Introducing the brand new CoreNet NorCal Sustainability Special Interest Group (SIG), led by Pierre Barral and Christina Weber.
By Amy Bradac
SIG Mission statement: To advance and support environmental sustainability and human health in the practice of corporate real estate. The group serves as a platform for collaboration, knowledge-sharing, and advocacy, fostering dialogue and encouraging the development and implementation of sustainable strategies, technologies, and initiatives. Our goal is to empower members to make a difference – and even if each of our actions are small, together we can have an impact.
Some exciting things we’re working on:
- Organizing a panel discussion about ESG co-organized with the Woman Of CoreNet, with key leaders from various company types driving ESG initiatives and changes through their organization. We’ll discuss: What are the lessons learned/ Key things to know/ and pitfalls to avoid.
- Organizing an event about new technology that can help implement and manage sustainability measures.
- Organizing a community volunteer event where members can make a difference with their own hands while bonding with fellow members.
On April 20, 2023, we hosted our inaugural event, Sustainability for the 90%, at the historic Pier 70 space, redeveloped by Orton. The event was educational and informative, with multiple speakers and case study presentations. Here is a high-level recap:
What is ESG?
A framework that helps stakeholders understand how an organization is managing risks and opportunities related to environmental, social, and governance criteria.
Pressures & Strategies:
Pressures are rising from customers, employees, investors and regulators. SEC proposing rules to require publicly traded companies to enhance climate-related disclosures for investors.
New policies and regulations are already taking effect, both at the state and local levels, with further changes to come to building codes with the goal of reducing carbon impact of buildings, especially Existing Building Performance Standards/ Existing Building Energy requirements.
What are the strategies to respond to these pressures?
Electrification: It is the key strategy to lower the carbon footprint of an existing building and to meet the new pressures.
Embodied carbon: Prioritize re-use across your portfolio, perform proactive life cycle assessments as a baseline, make informed decisions for alternate, lower-embodied carbon products.
Health and wellness: High performance buildings have a higher financial value, and investments linked to improving employee attraction, retention and productivity have a demonstrable ROI.
The good news is that there are a lot of incentives from the federal, state and local level; the biggest ones are the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) and Inflation Reduction Act (IRA).
Three Case Studies:
The first two examples vary from buildings to tenant improvement. Developers and landlords explained that to maintain the value of their assets, electrification was key, and they say that it allows them to find tenants ready to pay more for it. They see ESG impact as extending to the point where buildings not converted will become “toxic” assets. On the tenant improvement side the first and easiest strategy to lower the carbon footprint of a project is through the specification of the lower embodied carbon drywall. The next key consideration is the insulation specification, and finally, all other materials and finishes of the project.
The final case study was looking at developing Sustainable Real Estate Standards. Owners are encouraged to start with ‘The Why’ and then define the impact categories that should be covered and finally move to ‘The How’ and develop implementation and verification tools.
Key Takeaways for Success of Sustainable Real Estate Standards:
Standards are often the first step in establishing a larger real estate sustainability program. Do the work of stakeholder engagement upfront because it will pay in the end. Make sure to understand the value of the standards that you create for your company and that will hold weight with the decision-makers. Value will always be financial, but it could also include marketing benefit, employee engagement/retention, risk mitigation etc. Make it easy to understand and implement! The folks who will be implementing the standard may not have the context behind the creation of the standards, so make it easy for them to implement the standards by integrating them into their typical process.