Climate Change and the Commercial Real Estate Industry
The built environment is responsible for nearly half of CO2 emissions. Out of the total annual CO2 emissions, building materials generate 27%, while materials and construction account for 20%, called “embodied carbon.” The vast majority — more than 50 percent! — of all carbon dioxide generated by human activity ends up in our atmosphere as heat around us every day through natural processes including extreme weather events, heat waves, and drought.
Hurley Development is an example of a CRE developer positioned to tackle climate change head-on. Located in Vancouver, Washington, a city that is known for an assertive climate action plan, Ryan Hurley, President of Hurley Development, decided that as a development company they needed to lead the way in attacking climate change. According to Ryan, “It’s more important than ever that businesses and business leaders take proactive steps towards sustainability.”
As climate crisis becomes an increasingly pressing global issue, it is more important than ever for commercial real estate developers like Hurley Development who contribute to the built environment to consider how they can help respond to the problem of climate change. There are a number of ways in which developers can make a positive contribution, from incorporating green building practices into their projects to supporting renewable energy initiatives. By strategically approaching the challenge of climate change, developers will protect the environment and also position themselves as leaders in the industry.
5 Ways Leading Developers Are Responding to Climate Change
One of the most important things that developers can do to help address climate change is to incorporate green building practices into their projects. “Green buildings” are designed and built with the intention of reducing their impact on the environment, and they can be constructed using a variety of sustainable materials and technologies. By choosing to build green, sustainable, buildings that utilize smart building technology, developers like Hurley Development in Vancouver, Washington can significantly reduce the carbon footprint of their projects and help to reduce the resource needs and climate impact of new development.
Reducing Carbon Emissions
Carbon emissions from new real estate development can be reduced in several ways. One is to choose building materials that have lower embodied carbon emissions. Another is to incorporate energy-efficient features into buildings that will reduce emissions over the life of the property. Another is to incorporate energy-efficient features into the design of buildings, including solar panels or green roofs. And, finally, developers can install on-site renewable energy systems that generate power without emitting carbon dioxide. With careful planning and preparation, including incorporating smart technology to help manage energy usage, developers like Hurley Development are reducing the carbon footprint of their projects.
Another way that developers can help respond to climate change is by supporting renewable energy initiatives. Renewable energy sources or “renewables” like solar and wind power are becoming increasingly popular as developers look for ways to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels. As the cost of building and deploying renewable energy technology continues to drop, it is becoming more feasible for developers to incorporate renewables into their projects.
Incorporating renewable energy into new development can have a number of benefits. Ryan Hurley, President of Hurley Development, says, “We love that something as simple as solar or wind power directly reduces our impact by shrinking the carbon footprint of our projects.” Additionally, it provides a marketing advantage to developers like Hurley, as sustainable initiatives are popular, and a selling point for new developments. And finally, it can help to position developers as leaders in the industry by showing their commitment to reduce the impact of climate change.
Not only that, investors are also increasingly interested in committing capital to companies whose projects have an environmentally sound strategy. These investors believe these forward-thinking business practices will keep them safe from financial risk for years to come and prepare the company better for uncertain times including economic slowdowns or natural disasters. And in today’s market it’s not only about making money – doing good is also highly valued by many thoughtful investors.
One of the most important things that developers can do to help address climate change is to incorporate water-conserving components into their projects. With excessive heat and droughts becoming more common in many parts of the world, water conservation is becoming an increasingly important issue. Ryan Hurley noted, “Look at Lake Mead, a key source of water for over 25 million people, and you realize how quickly people and our water usage can overwhelm our water sources.” Developers who incorporate onsite water reuse into their projects are not only helping to address climate change today, they are preparing their buildings and developments for a future in which water scarcity will become more common.
Pumping, treating, and heating water takes a lot of energy, so recycling and using less water helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Recycled water, whether grey water or blackwater, has many benefits. Not only is it great for plants but can be used in place of potable sources such as irrigation and toilet flushing, saving many thousands of gallons per year, along with the greenhouse gasses that would have been created from handling and processing both the clean and used water.
Reducing Resource Needs and Climate Impact
New developments have a significant impact on the environment, both in terms of the resources they consume and the pollution they generate. However, developers who plan ahead can take steps to reduce the resource needs and climate impact of their projects that make an impact, while remaining affordable within the budgets set by developers.
One way to do this is to choose building materials that have lower embodied carbon emissions. Another is to incorporate energy-efficient features into the design of the project. For example, developers can install solar panels or green roofs. And, finally, developers can install on-site renewable energy systems that generate power without emitting carbon dioxide.
Looking to the future and weighing their potential impact on the environment, commercial real estate developers like Hurley Development have a significant opportunity to help address climate change. By taking action to reduce their carbon footprint, supporting renewable energy initiatives, and conserving water, developers like Hurley Development are positioning themselves as leaders in the industry and making a real impact regarding climate change.