The Commission President said, “If the European Green Deal has a soul, then it is the New European Bauhaus.” What does New European Bauhaus mean to you?
The New European Bauhaus is a creative and interdisciplinary initiative that connects the European Green Deal to our living spaces and experiences. People are in its very centre – it calls on all of us to imagine and build together a sustainable and inclusive future that is beautiful for our eyes, minds and souls. To me, this means creating space for art and culture in everything we do and in the places we live; a chance to be in harmony with nature and the environment now and in the future; a common understanding that inclusive communities and societies are stronger and fairer, more resilient.
It is impressive to see that the three inseparable values of the New European Bauhaus – sustainability, aesthetics and inclusiveness – mobilise enormous galvanising energy in so many people and organisations, with projects and actions mushrooming across Europe and in other countries. Their effort and enthusiasm give a soul to the institutional, regulatory and policy-making process towards a carbon-neutral economy.
How can the stock-listed real estate sector, with its unique features like transparency, liquidity and diversification, bring its strengths to this concept?
The private sector can greatly contribute to the success of the New European Bauhaus, from lifecycle thinking in industrial ecosystems to public and private spaces and the built environment. The initiative started very much bottom-up, with ideas by thousands of individuals and small-scale projects. An ever-growing number of countries, regions and cities get involved with their own local projects.
The European Commission animates a very flexible framework for initiatives to multiply and spread. One of them is the NEB Lab , which is a think-do-tank where different stakeholders can engage in actions of their choice, for example, the ongoing regulatory analysis of the challenges and opportunities in the built environment and construction sector from a New European Bauhaus perspective.
Since we opened the community for the participation of private sector actors, the NEB Friends , for-profit organisations can host their own NEB Labs and sponsor various activities. This is one area that the stock-listed real estate sector can contribute to, for example, by creating an NEB Lab to explore how the real estate sector can be better aligned with the principles of the New European Bauhaus and the areas where it can be involved such as places and the built environment, or focus on a specific issue – for example, investor reporting.
There are also many projects and ideas involving sustainable social housing, affordable and accessible building solutions and the improvement of neighbourhoods and locations where a highly diversified investment portfolio can benefit from transparency on the value created in line with the New European Bauhaus criteria while responding to financing needs. This is very much in line with the growing trend of impact financing, creating a win-win opportunity for investors, businesses and clients.
Is the New European Bauhaus a chance to add value to renovation and adapt financial tools?
In real estate, location matters. The New European Bauhaus is very much about places – improving life in urban and rural spaces, promoting the accessibility and attractiveness of public spaces, building communities and regenerating abandoned buildings. Renovation of the building stock is a big priority for the European Commission among the ambitious objectives of the European Green Deal.
The New European Bauhaus is a value-creating force: first, by focusing on people, taking a people-centric, design-for-all approach that is inclusive to all members of society, especially the most vulnerable who are most in need of energy-efficient accommodation. There is a strong social element to the Renovation Wave.
Secondly, sustainability is matched with style. Affordable, accessible, energy-saving and innovative solutions should be available on a mass scale without compromising on quality or aesthetics. Successful investments, whether public, private or both, will recognise this added value. And so will innovative financing solutions, crowd-funding and philanthropic sources, which is another domain of activity by the NEB Lab.
If you visited a redeveloped city borough in ten years’ time, what do you envisage that experience would be like?
In an optimistic scenario, we would all live in such a borough. Even today, there are neighbourhoods and communities across Europe which have embraced innovation as a pathway to sustainable living, joining arts and crafts with technology. Such places are usually open access to all who are willing to experience a different approach to everyday life, work and leisure. Seeing this in real life is very attractive – people realise that it is possible and ask themselves, why can’t I live like this too? This is starting a trend and creating demand.
In ten years’ time, one New European Bauhaus neighbourhood will necessarily differ from the next, thanks to the creativity and contribution of its residents. But a redeveloped area based on these shared values of sustainability, inclusiveness and aesthetics will certainly benefit from high-end technological solutions to improve the efficiency of public and private mobility. It will be energy-saving and energy-independent. It will enable a work-life balance thanks to proximity and connections to both the urban centres and nature. Cultural activity will be an essential part of the neighbourhood identity. Importantly, it will provide an opportunity for members of society to contribute to the community, leaving no one behind.
Policymakers have a big role to play here, and we hope to see these principles in the development strategies that places of different sizes will adopt, with the support of EU and national funding as well as private investment.