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Rooftop Solar’s Triple Play of Revenue, Community and Sustainability

Originally published on June 6, 2024, by Brielle Scott for NAIOP.

Rooftop and community solar projects can advance sustainability and ESG objectives, unlock a new revenue stream, enhance community relations, and boost property values. At I.CON East this week, NAIOP New Jersey CEO Dan Kennedy moderated a panel of speakers including Matt Schlindwein, P.E., managing partner for Greek Real Estate Partners; Mark Schottinger, president at Solar Landscape; and Kat West, LEED AP, director of sustainability at Turner & Townsend, to explore the transformative potential of rooftop and community solar projects for the industrial real estate sector.

Schottinger was direct from the start: “If you’ve got a warehouse, I want to lease your roof.”

Solar power, historically, meant solar panels on the roof generated power that was used by whoever was in the building, with zero potential for scalability.

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Top 30 Mid-Sized U.S. Cities for Green Commuting

Originally published on April 24, 2024 by Matthew Preston for NAIOP.

With many returning to offices, sustainable commuting options are back in the spotlight. With this in mind, a recent study from CommercialCafe explored which mid-sized U.S. cities (populations between 220,000 and 500,000) are leading the way in offering eco-friendly commutes. By focusing on this specific size range, the analysis provides insights beyond major metropolises and allows for more fair comparisons of green commuting practices.

To order to identify the leaders in green commuting, the study analyzed several key factors including public transportation ridership, walking and cycling rates, carpooling engagement, access to EV charging stations, and the promotion of pedestrian and cycling commuting with green amenities and attractive urban environments.

Read on to discover the top 30 cities and gain insights into the best performing examples of sustainable commuting in action.

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Evolving Sustainability Regulations in Industrial CRE

Originally published on March 13, 2024, by Jennifer Lefurgy, Ph.D., for NAIOP.

Understanding the ever-evolving regulations and reporting requirements around ESG can be challenging. A panel of industry experts spoke to I.CON West attendees on why these regulations are about more than compliance. They can lead to market differentiation, improved communication with tenants, and interest from global investors. 

Moderator Megan Krest, associate director of ESG at Cushman & Wakefield, asked the panelists about their work in California involving reporting and compliance. Ethan Gilbert, director of global ESG at Prologis, discussed AB 802, a California law requiring buildings over 50,000 square feet to submit annual energy consumption data to the state. 

“It’s a challenge because most industrial owners are operating under a triple net lease model, so utilities are under the direct control of our tenants,” he said. “The usage is not something the landlords have insight into, yet the state holds us accountable.” 

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ESG and Decarbonization Strategies for Industrial and Logistics Properties

Originally published on March 13, 2024, by Marie Ruff for NAIOP.

“Developers are prioritizing projects that go beyond standard building codes to deliver high-performance buildings,” said Grant Waldron, director of sustainability strategy, GAIA, moderator of a panel on ESG (environmental, sustainability and governance) and decarbonization strategies at I.CON West in Long Beach, California. He identified ESG reporting and requirements, tenant demands, operational savings and capital markets as factors driving change. 

“What excites me about ESG is that as developers, we get to communicate all the things we’re already doing well,” said Josh Cox, LEED AP, senior vice president, development, Hillwood Investment Properties. For Hillwood, this includes steps like pursuing USGBC LEED certification to have third-party verification that can communicate the company’s strong environmental and sustainability commitment.  

While the environmental piece of ESG often takes center stage, the panelists talked about volunteering as part of the social component of ESG. “It’s phenomenal what you can do for your community, with your community,” said Erin Thrash, vice president, of architecture and design, Rexford Industrial Realty, Inc. Rexford bought a hotel that the company is going to turn into an industrial facility; the company opened the doors to 11 charities for a “shopping experience” where they picked up 4,000 items from the property including linens, dishwashers, pizza ovens and more. “All of these items would have been things that we might have had to pay to demo, but instead we gave that all back to the community.” 

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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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