sustainable

The Financial Analysis of a Deep Sustainable and Resilient Retrofit

PJ Pictureby Paul L. Jones, CPA, LEED Green Associate, Principal,
Emerald Skyline Corporation

According to a guide to the energy retrofit market entitled “Deep Energy Retrofits: An Emerging Opportunity” and published by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) in conjunction with the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), “Energy efficiency in existing buildings is most often addressed by upgrading dated engineering systems such as lighting and HVAC systems with better performing technologies… A design-centered, holistic approach to a retrofit, in which all the interactions in a building’s systems are considered can yield substantially higher energy savings. Retrofits of this type, called deep energy retrofits, aim for energy savings upwards of 50%.”

A green or sustainable building refers to both the real estate (land, building, fixtures, furniture and equipment) and its maintenance, or the use of processes that are environmentally responsible and resource-efficient throughout its life cycle (e.g., site planning, building design, construction, occupancy and operation including maintenance and renovation, and, finally, demolition. In our corporate brochure, we state that “A facility made sustainable by Emerald Skyline Corporation will have a small carbon footprint, high occupant comfort, limited environmental impact and conserved natural resources.”
Accordingly, a deep sustainable retrofit, hereinafter referred to as a “Deep Retrofit,” is designed to lower energy, water and waste disposal bills as well as operating, maintenance and insurance costs with increased marketability and higher long-term values due to a higher tenant capture rate resulting in premium occupancies and rental rates as well as reduced risk resulting in a lower cap rate upon sale. Other benefits include improved employee health, productivity and satisfaction from improved indoor environmental quality.

With recognition of the increasing importance of resiliency in the ability of a building to survive and recover from a catastrophic event, any Deep Retrofit should also include improvements that reduce a building’s vulnerability and risk due to stronger winds, higher storm surge, more frequent flooding, wild fires and other natural hazards that threaten our families, livelihoods, businesses and properties.

As a Deep Retrofit represents a significant modernization of a facility during which over 50% of the building is renovated, the optimum time to implement a Deep Retrofit is upon acquisition, to improve a building that suffers from significant vacancies, to reposition or repurpose a building, pursuant to a new lease (or renewal thereof) to a major tenant or timed to certain events in a property’s life cycle. A Deep Retrofit is a tremendous catalyst for a building’s comeback.

According to Jack Davis in a 6/14/2012 article entitled “Energy-saving Deep Retrofits published by the Urban Land Institute, “Deep retrofits are part energy efficiency project, part real estate project, and can be daunting in their cohesive nature. However, in a 2011 study the New Buildings Institute found that “in most projects, the cost of the efficiency portion was not distinguishable due to the renovation nature of the work.

Mr. Davis makes another valid point: “Psychologically, Deep Retrofits are simply more inspiring that a piecemeal approach. They they do not occur by accident; they imply the involvement of a capable team with a plan and the technical abilities to pull it off. They grab our attention in a unique way. In the competition to secure and retain tenants, with buildings certified under the LEED program becoming the norm in some markets, deep retrofits offer a gut-level indicator that this building is different.”

Study after study (see our Sustainable Benefits article “Welcome to Sustainable Benefits – Let’s begin with the benefits of doing a commercial building sustainable retrofit” February 2015) provides evidence that a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) or Energy Star certified building produces returns beyond those realized from energy savings alone. Therefore, it only makes sense that the financial analysis of a Deep Retrofit should extend beyond the capital budgeting approaches presented in our September eNewsletter.

RMI defines Deep Retrofit Value (DRV) as “the net present value of all of the benefits of a deep energy or sustainability investment.” In the case of a Deep Sustainable Retrofit, the analysis includes a calculation of the change in market value resulting from the implementation of the Deep Retrofit, which is based on the income approach to value in a full property valuation.

The first step in the analysis of a Deep Retrofit is to perform a diagnostic assessment of the Building. The assessment will include:

  • Gain an understanding of the building’s historical performance through an analysis of existing usage of, and expenditures for, energy, water, building maintenance and cleaning supplies as well as tenant behavior
  • Perform a sustainability audit of mechanical, electrical, plumbing and other building systems as deemed appropriate which includes an estimate of the capital investment required as well as a forecast of future utility, maintenance and operating cost savings,
  • Evaluate internal environmental quality, waste disposal practices, purchasing and other operating policies, procedures and practices which will also include a calculation of any savings or incremental costs realized as a result of the Deep Retrofit; and
  • Determine the resiliency of the property by ascertaining the building’s ability to absorb and recover from actual or potential adverse effects of stronger storms, higher storm surge, wildfires and more frequent flooding.

The next step is to complete what RMI refers to as a “Value Element Assessment” which is designed to identify the potential types of value that may be created by the Deep Retrofit. The four key elements of added value are:

  1. Retrofit Development Costs: As noted in the capital budgeting process in our article on the Capital Budgeting Analysis of a Sustainability Project, any direct and indirect savings are measured against the capital cost to be incurred. The Retrofit Capital Cost Equation is as follows: Gross capital cost less avoided capital costs less cost savings through design less cost subsidies, rebates and incentives equals Retrofit Capital Costs
  2. Energy and Non-Energy Operating Costs: The first financial benefit from a Deep Retrofit will appear in the utility bills as both the wattage consumed and the amount of peak-demand billing that is avoided will result in an immediate reduction in the electric and gas bills as well as the water bill. Non-energy operating cost savings are realized from new technology, improved performance information and operating savings from reduced maintenance requirements, and, including resiliency measures in the Deep Retrofit is anticipated to result in reduced property, flood and hazard insurance expenses. Also, a Deep Retrofit will enable a building owner to comply with current and future regulatory reporting requirements due to automated benchmarking data collection.
  3. Rental Revenues: According to a primer for building owners and developers published by the Appraisal Institute in conjunction with The Institute for Market Transformation, Deep Retrofits have the potential to improve tenant-based revenues which are those revenues generated when building owners are able to monetize enhanced demand resulting from the Deep Retrofit.
    • “In many markets, rental premiums are emerging in green buildings as many of today’s best tenants are increasingly willing to pay a premium for green spaces… National studies for commercial office buildings back up this trend on rents and occupancy, as certified green buildings outperform their conventional peers by a wide margin (According to recent studies, the premium can range from 2% to 17%).
    • “Occupancy premiums can lead the case for green investments. If it can be determined that the green features will result in higher occupancy (through market research) than an otherwise similar building, a significant argument can be built for increases in value (from a reduced vacancy factor). Further, a LEED-certified building will attract demand from governmental agencies, Fortune 500 companies, major banks and insurance companies and other tenants who have corporate sustainability guidelines.
    • “Savings may be experienced as a result of tenant retention and the corresponding reduction in lost rents, reduced retrofit costs upon releasing spacer, lower vacancy at turnover and improved lease terms.
    • “Along with this improved occupancy premium, quicker absorption may be experienced in new properties or those that have been repositioned as green.”

While the calculation of the increased income is the same as for a traditional building investment analysis, the determination of the key assumptions requires extensive market research to support the assumptions which are input into a discounted cash flow model, like ARGUS® Valuation DCF.

  1. Sales Revenue Premium: Increased property values are realized from the higher net operating income realized due to reduced expenses and increased tenant revenues, lower capitalization and discount rates which result from risk-mitigating protections sustainable and resilient buildings provide property owners and banks, higher quality tenants, and increased investor demand. Recent surveys show that green commercial buildings trade at a premium ranging from 6% to 35% depending on the certification and the market. Studies have shown that capitalization rates for Energy Star and LEED-certified buildings are between 50 and 100 basis points lower than those for brown buildings.

Since the analysis is to determine the premium due to sustainability and resiliency improvements made to a commercial building. To complete this analysis, it requires the creation of a Cash flow projection under two scenarios:

  1. Baseline: A baseline projection is prepared based on the property in its current operating condition and market position; and
  2. Post-retrofit: This projection incorporates the retrofit development costs, the reduced operating expenses, the premium rental revenue and the any anticipated reduction in cap rate.

The difference in net operating income and the reversionary value is discounted based on the risk profile of the property and the investment to determine the value add from completing the Deep Retrofit.

The benefits of a Deep Retrofit can be significant!

With over 30 years of experience in acquisition due diligence, property valuation and cash flow forecasting as well as the ability to conduct the diagnostic assessment and create a Deep Retrofit program and budget, Emerald Skyline is uniquely qualified to be your advocate in planning, analyzing and executing your sustainable and resilient retrofit project.

Sustainable Building Design

Julie
By Julie Lundin, LEED AP ID+C,
Principal, Emerald Skyline Corporation

Our project in Boca Raton is being designed to become a LEED certified building. The U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green certification system is a tool for evaluating and measuring achievements in sustainable design. LEED consists of a set of perquisites and credits with specific requirements for obtaining points in order for a building to become LEED certified.

Many people are not familiar with the concept of sustainable design and how it relates to building construction and ongoing building operations. The built environment impacts our natural environment, our society and our economy. This concept is often referred to as the 3 P’s, people, planet and pocketbook. Sustainable design attempts to balance the needs of these areas by integrating design solutions.

EPA

EPA 2004

The main objectives of sustainable design are to reduce or avoid depletion of natural resources such as energy, water, and raw materials; prevent environmental damage caused by buildings and their infrastructure; and create livable, comfortable and healthy interior environments.

Sustainable design does not just apply to new construction; retrofitting of existing buildings should be an option and can be more cost-effective than building a new facility. With our project, we opted to retrofit as well as reposition an existing building rather than allowing further decay of the property or demolishing it and building new. My future posts will focus on specific details and products that we will utilize in our sustainable design process.

While the definition of sustainable building design continues to evolve, according to the Whole Building Design Group (WBDG) Sustainable Committee there are six fundamental principles that persist. References to some of our sustainable design solutions that will be written in upcoming posts are included below in the fundamental principles.

 

Optimize Site Potential

Creating sustainable buildings starts with proper site selection, including the reuse or rehabilitation of existing buildings.

  • We chose a contaminated site and remediated the property.
  • The project is an abandoned auto body garage that will be repurposed rather than demolished.

Location, orientation, and landscaping of a building affect ecosystems, transportation methods, and energy use.

  • A south facing orientation will enable us to harness solar energy and utilize the sun for daylighting within the structure.
  • Proximity to major bus and train lines provides alternative transportation.
  • The use of native plants and rainwater collection

Optimize Energy Use

It is essential to find ways to reduce energy load, increase efficiency, and maximize the use of renewable energy resources.

  • Solar energy via solar panels
  • LED lighting
  • Daylight Harvesting
  • Energy efficient windows, appliances, and HVAC

Protect and Conserve Water

Fresh water is an increasingly scarce resource; a sustainable building should use water efficiently, and reuse or recycle water for on-site use.

  • Cistern and water collection
  • Low flow toilets, sinks, and appliances
  • Grey water use where allowed

Optimize Building Space and Material Use

Available resources are stressed to due demands for additional goods and services. A sustainable building is designed and operated to use and reuse materials, environmentally preferable materials have a reduced effect on human health and the environment.

  • Shared uses for small building space
  • Low VOC paints, sealants and adhesives
  • Use of reclaimed wood

Enhance Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ)

The IEQ of a building has a significant impact on occupant health, comfort, and productivity. A sustainable building maximizes daylighting, has appropriate ventilation, moisture control, optimizes acoustic performance, and avoids the use of materials with high-VOC emissions.

  • Low VOC paints, sealants and adhesives
  • Flush out building before occupancy
  • Thermal Comfort Control
  • Provide quality views

Optimize Operational and Maintenance Practices

Encourage optimal operations and maintenance systems during the design and development phases, specify materials and systems that simplify and reduce maintenance requirements; require less water, energy and toxic chemicals. Include meters to track sustainability initiatives, reductions in energy and water use and waste generation.

  • Energy and water metering
  • Recycling Waste Plan
  • Building Envelope Commissioning

 

Utilizing a sustainable design philosophy encourages decisions at each phase of the design process that will reduce negative impacts on the environment and the health of the occupants, without compromising the bottom line. It is an integrated, holistic approach that encourages the balance of people, planet and pocketbook. An integrated approach of sustainable design should positively impact all phases of a building, including design, construction and operation.

Sources:

http://www.wbdg.org/design/sustainable.php

 http://www.gsa.gov/portal/content/104462

If the benefits of a sustainable retrofit are so robust, why isn’t everyone doing one?

PJ PicturePaul L. Jones, CPA, LEED Green Associate, Principle, Emerald Skyline Corporation

A sustainable retrofit includes replacements and upgrades that result in lower energy, operating and maintenance costs as well as improved occupant satisfaction. A sustainable facility will have a small carbon footprint, limited environmental impact and conserves natural resources. They can range from replacing conventional lights to LED bulbs, adding motion-control switches and installing low-flow water fixtures to installing a green roof, replacing the building skin and adding solar panels to all of the above.

When you fully understand the economic benefits of doing a sustainable retrofit which include lower expenses and rent and occupancy premiums resulting in higher NOI as well as reduced cap rates resulting in higher long-term values, you realize how few property owners, managers and tenants have actually made the decision to pursue an upgrade of their building(s), it initially does not compute a United Nations Environmental Program Finance Initiative Investor Briefing entitled “Unlocking the energy efficiency retrofit investment opportunity” reports:

  • Buildings with the Energy Star label had significantly stronger performance than similar unlabeled buildings: 13.5% higher market values, 10% lower utility costs, 5.9% higher Net Operating Income (NOI) per square foot, 4.8% higher rents and 1% higher occupancy rates.
  • A study using Co-star data concluded that LEED-certified buildings and Energy Star rated buildings versus non-rated buildings had 8% higher effective rents (a function of both the rental amount and the occupancy rate) and a 13% sales price premium.

See also my article, “Welcome to Sustainable Benefits – Let’s begin with the benefits of doing a commercial building sustainable retrofit” for additional survey results and case studies that demonstrate the results building owners and managers have realized.

In a 2012 study by The Rockefeller Group and Deutsche Bank Climate Change Advisors, however, reported that approximately $72 billion in capital is needed to be invested in sustainable retrofits to effect profitable energy efficiency in the existing building stock. However, the total spent in 2012 was just $1.5 billion.

Once you understand the relative perspective of the stakeholders in both the investment and the benefits, the resistance to effecting a sustainable retrofit can be understood.   Let’s dissect the framework in which the decision to make sustainable improvements are made and the issues and motivations that cause a property owner not to update and improve their property which are:

  • Short-term investment horizon
  • Incongruous lease structure
  • Capital and operating budget limitations
  • Financing availability, complexity and/or cost
  • Limited knowledge, time and/or motivation to effect energy upgrades

Understanding these investment, operational and financial constraints is the first step in developing solutions that will result in making the sustainability and resiliency of the existing stock of commercial buildings feasible and practical.

Short term investment horizon:

In the era of REITs, CMBS, hedge funds, crowdfunding and private equity, investment hold periods are frequently in the 3 – 7 year range when investors can typically optimize the IRR and other profitability measures or bail on a bad investment and reallocate their capital. As a result, many investors will only consider sustainability measures that have a two-to-three year payback period. Deep energy retrofits with savings of 30% to 50% that result from retrofitting multiple building systems requiring more time and capital to effect are tabled and not done.

Solution: The current and prospective investment environment will continue to reflect hold periods that are relatively short; however, the solution is for investors, owners and managers to realize that a sustainable retrofit enhances the long-term value of the property and will cause investment returns to increase. Including the costs and benefits of upgrading a building is a common way for sponsors to demonstrate the inherent value of a property – especially one that is not fully leased or suffers from functional obsolescence or poor aesthetics and other physical limitations on its marketability to prospective tenants. Many business plans include upgrading a building from one class to a higher class which results in increased rents and lower cap rates. As evidenced by many studies, including sustainability and resilience in the business plan is an increasingly important component in any market-oriented building upgrade. The solution is for sponsors, investors and owners to realize this and to put it into practice.

Future articles will present sustainable ideas many of which can be implemented with no capital investment required.

Incongruous Lease structure

Commercial buildings, a/k/a income properties, are leased to tenants pursuant to a variety of lease structures with the four most common being as follows:

  1. Gross Lease, or full service gross, is a lease where the landlord/owner collects a stipulated rent amount and is pays all expenses including real estate taxes, insurance and operating expenses that are comprised of utilities, repairs and maintenance and management. The room rate paid for a night in a hotel and a lease for a self-storage unit are examples of gross leases.
    • Apartment leases are typically considered to be a gross lease as the landlord is usually responsible for all operating expenses including real estate taxes, building insurance, common area maintenance and utilities, and property management while the tenant is responsible for the unit’s electricity (and sometimes water) and interior maintenance.
  2. Modified Gross Lease is a gross lease where the landlord/owner collects a stipulated rent amount plus a reimbursement of real estate taxes, insurance and operating expenses which exceed an agreed upon amount which is typically an estimate of the building expenses for the initial lease or calendar year. Typically, at the end of the year, the actual expenses are reconciled to the estimate and any increase is passed to the tenant based on its pro-rata share. Most multi-tenanted office buildings are leased pursuant to modified gross leases.
  3. Net Lease is a lease where the landlord/owner collects a stipulated rent amount plus building expenses which include real estate taxes (net), taxes and insurance (double net); or taxes, insurance and operating expense (triple net) depending on the terms of the lease. If the building is multi-tenanted, the tenant pays its pro rata share.   Most net leases are currently triple net. Retail properties are typically leased using a triple net lease.

In a standard Full Service lease, there is no split incentive in the lease structure as any and all savings realized from a sustainable retrofit inure to the benefit of the owner; however, the property manager may not be incentivized to promote a retrofit as it would be responsible for supervising and effecting the improvements without any additional management fees. With regard to an apartment complex, the landlord’s incentive to invest in energy efficiency measures is limited to the common areas – or to improve the competitive position and marketability of the units to prospective tenants.

In a standard Modified Gross lease as well as a Net lease, the landlord/building owner is not incentivized to invest the time, money and personnel resources to effect a sustainable retrofit as the landlord receives no direct financial benefit as the tenant pays the operating expenses and receives all of the benefit of lower operating costs.

Solution: Creating a lease structure that equitably aligns the costs and benefits of efficiency, sustainability and/or resiliency between building owners and managers, known as a green lease, aligned lease, high performance lease or energy efficient lease, will create sustainable and substantial benefits, both quantitative and qualitative, for both tenants and owners/landlords.

  • According to Jones Lang LaSalle, “A green lease need not be complicated. Often it merely requires structuring terms and agreements already in place, such as temperature settings and building operating hours, in a fashion that provides sustainable cost savings with negatively impacting building performance.”

To effect a green leasing program that includes both current and prospective tenants, engaging a consultant that understands both commercial lease structures and efficiency and sustainability retrofits to maximize the sustainable benefits to be derived therefrom.

Green leases will be addressed in detail in a future article.

Capital and operating budget limitations

Many properties suffer from a breakdown in communication and financial planning between building managers and building owners.   Building managers typically operate a facility pursuant to a one-year budget which causes them to budget and implement projects with a short term (1- 2 years) payback period. Consequently, capital improvements that have a longer payback period are not often recommended by management, or if recommended, not implemented by ownership due to a combination of knowledge, time or motivation to consider an energy upgrade or a perceived lack of available capital. This short-term horizon again limits the nature and extent of any efficiency or sustainable upgrades and prevents ownership from reaping all of the economic benefits that inure from a building retrofit.

Further, many times neither building ownership nor building management understand the nature and availability of financing options, tax credits, utility and local government rebate programs. Some of the programs, or a combination of programs, can result in building owners not having to come out of pocket to fund the improvements; however, the unique nature of them requires time which is typically focused on achieving the primary business goals of the organization.

Solution: Engage a sustainability consultant with knowledge of property operations and management as well as the nature of the available financing, credits and rebates – and how to source and evaluate alternatives in order to minimize actual investment dollars and the cost of any financing incurred.  Conducting a life-cycle analysis in addition to other financial analyses will provide ownership with the information needed to make the business decision.

Future posts will present investment analysis tools and methodologies with examples of the real economics of sustainable retrofits.

Financing availability, complexity and/or cost

Contrary to popular belief, energy efficiency and sustainability retrofits benefit from a variety of financing alternatives. However, for real property professionals who work with mortgage loans, mezzanine loans, preferred equity and similar forms of financing, retrofit financing options ranging from equipment leases to ESCO (Energy Service Company) contracts and PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy) liens is a whole new world. When you add in the variety of tax credits, utility rebates and vendor financing, the options become complex.

Further, the sources for financing a retrofit are not usually the same ones that provide mortgage financing so it is a new arena which makes accessing sources and evaluating options time consuming and prohibitive.

Solution: Engaging a professional who is familiar with the types and sources of retrofit financing as well as the typical structures and issues of which owners should be aware is the easiest and most efficient way to determine and evaluate the options based on the financial and non-financial objectives of the owner.

The various retrofit financing options, examples of tax credits and utility and municipal rebates will be described and explained in future posts.

Limited knowledge, time and/or motivation to effect energy upgrades

In today’s competitive commercial real estate environment that is still recovering from the devastatingly harsh Great Recession of 2007, keeping your focus on the primary business of keeping space leased (as hoteliers say – heads in the beds) and watching every penny to the bottom-line is the first priority of owners and managers.

Even though the results of an efficiency, sustainability and/or resiliency retrofit provide a substantial boost to the net operating income (and cash flow) of a property, it does not become a high priority item due to lack of understanding of the process, the capital, management and labor requirements, the extent of the potential disruption to operations and tenants as well as knowledge of the additional value (rent premiums, occupancy premiums, higher quality tenancy, lower cap rate, increased investment value) and business benefits (reputation, image, goodwill) to be derived therefrom.

Also, many times building management staff, who may have the understanding of the sustainability technology will not have the financial literacy to present a compelling case to ownership.

Further, many energy service providers (who are typically considered to be the expert in facilitating a retrofit) do not know or understand the financing options that are available to building owners. Accordingly, these professionals are not able to property advise an owner on energy project financing.  Accordingly, many owners are not aware of, nor understand, the variety of financing mechanisms available to them.

Solution: Learn enough to realize that it is worth the time to learn about the options that are available, hire a sustainability consultant, architect or engineer to analyze the property, benchmark its energy and water usage and understand other maintenance practices, have the systems retro-commissioned to determine how well they are performing and develop an efficiency, sustainability and/or resiliency retrofit plan. Implement the plan and start realizing the benefits.

Our Sustainable Benefits blog will be your resource to learn and understand the new world we are transitioning into – one in which we leave the world better off for having lived (Emerson).

Now, let me tell you about this…

10/22/14

PJ Picture
By Paul L. Jones
, Founder,
Director, Financial Advisory Services for Emerald Skyline Corporation

 

I freeze…become paralyzed in the face of danger or uncertainty. It is something that I am getting better at as I age but I still tend to become a deer in the headlights from time to time. In heated discussions, I never come up with the one line “Buzzinga” response until later – sometimes days later – when it is too late to be effective.

Does this happen to you?   Or, are you one of the blessed people who know just the right response to any situation without giving it a second thought? Do you see a situation and instantly know and take the correct action to save the person from going into the undertow or stop the bleeding from a kitchen knife cut or have just the right response to win the debate?

We all respond to new circumstances differently. Some freeze, some panic and run, others deny what is happening like a child who pretends people cannot see him when he pulls his “magical” covers over his head. And, then, there are some charge forward full speed ahead.

Again, if you are like me, once you get over the shock of “is this really happening?” you assess the situation, spring into action and work feverishly to correct, or save, the situation….

Based on the muted reaction, or the “I am not a scientist so it does not exist” position of a significant number of our civic, community and business leaders, either they are in shock that the world’s climate can change so rapidly or they are in complete denial which is worse. The fact that many large American cities ranging from Galveston and New Orleans to Tampa, Miami and even as far north as New York City will be faced with significant issues from the rising sea level is still being debated among politicians reflects a similar approach to reality as the child with the magic blanket.

The news of global warming, now more appropriately referred to as Climate Change, is not new. Scientists have been ringing the warning bell for at least two decades. And yet we still do not want to believe.

Well, we are now starting to see the effects. Storms like Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, increased flooding in cities like Miami Beach, increased tornado activity, the hottest year on record, and shrinking shorelines caused by sea level rise are now featured in the news on a regular basis.

Many government officials responsible for protecting the public from such events are joining in the chorus to raise awareness in order to make their job of obtaining public approval for a budget to install and maintain systems and equipment to reduce the damage from the effects of climate change feasible.

Yet, it is the real estate community that seems to most want to stick their head in the sand….For instance, last July, the Miami-Dade Sea Level Rise Task Force issued its report and recommendations. Shortly afterwards, the Miami Chapter of the American Institute of Architects held a meeting with Harvey Ruvin, Miami-Dade Clerk of Courts and Chairman of the Task Force, presenting the report. The meeting, which was broadly announced, had fewer than 100 attendees and almost no one from the real estate community was in attendance.

As reported in the June 2014 report “Risky Business: A Climate Risk Assessment for the United States”, it is apparent that climate change and sea level rise are going to have significant effects on the American global business community – and real estate, which has a particular distinction of being immovable, is going to be more impacted than most industries.

And yet. And yet the real estate community is acting as if it is business as usual. The level of interest in doing a sustainable retrofit has yet to make a significant impact on the market – especially for properties that are not seeking credit-quality tenants whose corporate sustainability policies encourage occupancy in LEED-certified buildings. (According to an article entitled “What’s Sustainability Wroth to Tenants?” by Paul Bubny of Cushman & Wakefield in the 10/28/2014 GlobeSt.com national eMagazine, ” Among the 37 real estate and sustainability directors at 23 US-based corporations surveyed by C&W, 74% see value in going to a sustainable building compared to a non-sustainable one.”1

With the obvious costs to upgrade and improve the infrastructure – especially electrical and water and sewer utilities, as well as expected increase in insurance costs, a prudent reaction to the reality of climate change and sea level rise would be to put improvements in place now that reduce the consumption of water and power as well as to make a building less susceptible to damage from major hurricanes, storms and other weather events (like flooding).

We can only hope that real estate owners, investors, managers and tenants will soon realize that the future is now, overcome their “shock” of the impending calamity and start to take action. It is time to take action. The economic, environmental and operational benefits will be immediate and, if done right, sustainable.

And, as in any crisis situation, if you wait too long to take action, the results can be devastating. Let me know if I can be of service.

1 See (http://www.globest.com/news/12_975/national/office/Whats-Sustainability-Worth-to-Tenants-351877.html?ET=globest:e44644:11970a:&st=email&s=&cmp=gst:National_AM_20141027:editorial).

Miami weather forecast …rising tides, flooding and heat

8/13/14

PJ Picture
By Paul L. Jones
, Founder,
Director, Financial Advisory Services for Emerald Skyline Corporation

I live in Miami – it is my home. The other night I was watching the weather forecast. The August full moon, a “super” moon, was on Sunday. The forecaster gave us the news that the weather was going to continue to being in the mid-90s with afternoon thunder storms – summer in Miami, no news there (NOTE: All of the record high monthly record temperatures in Miami have been recorded since 1971). However, the forecaster continued to advise viewers who live on Miami Beach and other low-level areas that they may need their rubber boots in order to get to their cars in parking lots and to watch for flooding along the roadways….This is a fairly recent phenomenon – but one that is going to be a part of the forecast for years to come.

It has been a year since Rolling Stone published its article entitled “Goodbye, Miami” written by James Goodell (7/4/2013 Read more:  http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/why-the-city-of-miami-is-doomed-to-drown-20130620?page=3#ixzz3A6oXVFId).

When the article was first published, most of Miami’s leaders scoffed at the article and the idea that Miami may not exist in 100 years. Perhaps it was the publication in which it was published or wishful thinking, but most of Miami’s (and Florida’s) business and political leaders decided to stick their head in the sand and ignore the increasing number of days in which our streets are flooded.

As reflected in numerous studies and many reports and articles, the world is warming. It does not really matter if it is natural or man-made – the facts are the facts – and this one will not be ignored for long. Along with the warming of the earth’s surface is a rising of the sea level resulting from both the melting of the ice caps and the expansion of the water as it warms….It has already risen almost one foot in the past century – and the pace at which it is rising is hastening.

Predictions are that the sea level will rise by two feet within 35 years and by up to one foot per decade thereafter – until the earth’s temperature stabilizes. At these levels – and with no actions put into place – Mr. Goodell’s prediction will surely come true.

The implications are immense: According to the report, Risky Business: The Economic Risks of Climate change in the United States, produced by the Risky Business Project led by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and published in June:

“In Florida, because of porous limestone on which the major southern cities were build, even modest sea level rise comes at significant economic cost. Under current projections, between $15 billion and $23 billion (in today’s dollars) of existing property will likely be underwater by 2050, a number that grows to between $53 billion and $208 billion by the end of the century…An additional $240 billion in property will likely be at risk during high tide that is not at risk today.”

The impact of rising sea levels goes beyond flooded streets and imminent threat to property – and the impacts will grow exponentially as the sea rises and our leaders and citizenry remain immobilized – whether out of denial, ignorance or apathy.

Miami especially is vulnerable because of our low ground level (one quarter of Miami-Dade County is at less than 3′ above sea level) and our porous limestone plateau which Glenn Landers, senior engineer at the US Army Corps of Engineers likens to a block of Swiss cheese in Mr. Goodels’ article. A good analogy for the ground on which Miami (and all of South Florida) is built; but troublesome in the development of global solutions.

To its credit, Miami Beach has started to build pumping stations to reduce flooding – but this is only a stop-gap measure AND is being contested by home owners who feel it reduces the value of their property. This Stormwater Master Plan began with $206 million budget which is estimated to be half of the actual monies needed. The City is starting to raise fees and rates in order to pay for this program.

According to information in the website Sea Level Rise America, (www.slramerica.org), “Property owners of all types including developers, need to understand sea level rise issues and adaptation strategies. Those seeking to sell their properties will have to disclose to potential purchasers that their real property will be impacted by sea level rise and possibly higher taxes imposed by governments seeking to update public infrastructure projects such as storm sewers. Such adaptation projects will be necessary, but some will be controversial.”

SLR America identifies 26 legal and financial implications of rising sea levels on coastal communities – and many of these implications need to be addressed NOW: For instance, let’s take the disclosures in real property sales. “Simply stated, residential (and commercial) property purchasers in sea level rise threatened zones need informed notice and protection.” Just like sellers and real estate agents must disclose hazards due to asbestos and radon and lead-based paint, in order for sellers to be protected from future claims, property sales in 2013, when sea level rise is a known scientific fact, need to be accompanied by the disclosure of the potential impacts of sea level rise on the property.

We are not under water – yet! Last year, the Miami-Dade County Commissioners created a Sea Level Rise Task Force which issued its report on July 1st (Available here: http://www.miamidade.gov/planning/boards-sea-level-rise.asp) and provided six recommendations to the Commissioners. It is important that the real estate and business leaders support these recommendations and encourage the County government to dedicate the resources necessary to create and implement a plan that results in the survival of our fair City.

Meanwhile, building owners and managers can start now to make their properties more sustainable – which includes the ability to withstand increasingly harsh and violent storms with greater flooding from storm surge.

I have lived in tornado zones and earthquake zones and hurricane zones. The true benefit of living in a hurricane zone is that you have 3 – 7 days of advance notice. In those days, we prepare – we buy supplies and protect our properties against the coming storm.   With climate change and the sea level rise, we are given just 40 years to prepare – it is time to start make our preparations – the weather forecast is not changing any time soon.

The Invisible Hand

6/10/14

PJ Picture

 

By Paul L. Jones, Founder,
Director, Financial Advisory Services for Emerald Skyline Corporation

 

 

Adam Smith, author of The Wealth of Nations, gave definition and meaning to the economics and laid out the foundation for the economic system on which the U.S. was based. As noted in the introduction to the Condensed Wealth of Nations published by the Adam Smith Research Trust, “It took the outdated, received wisdom about trade, commerce, and public policy, and re-stated them according to completely new principles that we still use fruitfully today.” (http://www.adamsmith.org/sites/default/files/resources/condensed-WoN.pdf)

The economic system we have come to know as capitalism facilitates a free market economy built on the concept that both sides benefit from trade and that the market had an “automatic mechanism that allocated resources with great efficiency” which we know as the Invisible Hand. According to Smith,

“Every individual… neither intends to promote the public interest, nor knows how much he is promoting it… he intends only his own security; and by directing that industry in such a manner as its produce may be of the greatest value, he intends only his own gain, and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention.” The Wealth of Nations, Book IV, Chapter II, p. 456.

It is the invisible hand on which we continue to rely as we count on the developers, owners, managers and tenants of commercial real estate to act in their own best interests – which, undoubtedly, is to improve operating cash flow and maximize the value of their properties.

In my first two posts, I highlighted some of the economic benefits to eradicating functional obsolescence in an existing building and avoiding it in a new building.   The studies that have been performed all indicate that a sustainable retrofit puts money into the pockets of all of the stakeholders in a property.   Now, here are some more statistics that hopefully get your attention (as reported by Rob Roth, , Ph.D., Chief Executive Officer, EnergyActio, in the recently released “2014 INSIDER Knowledge” published by Environmental Leader (www.environmentalleader.com) :

“In the United States, the average commercial building wastes approximately 30% of the energy that owners and tenants pay for. On an annual basis, energy waste costs owners and tenants more than $60 billion which is equivalent to:

  • $60 billion in lost business profits
  • $857 billion in lost capitalized asset value (at a 7.0% cap rate)
  • Funding for 1.3 million jobs (at the 2013 average wage of $45,790).”

In an article posted by NREI/Green Real Estate Strategies yesterday (6/9/2014), John Bonnell and Jackie Hines of Jones Lange LaSalle in Phoenix, report that “LEED-certified buildings can capture a premium of 29 percent over buildings without this distinction.” They further report that “It appears that a green building is no longer a luxury, but a requirement here to stay.”

As more owners, investors, managers and tenants pursue the Sustainable Benefits to be derived from remediating functional obsolescence through a sustainable retrofit, the invisible hand will enable us to achieve the societal goals of reducing our carbon footprint, minimizing our contribution to climate change and extending the life of our natural resources.

Remember, reuse, reduce and recycle.

Be well and be blessed, Paul

Green Is the New Black: Levi’s, Nike Among Marketers Pushing Sustainability

View the original article here

Responding to a consumer behavior shift By Joan Voight

Levi’s boasts of designer jeans made out of used plastic bottles. Nike tempts runners with knitted sneakers that it claims cut manufacturing waste by 88 percent. These products may be the tip of a marketing iceberg, as new research shows a growing pool of global consumers are demanding that mainstream brands be sustainable.

“It’s not about offering a niche green product,” said Jonathan Kirby, vp of global men’s design for Levi Strauss. “We’re working to build sustainability into everything—from the cotton fields to our supply chain, to our stores, to our designs across product lines.”

Case in point: Each pair of Levi’s Waste<Less collection of jeans, launched in Spring 2012, is made from about eight recycled plastic bottles, Kirby said.

Nike takes a similar approach with the FlyKnit shoes it debuted last year, which are marketed as a high-tech advancement using yarn instead of leather uppers for a better fit and a reduction in waste. “FlyKnit is a great example of our innovation and commitment to products and services that are better for athletes, our planet and our investors,” said a company rep. “We’ve seen a strong response from runners and it’s safe to say it’s going to be a big [sales] year for FlyKnit.”

Numbers confirm that shoppers are increasingly seeing green. More than a third of global consumers, including 40 percent of millennials, view style, status and environmentalism as intertwined, per a 2013 survey by brand consultancy BBMG. These consumers love shopping and overwhelmingly desire responsible consumption. “For them, sustainability has changed from being ‘the right thing to do’ to being ‘the cool thing to do,’” said Raphael Bemporad, BBMG’s chief strategy officer.

Target is tapping into the trend with its “Sustainable Product Standard,” unveiled earlier this month. Household cleaners, beauty and baby products that pass the standard will be advertised with the “Choose Well” designation and get unique product placement, said a company rep. “This new standard is a first step toward sustainable innovation in our full product assortment,” she said.

In contrast, consumer goods companies like Unilever, Johnson & Johnson and Procter & Gamble are playing catch-up, with green initiatives focused mainly on the supply chain, said Bemporad.

J&J, for instance, recognizes 34 of its consumer items as sustainable through an in-house “Earthwards” evaluation, which includes R&D, marketing and the supply chain. The plan is for “marketing to leverage Earthwards’ claims for brands, such as Neutrogena and Johnson’s, in ways that relate to the products’ core benefits,” said Paulette Frank, vp of sustainability for Johnson & Johnson Consumer Companies. “We’re still learning how to communicate and engage with consumers on our product sustainability improvements,” she added.

But the CPG giants risk becoming outdated as green design and marketing become the new normal in their categories. “It’s the ratchet effect,” said Nigel Hollis, chief global analyst at brand consultancy Millward Brown. “Look at the way Method spurred Clorox to launch the Green Works products. Once one brand in a category incorporates sustainability in a way that benefits the consumer at a fair price, it is tough for competitors not to respond in kind.”

 

A Commitment to Action: Taking Recycling to the Next Level in the United States

January 13, 2014

Elisabeth Comere
Director, Environmental and Government Affairs
View the original article here

When asked why recycling is so important, my response is simple: it is integral to business. Recycling is a fundamental requirement to uphold competitiveness and reputation as responsible and innovative companies.

For decades, companies and their respective trade associations have invested in various recycling initiatives aimed at recovering their own used packaging and printed paper products.  While initially such efforts reaped measurable recovery benefits, very little progress has been made in the past 10 years. We, too, have seen firsthand the benefits of a carton-specific voluntary approach through our own efforts and that of the Carton Council. However, future carton recovery progress relies on addressing the infrastructure, promotional, and harmonization needs that affect the recovery of all packaging and printed paper materials.

Discussion is ongoing among brand owners, packaging manufacturers and other “producers” regarding how to substantially increase material recovery and recycling in the United States via cross-sector collaboration.  While it has not led to much action to date, the forums for discussion have kept the conversation alive and have succeeded in elevating the knowledge and awareness level of all stakeholders through the process. The dialogue exposed the risks of inaction as well as the opportunities inherent in a robust recovery system.

Discussions have also led to extensive research conducted by multiple organizations to develop an understanding of the nuances that impact recovery success. AMERIPEN, for instance, has collected data and developed findings regarding what works best to dramatically improve recovery in cities across the US. AMERIPEN’s study combined with other research efforts have laid the groundwork by defining what needs to be done. It is now clearly understood that effective recovery requires a comprehensive set of best practices – optimized infrastructure, effective promotion and education, incentives, policies aimed at boosting recycling participation, and sustainable program funding.  Implementing best practices in all of these areas is unreasonable to ask of local governments and is more than any one material sector can bring about on their own.

Forums like Alcoa’s Action to Accelerate Recycling and AMERIPEN have primed stakeholders for collaboration bringing the right people to the table and raising the right questions to facilitate action.

The New Ask

Industry is now rallying around a new call to action: create an organized coalition(s) of private and public sector representatives to create a scalable but phased systems approach to recycling. Building upon past learnings, this approach will leverage pooled resources and use a combination of tools to strategically address priority opportunities as opposed to a series of discreet pilot programs and projects.

Experimentation in Coalition Building

To support the move from talk to collaborative action, my company is launching projects in Tennessee and North Carolina that will target communities with customized action plans addressing multiple barriers to materials recovery performance.  Depending on a community’s existing infrastructure and resources, we have identified the policies, practices and investment focus areas that will yield the greatest impact on recovery. Examples include recycling mandates or ordinances for variable-rate waste collection pricing, a transition to single-stream, roll-cart recovery systems, investment in optimizing processing facilities, working with state government to align policy and grant funding with local needs, and so on. We have estimated a total increase in recovery of over 220,000 tons if best practices and a robust outreach and education campaign are brought to bear on recycling programs across Tennessee.

We see our role in this experiment as the catalyst for collaboration. We are now building informal coalitions in Tennessee and North Carolina with key industry and government stakeholders to bring these system improvements to fruition. This experiment is testing a series of approaches on the ground to see what works at the local level allowing for replication elsewhere on a greater scale.

Aiming Higher: The SERDC Coalition

We now want to move forward with regional campaigns for collaborative voluntary producer initiatives – campaigns that build upon the learnings from state-by-state activities and stress best practices in packaging recovery to overcome funding constraints, infrastructure gaps and barriers to policy adoption.

In support of this idea, we took part in the Southeast Recycling Development Council’s (SERDC) Paper & Packaging Symposium this month in Atlanta. Involving over 100 participants, SERDC issued a straightforward call to action: Work together to recover more recyclables, of better quality, and quickly.

A common discussion thread was what distinguishes the SERDC initiative from past efforts and how that will bring about success.  Key differences are that SERDC is an established organization of state government and industry partners and other key stakeholders – the influencers are already at the table. Research to inform priorities for the region has been conducted and the group is ready to move on building the organizational mechanism to transition from research to action.

SERDC recovery initiative partners intend to explore the optimum levels of engagement of public and private resources, expertise and funding. Given growing consumer expectations and the threat of government regulation, the risk of inaction surpasses the rationale for a laissez-faire approach. We all have a stake in the outcome of recycling performance in this country and will achieve more by combining forces than through disparate action. We call on you to commit to participating in SERDC’s coalition.

Elisabeth Comere is the director of environment and government affairs for Tetra Pak in North America, the world leader in packaging and food processing solutions. She joined the company in 2006 as Environment Manager for Europe where she helped define and drive Tetra Pak’s environmental strategy. She joined the North American operations in 2010, focusing on advancing Tetra Pak’s commitment to sustainability in the US and Canada, and she is active in various industry and customer packaging and sustainability initiatives. Elisabeth previously served as a political adviser to a member of the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium, and headed the environment department of the Food & Drink Industry group in Europe.

Stimulating Innovation to Create More Sustainable Cities

Andre Veneman is corporate director for sustainability and HSE with AkzoNobel .Environmental Leader, 11/12/2014
View the original article here

It won’t be long before the world’s population reaches nine billion and by 2050, 70 percent of the world’s population will live in cities. All around the globe, population explosions are putting city infrastructure under severe strain. And at the same time climate change is posing serious challenges.

How will we cope? Can our cities accommodate so many people?

Yes it can, but we have to do things differently. We have to use our ambition and imagination to more efficiently manage the world’s limited resources.

Ultimately, the future health of our cities – and the people who live there – will hinge on our ability to do radically more with less. We need more innovation, less traditional solutions, more collaboration and less introverted thinking.

The widespread idea that innovation is driven by a lonely genius, a specific department, or a special group of champion innovators is not the case. Instead, success hinges on organizing and driving innovation through a team effort and a strong sense of a shared mission.

For many businesses, this should start with building strong relationships between different departments.

The problem is that in large corporations there is often a strong inward orientation. The structures, rules and regulations in place can hamper the ability to establish open relationships — both within an organization and externally. Perhaps the biggest challenge that companies face is creating a more open and forward-looking mindset; that is, thinking beyond current business issues and immediate future horizons.

To engage in sustainable innovation successfully, companies need to be prepared to work in a much more collaborative way. This means working effectively across procurement, operations, marketing and sales functions, and by partnering with suppliers and customers. A strong alignment between sourcing, research & development and marketing, for example, is vitally important to delivering sustainable solutions that work commercially and provide a practical benefit to urban environments.

A collaborative approach will make it possible to not only uncover exciting new ideas but help those ideas reach market faster than what would be possible through traditional models.

At AkzoNobel, we believe in establishing a collaborative, welcoming environment where ideas can be explored. When people have an idea, they are encouraged to reach out to anyone in the network to pursue the opportunity.

For example, on a flight home from a meeting, Peter Greenwood, a business development manager, came up with the idea to add colloidal silica to paint to enhance its self-cleaning properties. When he returned to the office, he reached out to another department to explore the idea. Before we knew it, a cross-departmental collaboration had developed between AkzoNobel’s Specialty Chemicals and Decorative Paints Business Areas resulting in a coating that can last up to 16 years, 25% longer than a standard product.

 

These types of collaborations are encouraged among senior level management. Of course, linking up departments is not enough on its own. They need to be aligned and focused on identifying sustainable solutions that customers need. Our company has a strong track record of creating innovations that benefit not only our customers but urban environments across the globe.

Sometimes, the insight to enhance urban environments comes from unexpected places. Our research and development team, for example, observed animals in nature to determine how they withstand cold and prevent ice from forming in their bodies. That insight led to Ecosel AsphaltProtection, a fully biodegradable additive for deicing brine. It works by slowing the freezing process, resulting in soft, slushy ice, rather than hard, abrasive ice.

There are many opportunities for businesses to develop commercially viable and sustainable product offerings that could make our cities more enjoyable, liveable and resilient. The key to success lies in the business model and in making the right connections: engaging effectively across the whole value chain and working in an open way open way with external stakeholders such as city councils, urban planners, NGOs, businesses and universities.

Companies can play an important role in safeguarding the future health of our cities. The world is changing and businesses must change with it to provide innovative products that make the world a better place.

Read more: http://www.environmentalleader.com/2014/11/12/stimulating-innovation-to-create-more-sustainable-cities/#ixzz3IsDERqfV