Surveyors must advise with sustainability in mind


As the global population grows, surveyors must ensure that while meeting the needs of the present, they do not compromise the development of future generations

Aerial view of rural fields surrounding Gloucester city, Gloucestershire, England

In the future, farmers may have to demonstrate sustainable intensification to produce more food from less land

Sustainable development is described in the Brundtland report as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”.

That seems straightforward, yet when applied to the ever-changing, increasingly populated planet we live on, creating a world that will serve this generation and the next is much harder than it sounds.

Nowhere does this idea seem more pertinent than for land professionals, who try to balance land use with development, preservation of biodiversity and food production.

One of the roles of RICS is to provide surveyors with key professional guidanceThe UN estimates that Earth’s population will reach nine billion by 2050, and the question of where all those people will live, how they will live and what they will eat are currently being asked.

The answers will come from new processes and new ways of doing things. Surveyors involved with land across the various areas of planning and development, rural, environment, minerals and waste and geomatics (mapping) will all have to master new skills to find the solutions to these pressing questions – and embrace developments in the energy arena, in particular on the land side, along the way.

The focus at the moment is on “sustainable intensification” of farming and food production. Put simply, that is getting more food from existing land while minimising pressure on the environment.

“The RICS has a large role to play here,” says Fiona Mannix, associate director at RICS. “With over 120,000 members globally, we have to make sure that knowledge about best practice is passed on through industry networks. ”

Surveyors in the UK are also focused on the idea of building long-lasting communities shaped by the people who live in them as a strong answer to the big question of sustainable development.

The UN estimates that Earth’s population will reach nine billion by 2050The key idea is “placemaking” – creating valued communities where people want to work, rest and play, which in turn have long-term economic value. Placemaking and Value, a RICS report set to be released in spring, considers successful projects in which surveyors have brought together developers’ commercial needs with what is right for the community and created long-lasting homes.

“The three pillars of sustainable development are environmental, social and economic,” says Ms Mannix. “In placemaking, surveyors are serving all these pillars by contributing to the creation of good, environmentally sound, vibrant communities where people want to live, while stimulating economic value.”

The answers to the problems of sustainability may be multifaceted and complex but new challenges will bring new opportunities. For example, there is much talk among land professionals at the moment about “ecosystem services” and while many questions remain about how all this will develop, there is undoubtedly a role for the surveyor to play, such as Payment for Ecosystem Services schemes (PES, ) and providing options to the landholders and land managers.

“The industry is constantly open to change,” says Ms Mannix. “One of the roles of RICS is to provide surveyors with key professional guidance to ensure they are equipped to provide the best value-added advice to their clients.”