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Sustainable and Healthy Work Places Will Thrive, NAREE Told

DENVER — Sustainability is so ingrained in the U.S. real estate industry that President Donald Trump’s withdrawal of the U.S. from the Paris climate accord will not make a huge difference, attendees at the 51st gathering of the National Association of Real Estate Editors (NAREE) in Denver were told Thursday.

“Personally, I feel it was the wrong thing to do,” said Kurt T. Hull, senior principal, commercial architecture studio, at Houston based Ziegler Cooper Architects. “But sustainability is so entrenched in the real estate world. Leaders realize its benefits. It’s not something we have to sell people on anymore.”

Added Scott Muldavin, senior advisor to Delos, president of San Rafael, Ca.-based The Muldavin Company and 2017 chair of the Counselors of Real Estate:  “The Paris accords were only voluntary for the U.S. What is important, though, is to look at the U. S. budget, to follow the money.

A key part of our advances in energy efficiency have come from the national research labs, which are controlled by U.S. Energy Department.  Reducing funding for these research facilities and programs like Energy Star will have a negative effect on our ability to innovate and related job creation.”

Muldavin added that the U.S. was one of the few countries that didn’t sign the 1982 Kyoto Protocols. “We were 20 years behind Europe back then because we didn’t have an ethic of sustainability but that has changed significantly,” he said.

Candace Carlisle of the Dallas Business Journal moderated the Sustainable Structures and Healthy Buildings panel at the NAREE gathering, which included a wide-ranging discussion of sustainability trends including code enhancements as well as autonomous vehicles and ride hailing start-ups such as Uber and Lyft.

“A big disruption for the real estate industry will be autonomous electric vehicles. Millennials are going to drive this phenomena which will affect a number of other industries such as oil and gas, insurance and others,” Hull said.

So what will happen to all those garages that have been built? asked Carlisle.

“We can only imagine some of the future uses,” responded Hull.  “Perhaps they could be used for office space, but then you would need to think about the construction of planned garages – what the height of the floors would be, the facade, and how to make them nicer looking than the precast structures we have today.”

In addition, cities around the country are now re-examining their building codes to allow for greater energy efficiencies that will put thousands of dollars in the wallets of homeowners and stabilize power grids and costs for the community, said William Fay, Executive Director, Energy Efficient Codes Coalition (EECC).

“A decade ago, there really wasn’t a connection between a mayor’s energy policies and the locality’s building energy codes,” he added.  “Now mayors are working to change that and including building energy codes into their sustainability plans.”

Fay noted that federal buildings as well as multifamily, residential, and commercial structures are not only the largest energy-consuming sector, but they also account for 39 percent of green house gas emissions.

“Cities are going to continue to make reductions in green house gases and buildings are a key component of that,” he added. “This is a clear case where the energy savings from stronger building energy codes not only make sense from an economic perspective, but they reduce carbon emissions to boot.”

Integrating health and wellness into real estate development is also growing in importance, Muldavin added, noting Delos Living LLC is an American-based organization with a mission of actively contributing to human health, performance and well being.

Delos wants to transform the indoor environment by placing health and wellness at the center of design and construction decisions. Delos founded the WELL Building Standard based on seven years of research exploring the connection between the buildings where people spend their time, and the health and well being those buildings have on their occupants, he said.

“WELL is focused on seven categories – air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort and mind,” said Muldavin. “It is a new system, more concentrated on the individual. Nourishment is a key issue. For the health of their employees, one company wanted to get rid of snacks such as M&Ms, but the workers protested.  So the company put the M&Ms on the bottom shelf resulting a 37 percent drop in consumption! I want to see sustainably go away. I envision a future where sustainability and health become an accepted part of the definition of high building performance.”

June 16, 2017 Realty News Report Copyright 2017

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