Biodiversity as part of a modern property portfolio
Existential significance for us all
Biodiversity refers to the diversity of various ecosystems, the highest possible number of different species and strong genetic abundance. It is not just a basic need of humans, animals and nature. According to the Swiss Federal Office of Agriculture, biodiversity has existential significance for our collective survival. It is only in the face of escalating loss of biological diversity that we are gradually perceiving the consequences.
According to the Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN), biodiversity has suffered heavy losses over the past 200 years, and is under extreme threat. For Switzerland, the FOEN sees the intensive use and loss of land, the carving up and fragmentation of habitats through infrastructure and settlements and excessive inputs of nitrogen and pesticides as the main causes of loss of biological diversity.
At the political level, some steps have been taken of late to better address this situation and to strategically promote species diversity across the various ecosystems. In fact it is a requirement laid down in the Federal Constitution that Switzerland must act to promote the ongoing preservation of the natural foundations of life, and not make more demands on nature than nature can regenerate. In 2020 a national people’s initiative was launched to advance that goal. In 2023 Parliament will debate an indirect counter-proposal on the issue and demand that the Federal Council take stronger measures to protect diversity and the environment. So the creation of awareness in Swiss society is gaining momentum. Internationally, biodiversity also ranks among the top five topics on the global regulatory radar, according to EcoFact. The number of related initiatives launched in this area is growing markedly.
Promotion of biodiversity
A great deal of action still needs to be taken by Swiss industry in relation to biodiversity and measures to combat climate change. The management of Swiss Prime Site is conscious of the responsibility that the real estate and construction sector bears in this respect. Swiss Prime Site owns around 170 investment properties in the most densely populated centres of Switzerland. It is our aspiration to continuously increase the quality of this portfolio and the sites and properties it contains. This includes focusing on high-quality locations and properties with excellent building fabric, a strong customer focus and ongoing improvement of the sustainability performance of buildings and operations.
In the past, the grounds of properties in particular were often indiscriminately built on or sealed. While this was always done in compliance with the applicable statutory provisions, it nevertheless resulted in a sharp decrease in biodiversity in cities and metropolitan areas. The legal framework conditions are now slowly changing, partly due to the parliamentary moves mentioned above. Swiss Prime Site intends to improve biodiversity in its building stock faster and more effectively.
Improved biodiversity relating to buildings is another criterion that should not be underestimated for successful letting. We are addressing this issue too, along with other important topics such as the circular economy, in our development projects or renovation plans. The Opus complex of buildings in Zug, for example, features a large aquatic area with lush vegetation, which serves firstly to reduce heat and secondly to provide habitat for native flora and fauna. Another good example is Stücki Park in Basel. Following the extensive greening of the roof as part of the comprehensive renovation, habitat was even restored for the critically endangered blue-winged grasshopper in the middle of the City of Basel.
Swiss Prime Site’s future major development projects such as the Maag site in Zurich offer even more potential for impact. At the site, in addition to roof greening on the new build, porous outdoor surfaces in the grounds and additional planting with tall trees are also planned. The sum of these measures is designed to make a major contribution to reducing heat and increasing species diversity. It is our goal to achieve biodiversity, both individually in each project and as part of a holistic sustainability policy.
For Swiss Prime Site, sustainability is part of the value creation model and has been an integral part of the corporate strategy for some time. The company, which has its headquarters in Zug, focuses on reducing CO₂ emissions and on closed cycles in the construction and operation of buildings. Biodiversity is also gaining in importance as a partial aspect. Swiss Prime Site's contribution here goes far beyond individual measures.