10/13/2023 | by

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) held its annual Greenbuild International Conference in Washington, D.C., Sept. 26-29. The educational programming featured several REIT sustainability leaders and brought together stakeholders from across the real estate sector to discuss decarbonization, climate risk adaptation and resilience, and embedding sustainability concepts in activities throughout the building lifecycle.

The week kicked off with an ESG workshop hosted by GRESB that connected green building strategies with ESG investing practices. Michael Brooks, CEO of REALPAC, and Davina Rooney, CEO of the Australian Property Council, joined a panel with Christina Gamboa (World Green Building Council) and Gunnar Branson (AFIRE). They discussed the need to elevate the demand signal for green buildings and that it is growing increasingly apparent to investors that looking at climate-related considerations is crucial to delivering risk-adjusted returns, and some investors now see sustainability as an alpha-producing strategy. The panel also discussed the economic headwinds facing REITs that must be considered when developing sustainability strategies and assessing ESG performance.

Greenbuild table discussion

The workshop included additional insights from Nareit members, including Elena Alschuler (LaSalle), who shared the firm’s strategy for actively pursuing value-add and risk mitigation strategies and how these opportunities are influencing exit value projections.

Other USGBC conference events highlighted several REIT leaders, including Kelly Meissner (Ventas), Ben Myers (BXP), and Katie Rothenberg (AvalonBay Communities). Myers indicated that where sustainability sits within an organization is critical to the effectiveness of execution, acknowledging that “when everyone is responsible, no one really is.” Following Myers’ presentation, GRESB acknowledged BXP leadership with an award for 10 years as a GRESB member.

Ben Myers, BXP
Ben Myers of BXP is recognized by GRESB for 10 years as a member.

Additional REIT leaders participated in panels highlighting the efforts underway by REITs to embed sustainability into building portfolios and accelerate climate action in the built environment:

  • Myers joined a session with Sarah King (Kilroy Realty Corp.) to highlight the cost-effectiveness of owners and tenants working together to define and develop mutually beneficial net zero goals.
  • Ryan Knudson (Macerich) shared his company’s success in implementing large-scale renewable energy and decarbonization solutions.
  • Heath Melton (Howard Hughes Holdings Inc.) highlighted global lessons in water conservation; as well as regional opportunities that are part of the REIT’s largest master-planned community to date: Teravalis, a ground-up community with 100,000 new homes west of Phoenix in the Sonoran Desert.
  • Gautami Palanki (Howard Hughes Holdings Inc.) joined industry leaders to discuss accelerating portfolio-wide action and the role of the green building community to spur action across new and existing building portfolios.

USGBC recognized JBG SMITH with its 2023 Leadership Award for Outstanding Commitment to the Advancement of Green Building for leading by example in its first-of-its-kind major retrofit of a city. The REIT developed National Landing in Arlington, Va., creating a model of a multimodal, transit-oriented real estate development. Conference attendees watched this video during the award ceremony to learn more about National Landing. 

Ali Zaidi, national climate advisor, Biden administration
(L-R) Juliet Eilperin of the Washington Post and Ali Zaidi of the Biden administration

One of the keynote speakers was Ali Zaidi, national climate advisor for the Biden administration, who shared his perspective on the climate crisis and outlined the federal efforts underway to act with a sense of urgency, to enable a future that is sustainable, and to uplift the economy in every sector. Zaidi said the definition of “zero-emission building” would seek not just to promote the premium market, but would aim to support scaling-up the whole building stock and expanding access to zero-emission housing and a just transition.

Get Nareit Developments blog posts delivered straight to your inbox.


Subscribe to the Developments Blog