Sep 17, 2019 Real Estate New

Permanently green traffic lights for sustainable properties

The future of real estate is sustainable, as also reflected in the design work of the architect Vincent Callebaut. Investors already stand to benefit from this trend today.

  • Sustainably built properties are part of a global trend
  • Architects like Vincent Callebaut illustrate what the future of such buildings could hold in store
  • Investors in real estate should bear this development in mind
3 minutes to read

20 % of global CO2 emissions stem from only 100 cities.

"Tenkū no Shiro Rapyuta” – this is the response by Belgian architect Vincent Callebaut to the question as to what actually inspired him to deliver parts of his work.[1] Tenkū no Shiro Rapyuta is a Japanese animation film that deals with the relationship between human beings, nature and technology, combining historical and futuristic presentations. Callebaut also combines things that do not appear to look compatible at all at first sight. This has enabled him to win numerous awards and attract even greater attention. One of the reasons for this is that his drafts show what a good match sustainability is in relation to properties.

Sporting a shortly cropped full beard, round glasses and a sports jacket, he looks a little like a teacher, but one of the kind that also let their pupils enjoy dealing with binomial formulas or Latin grammar. Or, as it happens, environmental protection. Callebaut’s role model is nature. It therefore is hardly surprising that he is frequently referred to as an archibiotect[2], someone who combines the disciplines of architecture, engineering and also biology to form a single, homogeneous mass. This makes him something like a front man of sustainable architecture, and he is a popular guest speaker at conferences. A little like U2 vocalist Bono, who has been calling for increased sustainability for years now.

Dreamer or visionary?

Callebaut once said that he dreamt of a city resting on three pillars.[3] The first pillar: a decentralized energy supply. This can already be implemented today, as demonstrated by “plus energy buildings” – i.e. buildings that do not need any energy but generate it themselves. According to Callebaut, this energy could be diverted into neighbouring buildings. The second pillar: urban farming, the combination of building and cultivation, the next stage of vegetable patches on balconies. Pillar three: short routes, with no need for cars. This also means that a property should serve quite different purposes. Not living “here” and working “there”, but working and living at a single location – with shopping facilities only 50 metres away. This means that cars can be used far less frequently, cutting down on CO2. Callebaut believes: “We must rediscover the spirit that villages had in the past.”[3]

Vision meets reality

In fact, many of his ideas has already found its way to reality by now. Take the Agora Gardens high-rise designed by Callebaut in Taipei, for instance, on top of which some 23,000 trees and shrubs grow.[4]. There is also space for tenants own organic gardens. Callebaut, the Belgian sustainability visionary, certainly never seems to run out of ideas.

An example of this is Paris. Notre Dame Cathedral, damaged by fire, is to be unceremoniously adorned with a glass roof along with a rooftop garden – at least if Callebaut gets his way. The garden is planned to yield up to 21 tonnes of fruit and vegetables per annum.[5] And Callebaut has also proposed revamping France’s capital completely in architectural terms. In 2015 he presented a concept in this regard: by the year 2050, Callebaut wants to organically integrate a number of sustainable buildings, such as anti-smog and pro-photosynthesis high-rise towers, into the classical cityscape of Paris. The idea behind this is to purify the air and supply the surrounding buildings with energy and air-conditioning.[6] And what is planned to be inside the buildings? A colourful mix of apartments, hotels and offices.

Sustainable building is worthwhile

The ecology-minded building trend has already been around for some time. Take home ownership, for instance: most German home owners insist on sustainable construction.[7] On a small scale, this means well-insulated windows or water-saving bathroom or kitchen fittings. And on a grand scale? Are we talking about high-rises or complete, urban districts designed by Callebaut? Why? The global population is growing, with more and more people expected to be living in cities in future – unleashing a dramatic burden on the environment.[8] The topic of sustainability thus has permanently green traffic lights worldwide. In Hamburg, for instance, the Senate endorses rooftop greening and is now thinking of increased facade greening in order to improve micro-climatic conditions.[9] In Abu Dhabi, a complete, sustainable Masdar City is to be produced “out of thin air” in the desert sands by 2025.[10]

Sustainability no longer is simply a matter of personal convictions, but also a question of entrepreneurial calculus. This was shown in a survey taken among real estate investors.[11] 93 per cent of respondents declare their intention to take account of sustainability criteria in making their investment decisions. One of the reasons for this is that stricter legislative requirements are likely to be imposed. Sustainable buildings that easily meet the relevant requirements are thus considered to be more future-proof than conventional buildings.[12] For this reason, in the case of DWS real estate funds, for a long time now the sustainability of properties has been subjected to just as close scrutiny as conventional key figures and ratios.[13] Investors can therefore benefit comfortably from a global trend. Without having to watch Japanese animation movies like "Tenkū no Shiro Rapyuta”.

What is the proportion of Germans for whom sustainability is important when building houses?


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1. Source: Wikipedia, “Vincent Callebaut”, status as of: 2019,

2. Source: Popupcity, “Archibiotect Vincent Callebaut explains what cities can learn from rainforests”, status as of: May 2018,

3. Source: BNQ, “Les Trois Piliers De La Ville Du Futur”, status as of: June 2018,

4. Source:, „In diesem Hochhaus wachsen so viele Bäume wie im Central Park in New York“, (there are as many trees in this high-rise as in New York’s Central Park”, status as of: March 2017,

5. Source: Architectours, “Tribute to Notre-Dame by Vincent Callebaut”, status as of: May 2019,

6. Source: Vice, „Wird Paris die Smart City 2050?“ (translation) “Will Paris become the Smart City of 2050?”, status: January 2015,

7. Source: BundesBauBlatt, „Forsa-Umfrage: Mehrheit der Deutschen würde energieeffizient und nachhaltig bauen“ (Forsa survey: majority of Germans would build energy-efficient and sustainable housing”, status as of: September 2018,

8. Source: German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, (translation) “Urbanisation and Sustainable Development”, status as of: October 2016,

9. Source: Welt, „So sollen Hamburgs Fassaden grüner werden“, (“This is how Hamburg’s façades are to be made greener”, status: July 2019,

10. Source: NZZ, „Die Idee der Ökostadt kollidiert mit der Realität“ (the idea of an eco-city collides with reality), status as of: November 2017,

11. Source: UNEP Finance Initiative, “Global ESG Real Estate Investment Survey Results”, status as of: March 2019,

12. Source: Anlegen in Immobilien (investing in real estate), „So beeinflusst Nachhaltigkeit die Performance von Immobilienportfolios“ (how sustainability influences the performance of real estate portfolios), status as of: September 2017,

13. Source: Anlegen in Immobilien (investing in real estate) , „Angel One Square: Mit Nachhaltigkeit zum Weltrekord“ (Angel One Square: sustainability leading to world record), status:

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