Strategic partners, owners and investors of real estate worldwide make up the Urban Land Institute’s Greenprint Center, a project committed to improving the relationship between all real estate and the environment. The Center is an intersection of modern building management and industry muscle drawn from CRE and finance that focuses on reducing the carbon footprint of existing buildings, which currently represent one-third of global carbon emissions, and works to achieve its carbon reduction goals through education and action.
What’s A Carbon Footprint?
A building’s carbon footprint is the amount of carbon dioxide and other carbon compounds it emits due to the consumption of fossil fuels by tenants or general building operation. Emissions from buildings make up a third of the carbon emissions across the world, and despite what daytime talk radio entertainers keep repeating, the scientific consensus is overwhelming that “greenhouse gases” and the heat exhaust from properties do add up globally to a whole host of negative environmental effects including radical weather patterns.
In business terms, addressing a building’s environmental performance is just another problem of efficiency, of finding areas where efficiency is lacking and applying sound management practices to get the numbers moving in the right direction. In short, this is the ULI Greenprint Center’s entire mission.
The Center’s latest report (full PDF available here) suggests that management is getting the job done. Cost of energy fell by 3.2% as real estate owners and managers in the Center’s portfolio also booked significant performance gains in carbon emissions reduction and energy consumption. The recycling rate picked up over eight percentage points to sit at 21.4%.
Other categories were less dramatic – the Center moved the needle on occupancy/density to the tune of a 1% increase, while water usage rose by half a point.
Getting Serious, Getting A Handle
Since our most productive economic engines are housed in commercial buildings, it falls to property owners and managers to act as stewards for that economic activity, to steer the ships and watch out for threats on the horizon. That activity is a great power and it comes with a great responsibility to do everything we can to manage the byproducts of that activity. Photos and video from cities in mainland China, choked with smog, are a stark reminder of what badly managed economic growth results in. Moments of doubt concerning carbon emissions are maybe understandable when the carbon’s invisible. But when the carbon is thick enough to where you can’t see in front of your face, it’s long past time to get serious and recognize the deepest threats to property ownership and sustained economic power come not from scientists and environmentalists, but from bad management.