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Dublin's Docks Could Become A 'Bathtub' Due To Climate Change

EY's Stephen Prendiville, Henderson Park's Ronan Webster, MurrayTwohig's David David Twohig, IRES' Margaret Sweeney, Property District's Carol Tallon

Ireland’s property investors have been warned that their investments could be underwater by the end of the century if climate change isn’t addressed.

Dublin’s docks could become one “giant bathtub” with obsolete offices if climate change isn’t addressed, property managers have been warned. 

Speaking at Bisnow’s ESG Agenda event in Dublin, the head of sustainability for EY Ireland, Stephen Prendiville, gave a stark warning of the scale of impact that could hit Dublin’s docklands if worst-case scenarios of climate change are born out over the rest of the 21st century.

“It’s very interesting when you talk about long-term value for everybody that has a building down here in the docklands," Prendiville said. "I don't think they [developers] are thinking about the fact that it [Dublin’s Docklands] would be in the water in 2100 and that we actually can't do anything about that.”

Prendiville gave the warning as part of a panel discussion on the impact of ESG trends in real estate, noting the latest report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which outlined the changes needed to stem rising carbon emissions. 

“We could probably build a big wall [around Dublin]. But that's about it. And we'll make this a bathtub at some point,” Prendiville said.

“I can tell you now that nobody that built [schemes] here cares that the building will be obsolete. They [the buildings] will not be functional in their current state.”

Prendiville noted that there was a “massive” amount of real estate stock that at present was not fit for purpose in ESG terms. However, the business case to overhaul existing buildings did not necessarily stack up at present. 

The IPCC report published in April this year noted that buildings needed to be adapted for future climate change, with sea level rises expected to put pressure on coastal cities. Other major risks for real estate include global heatwaves and cold spells, which will mean that buildings need to be designed to withstand more extreme weather.

The real estate sector in Ireland is still grappling with the impact that ESG may have on the investment environment. 

“The reality is that our directors ask for four things. Are we breaking the rules or are we compliant? Two, can we get money? Three, can we lease it, and four, can we sell it?” Henderson Park Asset Management Director Ronan Webster said.

“I started in this industry in 1992 and Dublin had 10M SF of office space, and now it has around 45M SF of space. Only 17% of that is near net-zero energy building.”

Webster told Bisnow last month that real estate investors may need to accept lower returns when making older buildings ESG compliant if they and Ireland are to commit to meeting climate goals.

“Of the things to ensure we are really tackling embodied carbon, first and foremost is having capacity in industry to be able to measure it and understand where those hot spots are in terms of embodied carbon,” CBRE Ireland’s Head of Sustainability Rachael McGinley said, noting that at present the real estate and construction sectors did not fully understand the scale of the emissions they emit.

“Then we need the materials in the market that can actually reduce that [carbon emissions] by the maximum amount, such as special mixes of concrete or looking at new timber.”