Washington, D.C.’s Sustainability Goals for Buildings are Achievable, but Actions Must Be Taken Immediately, Says New Report from Urban Land Institute
December 12, 2019
Report on sustainability efforts is based on recommendations from real estate experts
WASHINGTON (December 12, 2019) – Washington, D.C. is in a good position to achieve the aims of the Clean Energy Omnibus Act’s sustainability goals for buildings through 2032, but work must begin immediately and the timeframe for success beyond 2032 is uncertain, said the Urban Land Institute (ULI) in a new report. ULI is a global, multidisciplinary real estate organization whose work is driven by more than 46,000 members dedicated to responsible land use and building thriving communities.
The report is based on recommendations from a panel of land use and urban development experts convened last July through ULI’s advisory services program to advise the DowntownDC Business Improvement District (BID), the D.C. government, and building owners on achieving the sustainability goals laid out in the Clean Energy DC Omnibus Act. The act requires significant improvements to the energy efficiency of existing buildings in the District starting in 2021, sets net-zero energy construction code starting in 2026, and mandates 100% renewable energy for D.C. by 2032.
The panel’s visit, which took place from July 21 to 26, was funded by donor gifts to the ULI Foundation, which provides philanthropic support for the Institute’s work to improve communities. The visit included tours of the area as well as interviews with a variety of 70+ stakeholders in the community, and concluded with initial recommendations by the panel, which are explained in further detail in the report.
The panel recommended that the DowntownDC BID, in collaboration with the D.C. Department of Energy and Environment and building owners:
- Begin taking actions immediately and focus on the steps they need to take to get their buildings to reduce energy use. The panel recognized that it would be challenging for some DowntownDC BID owners to implements 100 percent compliance with the new Building Energy Performance Standards (BEPS), and urged the city to work with owners to help them achieve that aim;
- Create a broad and frequent communication channel between the D.C. government, the DowntownDC BID, and building owners. Many owners will need assistance to determine the best way to proceed that will not risk meeting the sustainability goals, and the panel found that the government and BIDs are well-positioned to assist these building owners; and
- Engage in a collaborative work process to achieve solutions that are fair and motivating to everyone. The panel urged everyone involved in the process to listen to, and truly understand, the issues and challenges faced by each stakeholder and be willing to collaborate and work to help support others to reach the goals in a fair and economical way.
The panel was chaired by former ULI Global Chairman Lynn Thurber, chairman, JLL Income Property Trust. “The success of Washington D.C.’s 2050 vision to become the world’s leading green economy hinges on the real estate community reducing its energy consumption and working towards a carbon neutral future. The Clean Energy DC Omnibus Act has set aggressive targets for building performance and net-zero construction, which will require unprecedented market transformation to achieve. The ULI Panel found that with the support and partnership of local stakeholders like the DowntownDC BID and D.C.’s Department of Energy and Environment (including the right education, technical resources, financing, and time), building owners will be able to meet these sustainability requirements cost-effectively. But it won’t be easy: everyone needs to start efforts immediately to begin achieving these targets. Everyone must be engaged, collaborating, and working to achieve solutions that are fair and motivating for all.”
Thurber was joined on the panel by ULI Trustee William G. Lashbrook, senior vice president, PNC, East Brunswick, New Jersey; Kevin Bates, president and owner, Sharp Development Company, Portola Valley, California; Billy Grayson, executive director of the Center for Sustainability and Economic Performance, Urban Land Institute, Washington, D.C.; Laurie Kerr, president, LK Policy Lab, New York, New York; Alan Razak, principal, AthenianRazak, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Jay Scholl, senior vice president, CBRE, San Francisco, California; and Sarah Sieloff, executive director, Center for Creative Land Recycling, Oakland, California.
For more than 70 years, ULI’s Advisory Services Program has assembled ULI members who are experts in the fields of real estate development and sustainability to advise communities facing complex urban development challenges.
Past sponsors of ULI Advisory Services panels include federal, state, and local governments; regional councils of government; chambers of commerce; redevelopment agencies; private developers and property owners; community development organizations; lenders; groups focused on historic preservation; local nonprofits; environmental organizations and economic development authorities.