CPE’s Stars to Watch 2019: Frontman for Responsible Investments

Brett Phillips has dedicated his career to sustainable and responsible investments.

Brett Phillips, 32

Vice President, Sustainable & Responsible Investments, Unico Properties

Brett Phillips oversaw more than 21 million square feet of LEED-certified real estate since joining Unico 11 years ago. Image courtesy of Unico Properties
Brett Phillips oversaw more than 21 million square feet of LEED-certified real estate since joining Unico 11 years ago. Image courtesy of Unico Properties

Brett Phillips has dedicated his career to sustainable and responsible investments. Last year, he raised $100 million in private equity for Unico Properties’ plans to deploy solar energy on more than 15 million square feet of commercial roof space through its subsidiary Unico Solar Investors. The solar facilities generate a 20-year lease income for real estate owners while allowing them to access renewable power and monetize underutilized space. His work has led to a growth in Unico’s overall business by creating new services that equal roughly 5 percent of all corporate revenue.

His eco-focused approach was sparked while doing an internship at the King County Executive’s office in college. There, he figured out the connection between climate change and real estate. “The fact that about 40 percent of greenhouse gas emissions come from the built environment really stimulated me to combine my passion and interest in real estate with a very important goal: trying to mitigate the impact of climate change,” Phillips said.

Phillips joined Unico Properties in 2008, right after graduating from The College of William & Mary. At Unico, he manages high-performance green building and renewable energy projects for the company’s portfolio and third-party clients. Phillips’ sustainability work goes beyond his full-time job. He also co-founded the Seattle 2030 District nonprofit, in partnership with the city of Seattle, for implementing the 2030 Challenge, which he authored. The program aims to reduce water and energy consumption in new construction and major renovations.

“The 2030 District Network has 500 million square feet that are actively committed to the 2030 Challenge and its goal to decarbonize the built environment. It is now active in 23 North American cities, and we started 10 years ago here in Seattle as a startup nonprofit,” Phillips said.

Biggest Mentors: His parents and paternal grandparents (grandfather John Phillips was an architect and grandmother Marjorie was an interior design writer for The Seattle Times); Elizabeth Willmott and Jim Lopez, whom he met during his internship with the King County Executive’s office; Margot Crossman and Brian Pearce at Unico; and Ed Mazria, founder of Architecture 2030. “I need to call him more of a hero than a mentor,” Phillips noted.

What You Didn’t Know About Him: “At one point, I had an interest in politics. I ran for the Washington State House of Representatives in 2012—unsuccessfully.”

What Others Say About Him: “Brett Phillips is one of the brightest and most talented up-and-coming CRE professionals in the Seattle area marketplace. He has created a unique offering in the solar energy space and is currently working with several large investment firms and Fortune 500 companies to deploy his solar energy platform across their real estate portfolios.”—David Milloy, Founder & President, The Maclure Co.

Meet the rest of CPE’s Stars to Watch for 2019—commercial real estate’s top young talent.