Suspect foundations: Developing an understanding of climate-related stranded assets in the global real estate sector

Kevin Muldoon-Smith, Paul Greenhalgh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)
66 Downloads (Pure)


The aim of this article is to introduce for the first time the topic of 'stranded assets' into research involving the built environment. It focuses on the idea that climate change policy could induce the stranding of some conventional property assets in the global real estate market. Principally, the empirical focus for study is the UK interaction with energy performance certificates and minimum energy performance standards. However, comparisons are made internationally, and key distinctions are made between developed and less developed countries. The article observes that stranded assets are not new in real estate; the changing consumer demand of occupiers has regularly rendered property assets redundant or obsolete. However, what is new is the influence of climate change and associated environmental policy on some property assets. The article deliberately combines conceptual agendas often studied in isolation. Theories of path dependence and lock-in are used to understand the problematic traction of climate change legislation within traditional real estate institutions. The implications of this situation, the potentially hidden systemic socio-economic reach of stranded assets, is then considered through the lens of contemporary debates of financialisation. Socio-technical system theory, as it relates to contemporary energy policy regimes, is then examined to connect persistent lock-in with financialised global investment markets. The article then posits how associated legislation could be used to capture a global picture of stranded assets in real estate. Revealing the stranded asset exposure should be a concern to real estate investors and those charged with managing such assets. However, more optimistically this potential risk may provide the catalyst for energy efficient transition in the built environment. The article concludes by outlining an interdisciplinary research agenda for stranded assets in global real estate.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)60-67
Number of pages8
JournalEnergy Research and Social Science
Early online date9 Apr 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2019


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