Canada is home to some of real estate’s biggest companies. Brookfield, one of the biggest real estate owners in the world, is based in Toronto. So is Colliers, one of the largest brokerages. Canadian real estate is also a huge part of their economy; by some accounts real estate represents around half of all investment made in the country. Canada also has some really big plans to decarbonize its real estate. Its progressive government has committed $150 billion over the next 12 years to help make its buildings more efficient.
All of this means that there is going to be a lot of investment and innovation in sustainable PropTech. To help highlight the property companies and technologies leading the way in Canada’s sustainability efforts, the North American venture investment firm Venturon has put together its second Sustainable PropTech Canada Report. The authors of the report are Deena Pantalone and Joanna Creed, and while they think that sustainability is important to Canadian property companies, sustainable PropTech will not get adopted unless it is a good investment. “One of the focuses of our report is on how value and values need to align,” Pantalone said, “as much as we all want to stop climate change, money talks and the moral imperative is second.”
The case for the real estate industry to invest in sustainable technology has gotten easier. The fires ravaging much of Canada are a stark reminder of that. So, too, is the increasing amount of rain and snow that Canada has seen over the last few years. “Many of the companies we talk to are already seeing their construction windows shrink because of wetter spring seasons,” Creed explained. “Now that they have less time to dig their basements every year we are seeing a lot more interest in things like modular construction, that would speed up the time needed to develop a property.”
Even still, there is pushback. Some companies just don’t know about the sustainable options available to them. Others worry that the energy around sustainability might just be a passing fad. “The question that we get asked the most is ‘what happens if this government doesn’t get re-elected and all of these policies get reversed?’” Pantalone said. “We explain that even if that does happen a lot of the programs will still be in place, labor shortages are still an issue, plus investors and other stakeholders are pushing for sustainability and efficiency. Not doing anything could be a huge operational, as well as a PR, problem for companies in real estate going forward.”
The report features a number of exciting Canadian companies making advancements in everything from carbon capture to mass timber construction to energy analytics. This year the report also has a section dedicated to housing affordability. Canada, like many countries around the world, is struggling to provide housing that is affordable to lower wage earners. “As much as we like to think about sustainability as ways to reduce our usage of resources, we can’t ignore the social impact of unaffordable housing,” Creed said. The affordability crisis likely means even more investment is needed in sustainable technology. Canada will need to not only hit their sustainability goals, but do it while building a record number of new homes for its citizens.
Creed and Pantalone understand to reverse the tide of climate change it will take innovation from all over the world. They invest in companies across North America and participate in accelerator programs on multiple continents. But, they also want to highlight Canada’s contribution to the effort as well as push their countrymen to go further. Canada is seen as a leader in many things and hopefully sometime soon it will also be at the forefront of the sustainable PropTech movement.