Building and construction are responsible for 39 per cent of energy-related carbon emissions in the world, as reported in the UN Environment and the International Energy Agency’s 2017 Global Status Report. It stands to reason then that the real estate development industry must be involved in decarbonizing the economy.
That’s where Natalie Voland comes in. Through her B Corp Gestion Immobilière Quo Vadis, Ms. Voland is redefining the real estate development business model, which she sees as the biggest obstacle to the industry becoming environmentally sustainable. “Real estate is a long-term industry, and yet, everyone wants profit now,” she says. “Only projects with immediate return on investment get financing, so developers build as fast and as cheaply as possible. This throwaway culture causes environmental problems.”
Only projects with immediate return on investment get financing, so developers build as fast and as cheaply as possible. This throwaway culture causes environmental problems.— Natalie Voland, Founder and President of Gestion Immobilière Quo Vadis
As one of Canada’s 2021 Clean50, Ms. Voland has proven that a better business model is possible – one that includes caring for people and the planet and still making a profit. “When I take care of what I build, I actually have a higher occupancy rate, which gives me a better ROI,” she explains. “People see it as an either/or. I do good or I make money. But we’ve shown that you can make money doing good. We have waitlists for our buildings. People want to be part of something that matters, more so than ever before.”
Ms. Voland is not a real estate builder in the traditional sense, but rather “a builder of communities.” Her social work background gives rise to her “values-first” approach to using real estate projects as a means for community and economic development, urban regeneration and job creation.
Her company also focuses on the preservation and restoration of historically significant buildings. “It makes zero sense to demolish an older building and build a brand new one that needs to be rebuilt in 20 years,” she says. “Some of my buildings are 100 years old and will stand another 100. If you’re looking at carbon footprint, demolition causes a lot of waste. Heritage buildings are intrinsically tied to environmental remediation. We have to look at buildings as interconnected systems, not individual pieces.”
Ms. Voland’s efforts through her company and beyond are helping change the industry. For instance, she’s chairing the upcoming 2021 Montréal Real Estate Forum with a focus on environmental, social and corporate governance. “I hope what we do will motivate people to do something better than they did yesterday. They don’t have to be big changes. One drop can start a waterfall.”
Advertising feature produced by Randall Anthony Communications with Canada’s Clean50. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.