Bisnow recently held a Construction and Development event in Boston focused on emerging projects, managing costs, and leveraging technology to meet environmental, social, and governance (ESG) goals. EBI’s ESG Program Manager, Will Duggan, moderated the event’s second panel, Future Proofing Assets: Prioritizing ESG. The group covered a range of topics, including how the pandemic is changing the way the commercial real estate industry thinks about ESG, and what the key ESG considerations are for not only meeting emissions goals, but also driving long-term financial returns.
Building Health & Safety
When asked how the last 18 months have impacted the prioritization of specific ESG criteria, Mark Erba of the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI) mentioned how the pandemic has “fueled the urgency to address the health, safety, and well-being of people as a risk mitigation strategy.” The most telling statistic relating to this new reality is shown by the rapid growth of WELL, which is a performance verified framework for promoting the health, safety, and well-being of people in buildings, organizations, and communities. It took IWBI 66 months to register 600 million square feet of space for WELL Certification. It took less than six months to enroll 600 million square feet of space in the new WELL Health-Safety Rating, launched June of 2020. There is now more than 2.7 billion square feet of space enrolled, certified, or registered across WELL offerings in 98 countries.
When asked what the most important design change to existing buildings is for meeting emissions goals, Chris Gray of RENU Communities responded by citing building electrification. Building electrification aims to implement changes allowing building systems—such as domestic water and space heating—historically powered by the burning of fossil fuels to be powered by electricity. This is in addition to the benefit of improving the efficiency of MEP systems.
In recent years, ESG has shown to be a telling statistic for understanding a company’s operational efficiency. Within the analysis of ESG performance lies detailed information on how a company analyzes and accounts for risk, and their potential for long-term returns. This has become increasingly relevant in the commercial real estate space, where cities like Boston are proposing new carbon laws, such as BERDO 2.0, that will impact how the industry goes about new site builds and affect the value of existing portfolios. For this reason, investors increasingly evaluate ESG in their decision making.
One place investors look for ESG information is ESG scoring frameworks, such as the Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark (GRESB). This is one tool that companies use to determine where they stand relative to ESG benchmarks and how they can improve the operational efficiency of their portfolios.
ESG Program Manager