capitalizing on being best positioned to act as catalysts to induce clean real estate growth — operationally and construction-wise.

GARNIER: Helping companies achieve clean real estate growth, as you put it, is a big objective of ours, too. We believe you can leverage technology to use only existing assets, and that means eliminating the need for new construction — and all the waste that comes with it — not to mention cutting back on energy usage and carbon emissions in operation. Plus there’s a carbon footprint reduction benefit to dispersing the workplace, and making it easier for the workforce to access their physical workspace, be that at home, at a nearby coworking location, or in a local hub, on foot or public transport, rather than making a long commute.

BECKERMAN: These opportunities to grow and scale without increasing our environmental impact is just the kind of change that could help companies contribute to cleaner cities, exactly.

Do you think what Copenhagen is aiming to do is feasible for other cities around the globe? 

BECKERMAN: Absolutely! Denmark’s successes could and should be replicated around the globe. It will require collaboration from all ecosystem participants – the likes over for which there are no precedents set. But I’m hopeful it can be done.

GARNIER: What would it take to achieve that? Who needs to buy in, what kind of shift in thinking is needed, and how can real estate companies lead the charge?

BECKERMAN: A fundamental paradigm shift in thinking is necessary from all stakeholders to achieve such audacious goals, but real estate companies in particular can lead by proactively taking steps to decarbonize their existing portfolios, ensuring that the design and construction of new buildings are net-zero optimized, and fostering deeper symbiotic relationships with their tenants to align all climate related targets.

Copenhagen aims to be the first carbon neutral capital city, with a target of 2025.

GARNIER: What can attendees hope to learn / bring home from this event?

BECKERMAN: It is both my personal and our professional mission at CREtech to set the stage for embracing and adopting innovation, fostering ecosystem collaboration and to inspire our audience.

As such, this first of its kind event is dedicated to investing in the future, sowing the seeds for the entire clean built world ecosystem to acquire critical new knowledge, networks and collaboration initiatives. We believe participants will return to their respective countries with key insights to lead the charge in the race to decarbonize the built world.

The event will also facilitate networking across the ecosystem and spanning several geographies, so we are hopeful that tangible, actionable outcomes will be the result and set in motion the framework for further industry collaboration.

GARNIER: It’s not too late to jump on for this. Learn more about the summit and register here. And if you can’t make it to this year’s event, catch up with Michael on LinkedIn or on his website to learn more.

Axel Towers, Copenhagen, Demark