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Towards Sustainable Real Estate in a Circular Economy

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 December 2020

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Summary

INTRODUCTION: TOWARDS FUTURE-PROOF PROPERTY LAW

1. PROPERTY LAW FOR THE FUTURE – The history of property law dates back thousands of years, making it one of the most ancient fields of law. As soon as the hunter-gatherer became a settled farmer, needing land to cultivate, to hold cattle on and, basically, to live on, it became important to determine which assets belonged to whom. The most important of these assets was – and in some regions of the world still is –, of course, land. This historic origin, with land at its core, still determines many parts of property law. The adagium ‘res mobilis, res vilis’, for instance, still resonates throughout many parts of the French- Belgian Civil Code from 1804: a movable is a vile thing and the only asset really worth regulating is land. The same is true for other principles, for instance the unity principle: what is united with the land in a durable manner is considered to form one object with that land. The objectives pursued by this principle, such as legal certainty, value preservation, etc., remain very valid, but that does not necessarily mean that these principles must still be interpreted in exactly the same way as before or that these principles are the only way to pursue those objectives. After all, society changes and the principles should change along, exactly to assure that they still pursue the same objectives in the best thinkable way.

This paper concerns one major change in society that will probably dominate the 21st century: the advent of the notion of ‘sustainability’. The Oxford Dictionary defines sustainability as ‘the ability to be maintained at a certain rate or level’ and ‘the avoidance of depletion of natural resources in order to maintain an ecological balance’. In the past few decades, sustainability has become ever more important as an objective that forms part of the global policy to tackle climate change and to corroborate to protect our planet for the future. One of the most interesting and promising sustainability projects that is currently sky-rocketing is the Circular Economy, which forms the core topic of this contribution and the essentials of which will be analyzed below.

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Publisher: Intersentia
Print publication year: 2020

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