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Advancing ESG Performance in the Built Environment

Originally published on October 19, 2023, by Brielle Scott for NAIOP.

There are myriad key considerations involved in developing a successful, comprehensive ESG strategy, including meeting evolving investor and tenant demands, global drivers for ESG performance and expectations, the most pressing climate risks and their financial implications, emerging regulatory guidelines, green financing options, and more.

A panel at CRE.Converge this week moderated by Breana Wheeler, director of operations – U.S., BREEAM USA, discussed overarching ESG trends that are increasingly impacting building operations and development. Panelists included Heidi Creighton, FAIA, vice president, sustainability, Skanska USA Commercial Development; Anita Jeerage, LEED AP BD+C, WELL AP, vice president, sustainability and ESG, Unico Properties LLC; Daren Moss, principal, ESG – real estate lead, Ares Management; and Katie Zilka Hanson, vice president, client success, RE Tech Advisors.

Wheeler kicked off the conversation with a question to the panelists: What are the key drivers behind ESG initiatives today?

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Understanding Carbon Goals and Approaches for Developers

Originally published on October 20, 2023, by Logan Nagel for NAIOP.

As investors and occupiers look to improve the sustainability of their investments and operations, decarbonizing the built environment is an increasingly important real estate decision.

In a panel at this week’s NAIOP’s CRE.Converge conference, sustainable building professionals explored some of the strategies their firms are using to mitigate carbon emissions across their industrial real estate portfolios. Nate Maniktala, LEED AP BD+C, MBA, a principal at building consultancy BranchPattern, moderated the panel and began by addressing the scope of the need for sustainable building methods.

According to Julia Wattick, AIA, LEED AP ND, Fitwel Ambassador, a senior associate and team lead at BranchPattern, there are two broad types of carbon in buildings: Embodied carbon from the building’s entire lifecycle and operational carbon from building use. “There are actually seven years of operational carbon emissions that typically equal that upfront embodied carbon impact,” she said. Out of that embodied carbon, concrete is the leading emissions culprit, accounting for over 11% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

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Steps to Reduce Embodied Carbon Emissions in Industrial Real Estate

Originally published on October 17, 2023, by Nate Maniktala, LEED AP, MBA for NAIOP.

Commercial real estate leaders who are looking to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the construction of new industrial buildings can make use of new measurement tools, data and information, including from the “Embodied Carbon in U.S. Industrial Real Estate Benchmark Survey.” Now that the first article in this series covered the basics of embodied carbon emissions, where they come from, the environmental impact, and the importance of measuring the impact associated with building materials, this piece will focus on steps to achieve a lower embodied carbon footprint.

While the steps to lowering the embodied carbon footprint of a project or portfolio are simple, they are not necessarily easy:

  1. Establish a baseline by conducting an embodied carbon study.
  2. Change design standards and material tracking requirements.
  3. Build differently.
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The Impact of Proposed Air Quality Control Measures in Albuquerque

Originally published on July 18, 2023, by Rhiannon Samuel for NAIOP.

A new proposed rule change to how air quality permits are issued in the Albuquerque metro has many economic development organizations, associations and businesses very concerned. While the goal of protecting vulnerable communities and improving air quality is necessary, we must also carefully consider the impact of rigid regulations on economic development.

Proposed Rule Change: An Overview

In November 2022, several local activist organizations submitted a letter and proposed rule change to the Albuquerque/Bernalillo Air Quality Control Board, aiming to address the concentration of air pollution in low-income and minority neighborhoods. The proposed changes grant the board the authority to enforce greater emission monitoring and reporting requirements than what the Environmental Protection Agency requires on any entity emitting air contaminants. It also circumvents the board’s decision and appeal process to automatically deny certain permit applications. Those triggers to automatically deny applications include areas that will impact an “overburdened community,” where if one characterization is true, then the permit cannot be approved.

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ESG and Decarbonization: Achieving Ultimate Success in Industrial

Originally published on June 8, 2023, by Kathryn Hamilton, CAE for NAIOP.

Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) and decarbonization initiatives can yield significant advances across the industry, from the important climate benefits to improved investor and community relations. While these are not new concepts – the first solar panels date back to 1954 – they are fresher to commercial real estate as owners and developers evaluate how to retrofit existing properties and incorporate elements of sustainability into their projects.

A panel of commercial real estate ESG leaders took to the stage at I.CON East this week to share how their companies have embraced these goals and moved them forward to benefit both their businesses and the communities where their properties are located.

“There’s a big drive to decarbonize in every industry, with companies tracking greenhouse gas emissions and making disclosures” said David Crist, CEM, director of sustainability with ARCO Design/Build. “Scope 3 [the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s forthcoming guidelines on measuring emissions that are the result of activities from assets not owned or controlled by the reporting organization, but that the organization indirectly affects in its value chain] will have a big impact but is yet unknown. At ARCO, we’re looking at embodied carbon, or the emissions from the materials going into the building. Ninety percent of a building’s emissions are embodied, and the other 10% are operational.”

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Advancing Sustainability Goals Using Data and Benchmarking

Originally published on October 12, 2022, by Ian P. Murphy for NAIOP.

Pressure to satisfy environmental, social and governance (ESG) goals among companies in the commercial real estate sector has intensified during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to panelists at CRE.Converge.

External pressure is building as local governments establish environmental benchmarking ordinances. But even where regulatory demands and tenant awareness are lacking, boards and investors are asking their firms to do more. “A lot of it is internal,” said Leslie Moore, senior vice president and director of ESG and corporate operations for LXP Industrial Trust. “Certain investors really push for it.”

“We don’t have a lot of pressure from our tenants to adopt sustainability as much as I’ve seen in the office sector,” said Rielle Green, director of ESG for Acadia Realty Trust, a retail REIT. “That’s coming from our investors and board. They ask, ‘What is our strategy? Are we in line with our peers?’”

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