Editorial continued in English


“The Spaceship Earth is powered by four uncontrolled engines: science, technology, economy and profit, each being fed by an insatiable thirst: the thirst for knowledge (science), the thirst for power (technical), the thirst for possession, the thirst for wealth[1]. » By this sentence, resulting from his latest book, French sociologist Edgar Morin encourages us to think where these insatiable engines will bring our small planet. For him, the answer is clear: “Towards the abyss[2]” is the most likely outcome.

Truth to say, if Science, technology, economy and profit can produce the best, the four motors can also produce the worst, on a planet where are happening, according to Edgar Morin, no less than seven simultaneous crises: economic, ecological, demographic, urban, rural, political and societal.


By limiting ourselves to the question of planetary resources, we know that there is no reason to prevent the Chinese, Indians and Brazilians to know a way of life comparable to that of the Americans, Europeans and Japanese. But we know that to satisfy those legitimate appetites, the Spaceship Earth will not be enough. There should be 4 to 5 Earth vessels to achieve this. The difficulty is that we have only one.

The disaster is likely. But, says to us Edgar Morin, one must believe in the unlikely, because the unlikely is possible. And he reminds us: remember, in 1941, Hitler, the leader of one of the bloodiest dictatorships that humanity has ever produced, dominated Europe, and with his militarist Japanese ally, soon the world. The disaster was likely. Convinced of this idea, Stefan Zweig and his young wife committed suicide on February 22, 1942. But the improbable happened: the invincible Wehrmacht was blocked by Russian winter and people. The turning point of the war had begun.

But, my God, what is the connection between all this history and sustainable real estate?

By the merest chance, real estate is in developed countries the problem No. 1 for three global strategic issues, which if not controlled, lead the Spaceship Earth to disaster: global warming, security of energy supply and limited natural resources.

Indeed, in developed countries, real estate represents approximately 40% of energy consumption, nearly 40% of emitted CO2 and 40% of waste. And I do not count the energy and CO2 emissions necessary, firstly for the construction, refurbishment and demolition of buildings, secondly for users’ transportation, especially when the building is not built by a transit station.

Thirst of real estate, in energy consumption, emissions of CO2, production of waste and land use, is insatiable. It is true of course on our scale in Europe, but think of China which builds each year 2 billion square meters of buildings, that is to say, every twelve months, more than half of the French existing real estate stock!


Property and construction industry actors, in Europe and in the world, often unknowingly, have a huge responsibility for the future of Spaceship Earth.


So that the Spaceship Earth remains livable, it is necessary, among other things, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 50% in the planet between 1990 and 2050. We cannot expect the same effort as ours from the Chinese, Indians and Brazilians, of which a great part of the population lives in misery and who, unlike us, have produced few greenhouse gas emissions over two centuries.  Developed countries (Europe, North America, Japan …) must lower emissions of around 80%.

To achieve this goal, we should ensure that any new building will be, within the next nine years, a zero energy building, as required by the EU Energy Performance of Buildings Directive n°2010/31/UE of May 19, 2010.


And, much more difficult, CO2 emissions produced by real estate stock should decline, between 1990 and 2050, by roughly 90%, as requested in the draft Communication entitled ” A roadmap for moving to a low carbon economy in 2050″, published on February 9, 2011 by Connie Hedegaard, European Commissioner for Climate Action.


All this is highly unlikely!

Believe in the unlikely. Because unlikely is possible.



[1] « La Voie, Pour l’avenir de l’humanité ». Edgar Morin. Fayard. 2011. Page 28.

[2] Which is the title of a previous book by Edgar Morin: « Vers l’abîme ? ». Edgar Morin. L’Herne. 2007.