Built environment and climate change

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There is a growing link between the sustainability credentials of a building and its investment value. Environmental issues are going to become more and more important every year as we approach 2050 and as the global investment market takes a more stringent approach to green investment.

Going green is not just rhetoric. The legal framework is complex, both in terms of strict legal requirements and in how owners and occupiers apportion obligations, risks and responsibilities in the legal documents that govern their relationships. At Stephenson Harwood, we have been at the forefront of legal developments in the sustainability field. 

Most landlords and tenants are keen to ensure that their leases are modernised so that they take energy efficiency and other green issues into account. We have advised several large institutions on the changes that they should make to their standard letting documents, which have contributed to their “ESG” (“Environmental and Social Governance”) benchmark return performance.

As well as directly impacting the value of properties, an awareness of green issues can also help reduce financing costs, as “green loans” can be obtained at preferential rates.

How we can help

Our real estate, planning and construction team help to support our clients to meet the need for change with innovative and future-proof solutions. We recognise that this can range from day-to-day advice that is market compliant to developing long-term strategies which help you to meet the ESG agenda that presents both challenges and opportunities to the built environment industry at large. 

We also provide tailored advice for real estate funds and real estate finance with credible market knowledge of green and social impact loans for the real estate and construction sector.

We can help you with:

  • strategic planning advice, including advising on permitting and environmental impact assessment issues such as air pollution, nature conservation and noise
  • helping you to set environmental and sustainability or wellness-oriented goals and how to meet them
  • major redevelopment projects
  • submission of planning applications
  • considerations of construction methods, including the use of sustainable materials, promotion of renewable energy and the reduction of CO2 emissions
  • planning appeals and inquiries
  • retrofit and design of energy efficient buildings
  • litigation, including judicial and statutory reviews challenging the grant and refusal of consents and adoption of policy
  • landfill taxes and climate change levy
  • product regulation: offering practical advice in relation to European legislation such as REACH, WEEE and RoHS
  • renewable energy environmental and construction support: advising on the development and construction of wind farms, solar farms, biofuel and biomass projects, waste–to-energy and nuclear power stations (see our advice tailored to renewables and alternative energy here)


An international bank

Advising on a proposed loan to a fund set up to buy office buildings and develop them to make them more energy efficient.

A commercial real estate company 

Advising on green bond issues.

North London Waste Authority 

Advised on all real estate aspects of its PFI and ERF projects.

Corporate purchaser 

Advising on the real estate aspects of the acquisition of two battery storage projects.

Joint enterprises 

Advising on joint enterprises between local authorities and developers in the context of town centre regeneration projects.

Green real estate development loans

Advising a newly established fund for residential development loans, including advice on green loans.

An international bank

Advising on a proposed loan to a fund set up to buy office buildings and develop them to make them more energy efficient.

Home REIT Plc

Acting on the IPO of Home REIT Plc, a real estate investment trust dedicated to investing in a portfolio of homeless accommodation in the UK, targeting a wide range of subsectors within homelessness including women fleeing domestic violence, people leaving prison, individuals suffering from mental health or drug and alcohol issues and foster care leavers.

Schroder BSC Social Impact Trust Plc

Acting on the IPO of new investment company Schroder BSC Social Impact Trust Plc, a joint venture between Schroders and Big Society Capital, which aims to provide investors with access to high-impact investment solutions, aiming to help alleviate some of the country’s most pressing social challenges.

Schroder British Opportunities Trust plc 

Advising Schroders in relation to the launch of new investment company Schroder British Opportunities Trust plc, which focusses on supporting British business during the pandemic, but with a particular focus on ESG company engagement and companies with business models which are considered to be sustainable in terms of both the longevity and durability of their businesses and their environmental, social and governance behaviours.

US manufacturer

Acting for a large manufacturer of domestic and leisure goods, based in the USA, in relation to its compliance duties under the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) regime.

Circuit of Wales

Acting for the developer of the £315 million motorsport facility in relation to its application for planning permission, dealing with EIA issues such as noise, visual impacts and ecology management.

Mergers and acquisitions

We have acted on numerous M&A transactions for buyers, sellers and target companies, in relation to the transfer of environmental liabilities, including complex indemnity and insurance arrangements.