Japan’s real estate becomes greener

Continuity in addressing the sustainability topics will further support the development of a resilient real estate market in Japan.

March 29, 2021

Japan was classified amongst the transparent real estate markets in 2012 when JLL had started surveying factors relating to sustainability in the Global Real Estate Transparency Index (GRETI) − one of our flagship reports generated biennially. Over the years, sustainability initiatives became more mainstream with intensive efforts by public and private sectors to support the occupational and investment real estate markets. Starting with GRETI 2020, JLL included net zero carbon, resilience and wellness as components of the sustainability subindex. Japan continued to rank amongst the top-performing countries but still has room for improvement

Figure 1: Image of Future Development

Japan is no exception to the widespread adoption of Green Building certification and energy efficiency standards that is observed worldwide.

The Comprehensive Assessment System for Built Environment Efficiency (CASBEE) is a government initiative developed by the Institute for Building Environment and Energy Conservation (IBEC) to evaluate the environmental sustainability performance of new and existing buildings. The number of buildings certified by the first-class architects (qualified as evaluators by IBEC) has approached close to 1,000 as of April 2020.

The Act on Improvement of Energy Consumption Performance of Buildings, implemented in April 2016, aims to further decrease carbon emissions. More mid-sized office buildings will need to conform to the standards after revisions was announced in September 2020 and to be enforced in April 2021. The new standard sets the minimum non-housing floor area at 300 square metres, down from 2,000 square metres.

On the other hand, the adoption of a green building performance benchmark (like for most of the world) awaits implementation despite the need by domestic and international investors who recognise sustainability as an essential component for a resilient building.

The occupational market has seen the adoption of green leases increase, particularly amongst buildings owned by J-REITs, yet its representation to the total is small and only voluntary. In addition, there is room for improvement for the newly added factors of net zero carbon, resilience and wellness frameworks.

The government has set ambitious targets relating to net zero energy buildings (ZEB) for newly constructed buildings to adopt self-explanatory designs. The deadline for public buildings was 2020, and 2030 for public and private buildings. Though the target has the provision of guidelines and subsidy offerings, it remains voluntary to date. CASBEE has designed a resilience residence checklist drawing attention to a healthy dwelling and risk recognition, but it has yet to be standardised.

Finally, CASBEE’s Wellness Office Certificate, which assesses buildings and workplaces from the viewpoint of workers' health, workplace productivity and resilience, appears to be a genuine government oversight programme available to the public. However, the number of certified buildings is small (30 as of February 2021) due to its relatively recent launch, indicating the need for wider adoption.

The acknowledgement of sustainability as a key component for a better tomorrow has been gaining traction for some time. The pandemic has accelerated this trend by changing people’s values and lifestyles across the world. Policy continuity and achieving the above mentioned objectives will further promote a sustainable and resilient real estate market in Japan.