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Greenbuild gives thanks, sends message to paris climate talks

Greenbuild Gives Thanks, Sends Message To Paris Climate Talks

Climate of urgency: French President François Hollande met with President Obama this week to talk about global security, as well as the upcoming 2015 United Nations Climate Conference of Parties (COP 21) in Paris.

Climate of urgency: French President François Hollande met with President Obama this week to talk about global security, as well as the upcoming 2015 United Nations Climate Conference of Parties (COP 21) in Paris.

by ROB McMANAMY, in Washington DC | Nov 24, 2015

"The City of Lights" was on the minds of many at Greenbuild 2015 last week, but not just because of the sad, tragic events of Nov. 13. Instead, a decidedly more hopeful and proactive note was struck when 54 AEC firms signed the Building and Real Estate Climate Declaration, a business call to action that urges policymakers to seize the compelling economic opportunity of tackling climate change ASAP. Announced at Greenbuild's closing plenary session, the collective action was intended to send a clear message of encouragement to negotiators at the upcoming UN Climate Change Conference (COP21) next month in Paris.

Signatories to the declaration --which is still open for more names online -- included a formidable array of AEC heavyweights like ARUP, AutodeskThornton Tomasetti, Perkins + Will, WSP/Parsons Brinckerhoff, Skanska, and JLL. The document is a collaborative effort of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), the Carbon Leadership Forum, and sustainability nonprofit Ceres. It is also a companion to Ceres’ Climate Declaration, launched in 2013, which already has more than 1,660 signatories nationwide, including iconic brands like General MillsDisney, Apple, and Starbucks.

USGBC collage: Greenbuild hosted 19,000 attendees and more than 500 exhibitors while painting DC green last week.

USGBC collage: Greenbuild hosted 19,000 attendees and more than 500 exhibitors while painting DC green last week.

Green toys: Autodesk unveiled new energy and water analysis tools to help measure environmental performance.

Green toys: Autodesk unveiled new energy and water analysis tools to help measure environmental performance.

The AEC firms signed their own petition to call attention to the specific risks and opportunities associated with climate change on the built environment, which is a major economic driver in the U.S. and produces 39% of our national carbon emissions annually.

“(This) is the first collective statement of the building community on climate, and it signals we are ready to get to work, both sustainably and profitably,” said Roger Platt, president, USGBC. “Our community knows that buildings represent the lowest cost and greatest potential to reduce carbon emissions... We’ve proven that by acting sustainably, we can leverage innovation and efficiency to drive economic growth.”   (Scroll to the bottom of this page to see who has signed the declaration so far.)

(This) is the first collective statement of the building community on climate, and it signals that we are ready to get to work, both sustainably and profitably.
— Roger Platt, President, USGBC

“These building and real estate companies recognize the financial upside of tackling climate change today, both for their own bottom lines and the overall economy," said Anne Kelly, director of policy and BICEP at Ceres. “They recognize that strong policies are essential for tackling climate change at the scale and pace that’s needed. We urge negotiators at COP21 to follow their lead.”

According to USGBC, the building and real estate community faces huge climate change impacts. Extreme weather, sea level rise, coastal erosion, floods, and wildfires are contributing to rising insurance rates and premiums in sought-after coastal real estate, while hundreds of billions of dollars of property are at risk of inundation from sea level rise and storm surge, alone. Property damage caused by extreme weather in the U.S. topped $19 billion across 35 states in 2014. And on construction jobsites, extreme heat can lower labor productivity, curtail hours and extend project schedules.

  • Click through the above gallery for a taste of last week's big event in Washington DC.

“For us, signing [this] was common sense,” said Gunnar Hubbard, FAIA, principal and sustainability practice leader at NYC-based structural engineer Thornton Tomasetti. “As an innovative business, we stand to gain financially from good policies that recognize the reality of climate change and, because we believe reducing greenhouse gases is the responsible thing to do, our firm continues to do its part to reduce emissions through our core business practices and services.”

Inhabitat's green listicle from the trade show floor.

Inhabitat's green listicle from the trade show floor.

Thornton Tomasetti has goals to implement climate neutral business operations and buildings by 2030. Measuring the embodied carbon of its structural engineering projects and reporting its Architecture 2030 commitment since 2012, the firm has numerous initiatives in place now for achieving its goal, including LEED Gold+ certification of all new offices and major office renovations over 4,000 sq ft.

Similarly, since 2007, JLL has documented $2.5 billion in cumulative energy savings for clients, through energy efficiency, sustainable construction practices, and participation in the ENERGY STAR and USGBC’s LEED programs. In 2013 alone, the firm saved clients $681 million in energy costs. Read more about JLL's sustainability report

“Signing the climate declaration is a no-brainer for us. With advances in technology and the heightened awareness leading up to COP21, we have a real opportunity right now to make changes. We must be ready to take advantage of them,” said Dan Probst, chairman of energy and sustainability services at JLL. “Whether it’s joining the growing interest in renewable energy sources, retrofitting existing buildings to reduce their environmental footprint or simply reducing waste, there is something everyone can do to make a difference.”

Skanska USA employees turn their company logo into a green symbol.

Skanska USA employees turn their company logo into a green symbol.

For its part, multinational contractor Skanska has ambitious goals of its own. It aims to replace fossil energy with renewable energy, and has conducted 113 “project carbon footprints” to reduce greenhouse emissions in 2014, an increase of 40 percent since 2013. Skanska is also committed to long-term objectives such as generating zero waste through reducing upfront demand, reusing materials and implementing environmentally sound treatments.

“In addition to the ability we have to make the construction process more environmentally sound, we can go even further with our commitment,” said Elizabeth Heider, chief sustainability officer at Skanska USA. “By setting a high bar for the sustainability of the things we develop, and by working with customers at early phases of project planning, we can help ensure that, no matter what is being built, it is being built green.”

Already, green building is a significant segment of the industry, and its growth is outpacing conventional construction and will account for more than a third of all construction in the U.S. by 2018, according to a USGBC 2015 Economic Impact Study conducted by Booz Allen Hamilton. Green construction jobs, alone, will reach 1.1 million by that year, the new research predicts.

Green light: Research from United Technologies and Dodge Data shows green construction doubling every three years.

Green light: Research from United Technologies and Dodge Data shows green construction doubling every three years.

big green marble

Globally, the number of green construction projects continue to double every three years, with the strongest acceleration now in emerging economies, according to the new World Green Building Trends 2016 report by Dodge Data & Analytics, funded by United Technologies (UTC). Clients and tenants worldwide increasingly are demanding sustainability, both for energy efficiency and occupant benefit, Dodge found. The new report surveyed more than 1,000 architects, engineers, contractors, owners, and consultants in 69 countries to gauge current green building involvement and expectations for 2018. 

"It's critical that building industry professionals have the latest data to inform designs and decisions," said Bob McDonough, president of UTC Climate, Controls & Security unit. "This information is valuable as we look to accelerate buildings that will foster sustainable, healthy environments."

"The greater engagement by practitioners reflects the current green building environment," added Stephen A. Jones, Dodge's senior director of industry insights. "Their responses demonstrate that sustainability continues to have a transformative effect on [AEC] professionals globally." 

The findings, which will be fully available in early 2016, reaffirm 2008 and 2012 research that green building is doubling every three years. 

"These results reinforce what those in the green building industry already know – green buildings are better for the environment, better for business, and better for the people within them," said John Mandyck, UTC Chief Sustainability Officer. "Green building activity continues to accelerate, with growing awareness of occupant and tenant benefits, speaking to the fact that the real, tangible benefits of green buildings are becoming more widely recognized." 

For more from the Dodge/UTC study, click here.

Smarter bldgs = Smarter occupants: See the results of this separate UTC study and watch the related video below.

Smarter bldgs = Smarter occupants: See the results of this separate UTC study and watch the related video below.

Full results from the World Green Building Trends 2016 report, which was also supported by USGBC and Saint Gobain, will be released in early 2016. In the meantime, more information is available online at www.CCS.UTC.com.

Below, the signatories (so far) to the Building and Real Estate Climate Declaration. 

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