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Vornado Executive Says Health Next Sustainability Frontier

01/27/2014 | By Sarah Borchersen-Keto

Sukanya Paciorek, senior vice president for corporate sustainability at Vornado Realty Trust (NYSE: VNO), joined REIT.com for a video interview at NAREIT’s 2014 Leader in the Light Working Forum in San Francisco.

Vornado was an award winner in the 2013 Leader in the Light’s diversified category.

Paciorek was asked about the challenges involved in maintaining such a highly regarded sustainability program.

“I think the biggest challenge, frankly, is figuring out what the next step is, to really honestly evaluate where we are and figure out what the right improvements are for the following year,” she said.

“Because we’ve taken it seriously and because we’ve done a lot of the low-hanging work, now it is a little tougher to figure out what the strategy is. But there are still plenty of opportunities,” Paciorek added.

She emphasized that the sustainability efforts at Vornado are strongly supported from the top down.

“So it’s not a matter of political will,” Paciorek said. “It’s a matter of figuring out what the right thing is to do, and we do that every year.”

Paciorek also discussed the next area of focus for companies that have been at the forefront of sustainability. She pointed out that after a big focus on energy efficiency, a shift towards human health is now evident.

“I think everyone is realizing that it’s not just about the environment and the building’s relationship with the environment, but perhaps, more importantly, it’s the impact of buildings on humans. It’s really about indoor air quality, the wellbeing of the occupants of the building,” she said.

Discussions around health involve decisions about building materials, air-quality filters, and performing construction and demolition correctly, according to Paciorek. “That’s really the next trend, especially with existing buildings,” Paciorek said.

Meanwhile, Paciorek was asked about the projects she would like to tackle if there were no restrictions on cost or human capital. She responded that emptying a building and completely redeveloping an asset would be one possibility. Paciorek also said constraints exist in terms of the flow of projects.

“In any given year, there’s only so much we can get done,” she said.