ULI: CRE Industry Reducing Energy Consumption, Carbon Emissions and Water Usage

Many commercial real estate property owners are making “significant progress” in reducing energy consumption, carbon emissions and water usage in their buildings, reported the Urban Land Institute, Washington, D.C.

ULI’s Greenprint Center for Building Performance tracked more than 5,400 properties owned by member firms and found a 3.4-percent reduction in energy consumption, a 3.9-percent reduction in carbon emissions and a 4.8-percent reduction in water use between 2014 and 2015.

“Globally, buildings account for nearly one-third of climate-changing carbon emissions,” ULI’s Greenprint Performance Report said, noting that Greenprint member firms seek a 50 percent reduction in overall building emissions before 2030. “This is a critical step toward achieving the emission reduction goals set in the L’Accord de Paris, which was agreed to by more than 190 countries.”

The Greenprint Center said energy consumed by member properties has dropped 13.7 percent since 2009. Carbon emissions from those properties dropped 16.5 percent and water usage decreased 10.6 percent. “The reductions occurred even as building occupancy rose, suggesting that greater space usage does not necessarily cause a decline in building performance,” the report said. 

The report found energy reductions across the United States despite climate and market differences. San Jose, Calif. experienced the largest 2014-to-2015 reduction in office building energy use with a 10 percent decline, followed by Houston at 9 percent, San Francisco at 7 percent and Chicago and Washington, D.C., at 6 percent. 

The report showed similar water use reductions on a city-by-city basis; in San Diego, water use by office buildings dropped nearly 40 percent.  

The favorable results suggest a broad movement within the commercial property sector to voluntarily adopt sustainable practices “because it makes good business sense under any conditions,” said ULI Global CEO Patrick Philips.

The report identified several industry trends related to reducing energy consumption and carbon emissions, including:
–Increased engagement of building tenants in energy conservation and emissions reductions practices;
–Growing interest in health and wellness at the building level and the role high-performance spaces play in promoting employee comfort and health;
–Rapidly evolving technology that connects occupants directly to buildings to facilitate use of resources only when needed, optimizing performance and reducing waste;
–Rising interest in net-zero buildings that consume only as much energy as they produce from clean, renewable resources; and
–Embedding sustainability throughout the investment life cycle by demonstrating how strong building performance can create value at every stage of the life cycle.