Reducing Energy Consumption in CRE: ULI Report

The Urban Land Institute's Greenprint Center for Building Performance just released Volume 8 of the Greenprint Performance Report, which indicates that commercial building owners and managers are making significant progress in decreasing energy consumption, water usage and carbon emissions.
Patrick Phillips , Urban Land Institute
Patrick Phillips , Urban Land Institute

According to the latest Greenprint Performance Report from the Urban Land Institute’s Greenprint Center for Building Performance, the commercial real estate industry continues to take property sustainability seriously, and the numbers tell the story. From 2015 to 2016, Greenprint members’ property portfolios recorded an average decline of 3.4 percent in energy consumption, a 4.3 percent drop in water usage and a 3.3 percent decrease in carbon emissions.

“Greenprint continues to be an important catalyst for change, helping its members take meaningful and measurable action to advance environmental performance,” Patrick Phillips, CEO of the Urban Land Institute, said in a prepared statement. “The achievements of Greenprint’s members are inspiring a broader movement within the real estate sector to improve building performance.”

Volume 8 of the Greenprint report involved the performance analysis and benchmarking of nearly 8,700 properties totaling 1.9 billion square feet across 29 countries, with a total value exceeding $1 trillion. The assets are owned and managed by Greenprint members, a list consisting of the world’s top commercial real estate companies, including the likes of BlackRock, CalPers, Deutsche Asset Management, Grosvenor, Hines, Invesco, LaSalle Investment Management, Prologis and Tishman Speyer.

Greenprint began tracking building performance in 2009, and since then, energy consumption at members’ properties has dropped 13.9 percent, with decreases occurring each year. Water usage for the same seven-year period has declined 12.1 percent. All told, members recorded a total of $36.4 million in annual energy and water cost savings in 2016. “Through Greenprint, we are demonstrating how the built environment can contribute to energy and water conservation, and be part of the solution to climate change,” Phillips added.

There’s also been great progress in the reduction of carbon emissions, which has declined a whopping 17.9 percent since the 2009 Greenprint report. The figure is particularly notable, given that buildings are responsible for more than one-third of climate-changing carbon emissions globally. Greenprint notes that results from this year’s report suggest that the organization’s members are on track to reach their goal of reducing carbon emissions by 50 percent by 2030. It’s a target that corresponds to the goals ratified by the Paris Climate Accord, which is designed to limit global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius. 

The U.S. has certainly been doing its part. Sustainable and responsible investment in the U.S. exceeded $8.5 trillion in 2016. However, there’s a factor that may have an impact—negative or positive—on the investment growth rate. The planned withdrawal of the U.S. from the Paris Climate Accord, announced in June 2017, would result in the nation’s exit from the agreement after 2019, according to the United Nations.


Charles Leitner
Charles Leitner

A host of factors are spurring property owners and manager actions on reducing energy consumption and carbon emissions. Among the drivers, per the report, are investor mandates, which have increased significantly over the years and continue to rise. Some of the largest investors attribute certain increases in financial performance to the management of ESG: environmental, social and governance programs. Additionally, a growing number of tenants are adding sustainable building features to their list of criteria for occupancy. Global adoption of energy efficiency regulations for commercial properties has also induced change, as has independent goal setting, such as multi-property retrofits and technology upgrades.

“To adapt to evolving environmental and climate-related vulnerabilities, building owners and policy makers are thinking about ways to protect against the possibility of eroding asset value,” Charles Leitner III, Greenprint chairman emeritus, said in prepared remarks. “Leaders in the real estate industry that have committed to mitigation and adaptation strategies are already benefiting from asset value preservation and creation.”

Image courtesy of The Urban Land Institute