Zero Net Carbon Buildings Are Better Buildings: Raising the Bar on Building Performance

Session Notes by Reshma Singh

Session lead Michelle Frey (Urban Land Institute) set the session’s focus as discussing insights about  financial sustainability being the # 1 key performance indicator for net zero carbon buildings.

Brett Phillips shared interesting data points showing that net zero makes a lot of business sense. Their Unico properties portfolio comprises 25 million sq.ft. of LEED certified buildings, and half the portfolio has met Architecture 2030’s goals for 2020, while beating market returns. They acquired ‘Stone 34’ that provides the highest net operating income in the Seattle area, with a $1/sq ft energy-water profile. They constructed their LEED Platinum ‘Circa’ building in Denver below budget at market construction cost.

Eleni Reed showcased projects that are honing into the sweet spot between financial performance net-zero carbon buildings. Three of their projects are a part of the C40 Climate-Positive Development Program- Barangaroo South (Sydney), Elephant+Castle (London) and Victoria Harbor (Melbourne). Their carbon neutral strategies revolve around delivering good design, green infrastructure, and investing in carbon offsets. 

Cliff Majesrsik spoke about raising the bar on building performance since buildings are 50-70% of the carbon in cities. Energy Star buildings provide a 6-14 % premium on rentals, 2-25% on sales, and 3-10% premium on occupancy rates.  A green premium is well worth it for the health and productivity of occupants.

The projects provide proofs of concept that efficiency is good business.  Debunking myths and derisking investment are important for a trickle-down effect. The next question then is- Can developers not just design, but also operate and manage green buildings and infrastructure to close the gap between design and operations?

Session Description

Buildings that emit zero net carbon pollution in materials, construction and operations are no-regrets buildings – affordable, efficient, and healthy.  By re-using existing buildings and designing buildings to serve as "materials banks" we can reduce life-cycle carbon pollution.  By optimizing design for the local grid, we can accelerate the transition to a clean energy future.  This session will describe solutions available today with the greatest potential to scale to achieve gigaton-scale carbon pollution reductions.  Participants will help to identify the most significant barriers to scaling now, and identify approaches to overcoming those barriers.  

Session Lead: Michelle Frey, Urban Land Institute

Michelle Malanca Frey is the Executive Director of ULI San Francisco. She has two decades of built environment experience, from planning through construction, and has worked with organizations around the globe to drive the development of healthy, livable, and sustainable communities and buildings. She is a long-time member of ULI San Francisco and served as the Sustainability Committee Co-Chair for several years. Michelle’s work has included the development of green building rating systems in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Abu Dhabi. As part of her own consultancy, she advised developers and investors on the integration of sustainability initiatives and performance requirements into large-scale development projects and real estate portfolios. As Vice President of the World Green Building Council, Michelle led collaborative, global projects, including the Business Case for Green Building report and the Sustainable Cities Initiative, a partnership with C40 Cities.

Cliff Majersik is the executive director of the Institute for Market Transformation (IMT), a national nonprofit organization that is laser-focused on increasing energy efficiency in buildings to save money, drive economic growth, and reduce harmful pollution. Under his guidance, IMT is a recognized trailblazer in bringing together real estate, service providers, and government to catalyze greater investment in energy-efficient buildings. Cliff is a pioneer of energy efficiency concepts in valuation, building codes, and building performance policy. His advice is often sought on developing legislation and as a speaker and industry judge. A LEED Accredited Professional, Cliff previously served as a management consultant, started a 25-person software firm, and graduated from Williams College.

Brett Phillips, Vice President of Sustainable and Responsible Investments for Unico Properties, manages high performance green building and renewable energy projects for Unico’s real estate portfolio and third-party clients. He sets high performance design and operations standards, reduces company-wide energy and greenhouse gas emissions, invests in renewable energy, and promotes sustainability to industry and government leaders. At Unico, Brett has overseen high performance design operations projects for over 21 million square feet of LEED-certified real estate. He is chairman of the 2030 Districts Network and board member of the Seattle 2030 District, working to implement the 2030 Challenge goals in Seattle and across the globe.

Eleni Reed, Head of Sustainability, provides leadership and management oversight in developing, implementing and driving Lendlease’s corporate sustainability framework in the Americas region to create places that enrich people’s lives today and in the future. She collaborates with the business to design and build places that are environmentally efficient, promote health and wellbeing, enhance community development and deliver long term value. Prior to joining Lendlease, Eleni was Chief Greening Officer at the US General Services Administration (GSA) Public Buildings Service, where she led the integration of sustainability practices in real estate operations to create healthy, productive and environmentally high-performing workplaces for building occupants across GSA’s 370 million square foot portfolio. Past roles have included leading sustainable real estate strategy at Cushman & Wakefield and the Mayor’s Office of Environmental Coordination at the City of New York.