Chris Brown, sustainability manager at Federal Realty Investment Trust (NYSE: FRT), joined REIT.com for a video interview at NAREIT’s 2015 Leader in the Light Working Forum in Reston, Va.
Federal Realty owns, operates and redevelops retail real estate around the country. Brown discussed some of the particular challenges faced by a shopping center REIT in the area of sustainability.
“Communicating outward the message to consumers and to tenants is part of the challenge. If you are doing green cleaning or water-effective landscaping, nobody should notice. That’s when you know you are doing a good job,” Brown said.
At the same time, embedding sustainability into the amenities of a site, such as solar power or electric vehicle charging, can also present a challenge, he added.
In terms of what shareholders are seeking from companies regarding their sustainability platforms, “they are really looking to see the authenticity of your program. They want to see that what you are doing is really beneficial and truly reflective of good business practices,” Brown said.
Turning to specific sustainability projects, Federal Realty has installed 5.6 megawatts of solar power in properties in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware. Brown noted that this is the largest sustainability project the company has undertaken from a dollar standpoint.
The REIT has also invested in “wayfinding” parking, which enables drivers to navigate parking garages more easily and find parking spaces more quickly.
Additionally, Federal Realty is finalizing a lighting retrofit across its portfolio in Maryland’s Montgomery County. The project involves increasing site lighting and enhancing the customer experience, which “makes good long-term value sense for tenants and landlord,” according to Brown. The project also has a social aspect, Brown added, as Federal Realty’s lighting vendor has agreed to donate LED light bulbs to Habit for Humanity.