Thursday, March 26, 2009

Sustainable Architecture

Architects have, interestingly enough, taken up the fight against climate change. The American Institute of Architects has issued the 2030 Challenge. “Buildings are the major source of demand for energy and materials that produce by-product greenhouse gases (GHG). Slowing the growth rate of GHG emissions and then reversing it over the next ten years is the key to keeping global warming under one degree centigrade (°C) above today's level. It will require immediate action and a concerted global effort” The AIA hopes to reduce the use of fossil fuel over time, culminating in a carbon neutral standard for all new buildings and major renovations by 2030. The Royal Architectural Institute of Canada has taken up this challenge, as have many architecture firms around the world.

For most of us, green buildings are identified by LEED. According to Canada’s Green Building Council, LEED (Leadership in Environmental Energy and Design) is a third-party certification program and an internationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction and operation of high performance green buildings. It provides building owners and operators the tools they need to have an immediate and measurable impact on their buildings’ performance.
LEED promotes a whole-building approach to sustainability by recognizing performance in five key areas of human and environmental health:
• sustainable site development
• water efficiency
• energy efficiency
• materials selection
• indoor environmental quality
Certification is based on the total point score achieved, following an independent review and an audit of selected credits. There are four levels of certification: certified, silver, gold and platinum.

Last fall I was in Vancouver and I came across a real estate fund that specialized in sustainable buildings. Socially responsible investors are excited about ideas like this. While we recognize the need for balanced funds, we are keen to encourage this sort of innovation. How about a REIT made up of LEED certified buildings only? Would we not get financial outperformance as these buildings would not only be cheaper to run, they would command premium rent due to their environmental cachet. Let’s take this time of capital markets dislocation to think about new ways of investing in what we believe in.

1 comment:

  1. Nice article Sucheta, there will be a myriad of contributors to a sustainable future and buildings have a huge role to play. An interesting Canadian company which own at Inhance is Stantec.

    Stantec provides engineering consulting services and was responsible for Canada's first platinum Leed building which is on Vancouver Island. Take a look at their report: