Switch weighs in on the 2019 North American GRESB Results

Vice President of Operations Patti Mason leverages her green building expertise at Switch Automation to increase awareness about smart building technologies. Prior to joining the Switch team, Patti served as Mountain Region Director for U.S. Green Building Council, where she managed a team, executed large scale events, served as a subject matter expert and oversaw market development activities across the eight-state region.

I was pleased to attend the 2019 North American GRESB Results in New York, while Shane McIntosh, Switch Strategic Partner Manager, attended the Australian equivalent in Sydney.

Preceding this week’s UN Climate Action Summit 2019, these were thought-provoking sessions that challenged attendees to consider what a changing climate would mean to property owners, investors and managers in terms of practical cost. The event underscored the cognitive dissonance that our industry faces— Goldman Sachs Managing Director Joseph Sumberg highlighted the fact that while real estate as a whole now tends to understand the threats posed by climate change, property investors are still investing in high risk areas. Miami Beach is just one example of this – such a location could be underwater in a matter of decades and yet willing investors continue to line up. On the flip side however, low risk areas could heavily benefit from increasing demand in the near future, driving their value higher.

Climate change will have a huge impact on property value in the next 30+ years, both for better and worse. In any case, the cost of protecting communities against flooding and bushfires will be an expense these neighborhoods and the tax payer are certain to bear. Real estate companies therefore need to project this impact precisely, both to protect their investors and identify potential investment opportunities. This need is being answered by an exciting new breed of high-tech startups seeking to accurately predict environmental impact on real estate anywhere from one hour ahead, to decades in the future.

GRESB itself is helping to support this form of environmental costing by adding carbon pathways, encouraging businesses to adopt a zero-carbon trajectory. These will enable organizations to monitor how they are faring on their zero-carbon trajectory at any time; asset-level targets will allow them to aim for specific operational reductions to achieve this zero-carbon goal. The Switch Platform directly supports these goals by identifying, actioning and reporting on building performance optimization opportunities with performance benchmarking and system control functionality. Building performance optimization both reduces an organization’s carbon footprint and their operating costs, resulting in significant savings that compound with time.

We also discussed how Climate Resilience Literacy is a key resource for real estate companies preparing for the effects of climate change. Industry leaders and management can apply this education to make informed investments moving forward, and improve the resilience of communities that might be affected by climate change. Property organizations who are serious about how the environment will change their assets’ value, whether negatively or positively, should encourage management teams to complete at least one professional development course to ensure they are equipped to make difficult investment decisions over the next several decades.

The Urban Land Institute reinforced this message earlier this month, hosting a summit that proposed resilience solutions to address complex local land use scenarios. The summit detailed a range of holistic approaches to land use that decrease our vulnerability to climate-related risks and capitalize on opportunities to improve environmental performance, economic development and quality of life.

The timing of these events perfectly coincided with the global Climate Strike on Friday, September 20, where our team participated in a march through downtown Denver, CO. The march concluded at the Colorado Capitol building where the crowd of ~5,000 heard inspiring talks about: eliminating single-use plastic; leading from within your community to fight the climate crisis; acknowledging diversity and racism associated with corporate choices fueling the climate crisis; and voting with your dollar to support organizations with sustainable efforts.

We left the global GRESB events and the ULI Meeting with a strong sense of how financial projection and climate change are beginning to collide. It’s obvious that property owners and investors want to see the physical risks of climate change as a quantifiable cost – it’s now up to our industry to adopt new, accurate ways to predict the financial impact of climate change.

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