Mirror buildings and trees

Sustainable cities: combining economic development and preservation of the planet

Mar. 12 2021

Among the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals, SDG no 11 entitled “Sustainable cities and communities” means developing inclusive, safe and resilient cities with net zero emissions. This has become essential, given that 55% of the global population lives in urban areas today and potentially 66% by 20501. How can the public and private sectors accelerate the transition toward sustainable cities? Frédéric Pergay, Senior Vice President of Buildings and Infrastructure at Bureau Veritas, shares his insights.

Although cities only occupy 2% of the world’s land, they generate about 70% of the global Gross Domestic Product, more than 60% of global energy consumption, 70% of greenhouse gas emissions and 70% of global waste. Actions can be taken in this area to lighten footprint and limit global warming. That’s why we’re talking about a “green recovery” encompassing energy, buildings and infrastructure.

Ever-growing human densities in cities constantly increase the challenges to face to ensure the health & safety of inhabitants (i.e. pollution, pandemics, natural disasters…) and searching for the most efficient environmental solutions must be combined to mitigate such risks. In addition, the unprecedented crisis that we are going through has further reinforced the needs in terms of health & safety within populations. Through its various competencies worldwide, Bureau Veritas brings technical expertise and in-depth knowledge of local regulations to help clients design, develop, and manage sustainable and smart cities and infrastructure – notably by focusing on energy savings, green buildings, waste management, circular economy and air quality.

Creating sustainable transportation solutions is also a great opportunity for the low-carbon development of cities. In this framework, implementing a sustainable urban mobility strategy requires a social and modal shift. This is already the case for electric vehicle charging stations. Our dedicated solution “ChargeScan by BV” allows to ensure EVCS network reliability thanks to information collected and verified in one single place.

Supporting change towards greener cities

One key to progress is raising awareness and supporting change. “The growing development of new practices will have a positive impact on the environment” said Frédéric Pergay. Another key is taking a holistic approach, promoting cooperation between all the major public and private stakeholders. Bureau Veritas can play an important role as an independent third party, providing a bridge between businesses, public authorities and consumers.

At the end of 2020, Bureau Veritas launched its Green Line of services and solutions to help clients in every sector to implement, measure and achieve their sustainability strategies, underlining its positioning as a “Business to Business to Society” company. The Buildings and Infrastructure global service line is logically part of this approach: in addition to site inspections, data collections and analyses, Bureau Veritas delivers strategies, recommendations and services for compliance, safety and supervision throughout the lifecycle of sustainable buildings and infrastructure. BV’s global team of experts (in civil, environmental and hydraulic engineering, energy, health and safety) brings vast experience to a diverse range of projects:

  • Urbanization: municipality support for permitting, design management review (climate resilience, seismic, natural disasters),environmental impact assessment and risk mitigation studies
  • Construction: Green Building construction materials, green work sites, and environmental and vulnerability monitoring (air, noise and water quality)
  • Operations: Environment, Health and Safety solutions to cover indoor and outdoor issues (waste management, air and noise pollution monitoring, energy carbon footprint, finishing materials, microbial monitoring and fire safety), and asset management (life cycle analysis, efficient maintenance planning and smart monitoring)

Thinking holistically, acting sustainably

Bureau Veritas’ experts provide technical assistance and certification services on major environmental remediation projects. They have contributed to inspiring initiatives from around the world, from smart city projects and reclaimed land, to new public transport networks and green refurbishment and expansion projects.

Monaco’s Portier Cove Eco-District, for example, will reclaim six hectares of habitable space from the sea, implementing innovative marine and port engineering solutions to preserve marine life, maintain water quality and reduce noise and vibration. The project will also comply with leading environmental certifications, such as BREEAM2 and Clean Ports.

Another example of where Bureau Veritas is helping to mitigate environmental damage is Grand Paris Express, a major new rapid transit network in the Paris region. “Our mission is to monitor, analyze and advise on the use of excavated soil (more than 45 millions tons!), in line with quality standards” said Frédéric Pergay. Bureau Veritas is also helping to optimize transportation by truck, train or ship, and sharing project information in real time through a specific IT solution.

In terms of Green Building, Bureau Veritas has been playing major role in the provision of technical assistance and certification services all around the world. The aim of green building certification schemes is to improve the overall quality of buildings, integrate the asset life cycle in its design and construction, and promote compliance with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. This contributes to reduce or eliminate negative impacts, and can create positive impacts, on our climate and natural environment. The way to do so may include the efficiency on the use of water and energy, the consideration of the environment in the design and construction to the use of recycled and sustainable materials. Green buildings definitely preserve precious natural resources and improve our quality of life. Bureau Veritas delivers Green Building services for different types of assets, such as hospitals, office buildings, convention centers or factories all around the globe.

Providing knowledge and expertise is keys to address the environmental impact and sustainability of Green infrastructure covering the following domains: energy consumption and carbon footprint, effects on soil, water, air, noise, landscape, biodiversity and local economy. Depending on local authorities and private stakeholders (concessionaries, contractors) priorities and maturity levels, a global approach addressing all domains and using a label like CEEQUAL3 seems most relevant, while in other cases we focus on specific topics.

Frédéric Pergay concludes, “We support our clients to develop sustainable cities, raising awareness of the environmental impact. That means thinking holistically, considering buildings and infrastructure as one. A lot of companies have embraced this wider perspective and need partners to support them. As a Business to Business to Society company, we can help them to ensure their assets are sound, efficient, safe, built to last… and sustainable.”

Discover our infographic dedicated to sustainable infrastructure


1 Source: United Nations
2 Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method
3 Civil Engineering Environmental Quality Assessment and Award Scheme