Goizueta Welcomes 'Green' Panel, New Real Estate InitiativePublished: January 16, 2008 in Knowledge@Emory
A group of sustainability experts gathered recently at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School to discuss the status and future of green development in Atlanta’s real estate industry. Hosted by Goizueta and the Urban Land Institute (ULI) Atlanta’s Young Leaders Group, the discussion, Sustainable Development and Green Building: The Economic, Environmental and Social Impacts, touched on Atlanta’s place in the national green scene. The city consistently places in the top 10 in terms of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-certified commercial buildings, but the group recognized that green building in the metro area is a mixed bag with a long way to go.
“People ask ‘How much is it going to cost [to be green]?’ when the real question is, ‘How green can you be within your given budget?’” noted panelist Greg O’Brien, a LEED accredited professional and senior vice president of Transwestern, a commercial real estate and development company. “You need numbers with dollar signs to get up the chain of command.”
There are trade-offs in going green. For instance, a client may want to build an office building with a raised access floor to allow for air distribution, but will the tenants want it? The raised floor will result in a 30% reduction in terms of heating and cooling costs, but the space will cost five dollars more per foot to build. Rent would be more, but monthly utility payments would be lower. “In my world, I have to sell upstream,” explained O’Brien, who represent tenants in the commercial real estate marketplace. “There are a lot of trade offs, but [going green] is something that needs to be done.”
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, buildings are responsible for nearly 50% of all greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. Heating, lighting, cooling and hot water draw the most energy, and how a building is constructed and the specific materials used can account for approximately 8% of the greenhouse gases admitted. (Greenhouse gases have been linked to global warming).
In Atlanta, nearly 60 projects are on line to achieve LEED-certification. Several of the city’s newer developments—such as 1180 Peachtree and Atlantic Station—are already certified. City of Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin wants that trend to continue. Last summer, the Mayor adopted the 2030 Challenge, and she hopes area developers will follow the city’s lead.
Conceived by Edward Mazria, AIA, senior principal, Mazria Inc., an architecture and planning firm in New Mexico, The 2030 Challenge urges the architectural and building community to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50% on new and heavily renovated building developments. By the year 2030, Mazria hopes all newly constructed buildings will be carbon-neutral; in other words, that they use no fossil-fuel greenhouse gas-emitting products to operate.
By adopting the 2030 Challenge, Mayor Franklin asserted that city government buildings will meet Mazria’s criteria. The Fulton County Commission voted to do likewise earlier this year, and the private sector jumped in as well. Atlanta-based Lord, Aeck & Sargent Architecture became one of the first architecture firms in the country to adopt the 2030 Challenge.
When panelist Susan Garrett, a LEED accredited professional and a project manager at Southface, an organization which promotes sustainable building, worked a booth at last year’s Earth Day celebration, she was amazed by the enthusiasm of attendees, but less than impressed by their knowledge level. “I asked why we care about using less electricity? Out of 70 or 80 people, only three could answer. Almost everybody said it was to save on their gas bill, but what about the environmental impacts? When you flip a switch, you affect climate change because most of our energy comes from coal. There’s a lot to do in terms of educating the public,” added Garrett.
For owners of older buildings, the ones that require retro-fitting to become environmentally friendly, adopting a green framework takes the most convincing. “In terms of how it impacts the tenant and the owner, they don’t see savings immediately,” explained panelist J. Andrew “Andy” Abrams, executive vice president, Servidyne, Inc., an integrated energy, infrastructure and productivity improvement company. “But simple changes like replacing an air filter—just being slightly sensitive [to the environment]—can improve the performance of any building.”
One of the first steps to improving an older building is to ensure its existing systems are in working order. According to Abrams, a building’s energy management system is often over-ridden by a building or facilities manager when a tenant complains of being too hot or too cold. Abrams worked on one such building recently. “We flipped a switch and saw 40% savings in the first month,” Abrams said.
Going green has an effect on productivity as well. Studies have shown a productivity increase in the range of 2% to 16% in green buildings. According to Garrett, there are several studies indicating productivity increases attributed to “daylighting,” or “the controlled admission of natural light into a space through windows to reduce or eliminate electric lighting,” as defined by the Whole Building Design Guide. Daylighting reduces operating costs and emissions while increasing user productivity. “We’re handing [clients] money but it’s very difficult to get people to believe we’re not selling snake oil,” said Abrams.
Two of Emory University’s own took part in the discussion, Laura Case, a university project manager, and Todd Dolson, the campus’s associate university architect. The pair catalogued Emory’s sustainability efforts, including the university’s LEED building status: Emory has five LEED-certified buildings—including the first Goizueta Business School structure (A LEED Gold Certified Existing Building), four buildings pending certification (including the Goizueta Foundation Center) and ten structures in the design process are slated for LEED certification. When these buildings are certified, Emory University will have more than two-million square feet of LEED-certified real estate.
Currently, Emory is working not only on LEED-certification, but going green in other ways. When structures are demolished to make way for new ones, the university plans to partner with a contractor that can grind the concrete onsite and use the resulting product as backfill. The university already uses leftover vegetable oil—converted to bio-diesel fuel—to run its alternative-fuel buses. There’s also a storm water study that’s looking into building cisterns for each building and possibly using the water for irrigation.
The university is also mindful of the educational opportunities in going green. “If educating [students] about the university’s buildings can change their behavior, that’s an accomplishment,” noted Dolson. “It’s one of our definite goals.”
During the event, Goizueta Dean Larry Benveniste took advantage of the occasion to announce the creation of The Real Estate Program at Goizueta Business School, explaining that the program would “strike a balance between the drive for profits and the need to consider community goals.”
As Goizueta’s real estate curriculum gets underway, newly named director Roy Black looks forward to partnering with groups like ULI and leveraging Goizueta’s ties to the Atlanta real estate market. He and Dean Benveniste intend for the Goizueta Real Estate Program to become a community resource. “We’re developing resources so we can support the real estate industry in this region,” Benveniste explained.
Thanks to a grant from an anonymous donor, Goizueta Business School will initiate its first annual real estate case competition on February 23, 2008. Five teams, consisting of BBA, MBA and law students will provide solutions to the challenge of using community land trusts for workforce housing along Atlanta’s Beltline. “This is the type of project I would like to see for future years of our case competition,” notes Black. “It involves the solution to a real estate problem that has important public policy implications. Affordable workforce housing is an issue that real estate developers will face more and more in the future, particularly with a project of the size and scope of the Beltline.” For more information on the case competition, contact Black at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo: Goizueta Business School is a LEED Gold Certified Existing Building.