LOS ANGELES—The UCLA Ziman Center for Real Estate and UCLA’s Institute for the Environment and Sustainability co-hosted the UCLA Green Building Symposium recently, where experts discussed the latest trends in green building. Among the speakers at the event was keynote speaker Jeffrey T. Mezger, president, CEO and director of KB Homes, and panelists Ted Bardake, deputy director of sustainability on the budget and innovation team at the City of Los Angeles; Danielle Horton, founder and principal of Verdani Partners; Adhamina Rodriguez, director of sustainability at Swinerton Builders; and David Hodgins, executive director of L.A. Better Buildings Challenge, who moderated the panel. To delve deeper into the subject, we sat down with panelist Peter Belisle, southwest market director at JLL, to find out about the latest green building trends, the value of green building and what is on the horizon.
GlobeSt.com: What are some of the major trends in green building?
Belisle: People tend to weave everything together, but there really are different goals and objectives. Neither is better or worse than the other. If you are really trying to increase a building’s performance, there are tremendous amount of things that can be done behind-the-scenes with the building’s mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems that have a material savings of energy and water waste overtime that, in some cases, can be little to no cost but they aren’t the glamorous things that are readily visible.
Roughly 97% of your total building stock—that means new buildings being developed as well as existing buildings—is existing buildings. As an industry, we really want to look at making the biggest impact on reducing waste and energy consumption of existing buildings. We find big institutional owners as well as our occupier clients looking options with a strong ROI component. A lot of the times the threshold of things that we can do to a building have a payback of less than 18 months once the initiative is in place. Big institutional owners have already started down that path. But, the other big theme that came out of this was to think about all of the buildings that are owned by smaller private owners and limited partnerships. So many of those owners have not undertaken these energy initiatives, and I think a lot of that is really awareness. So, we talked about the need for utility companies and city and county agencies to make sure that all owners of real estate be aware of these low- to no-cost initiatives. We aren’t going to get there with these big institutional owners.
GlobeSt.com: Are most of the new construction buildings currently underway mindful of sustainability?
Belisle: Yes. Also, the code keeps evolving. Just by following code, many of these new buildings are much more efficient. Almost without fail, any building being built in the state of California is looking to highlight more green aspects from a marketing perspective, to appeal to the buyer or the renter. All that combined is producing a building today that almost without fail is a fairly efficient building.
GlobeSt.com: Is there an inherent value to green building characteristics?
Belisle: There is a quantitative and qualitative answer to that question. The quantitative answer is that there have been several studies done that show that you are able to drive a lower vacancy and a slightly higher rent premium by having a green building. On the qualitative side, I will absolutely tell you that if you have two buildings that are identical in terms of location and size, and one building can demonstrate that it is a greener building, you will see tenants migrate toward that building. This is something that really does produce a competitive advantage. Another thing we are seeing is that a lot of tenants are recruiting a younger workforce population, and for a lot of these young recruits right out of college, sustainability is top of mind.
GlobeSt.com: What’s next for green building?
Belisle: The big change that I see happening is what I call dashboard technology. No matter if you are in a commercial space or in a residential space, you don’t really know where you are wasting energy. Soon, everywhere is going to have a dashboard that breaks down energy consumption. Similar to a thermostat that is on the wall, you are going to have a visible gauge of how much energy is being consumed and exactly what your facility is doing, and what you can do to make it better. When you just get a bill at the end of the month, there is a disconnect. This dashboard concept is going to be huge and you are you going see a lot of companies emerging with a really user-friendly devise that sits right on a wall or in a lobby for people to see exactly what is going on. KB Homes is starting to do something like this in a lot of their new homes.