BID Sustainability, Washington, District of Columbia – Advisory Service Panel

Date: July 21-26, 2019

Location: Washington, D.C.

Sponsor: DowntownDC BID and The ULI Foundation

Subject Area: Sustainability

Panel Chair: Lynn Thurber, JLL Income Property Trust – Hamilton, Montana

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Background and Panel Assignment

An advisory services panel made recommendations to the DowntownDC Business Improvement District (BID) on the real estate industry’s role in achieving the city’s sustainability goals, and on how the goals can be leveraged to generate real estate value and boost economic growth in the city’s downtown. The BID encompasses a 138-block area of more than 500 commercial, residential and mixed-use properties. The BID is bordered by Massachusetts Avenue on the north, Louisiana Avenue on the east, Constitution Avenue on the south, and 16th Street on the west; and it includes the Walter E. Washington Convention Center and the Verizon Center.

The panel’s visit was funded by donor gifts to the ULI Foundation, which provides philanthropic support for the Institute’s work to improve communities.

The panel of ULI representatives sought to build on the progress the city has already made in the area of sustainable building and operations practices. With 75 percent of the District’s greenhouse gas emissions resulting from energy use by buildings, the city has focused on building energy management, leading the nation in the number of Energy Star labeled buildings, LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certifications per capita, square footage of installed green roofs, and in clean power purchase agreements.

ULI’s Greenprint Center for Building Performance has a specific focus on best practices for public private partnerships to achieve climate mitigation and city policy goals. This panel builds off Greenprint’s progress to date and grows ULI’s body of work and thought leadership in guiding the market on achieving successful climate action plans with real estate buy-in and collaboration.

Although much success has been achieved through collaborative efforts between the public and private sectors, the city further intensified its sustainability efforts with passage of the Clean Energy DC Omnibus Amendment Act, which took effect in March 2019. The law includes several ambitious sustainability goals, including:

  • Having the city powered entirely by renewable energy by 2032, with 5 percent of the renewable energy coming from locally supplied solar sources;
  • Reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent from 2006 levels by 2032 and 100 percent by 2050; and
  • Setting a Net Zero Energy code for new construction by 2026.

The panelists provided strategic recommendations on how the DowntownDC BID and building owners can cost-effectively meet DC’s sustainability goals, and how the District can help facilitate compliance to achieve them.

Summary of Recommendations

The Washington DC vision of being net zero by 2050; of being the world’s leading green economy requires unprecedented market transformation. Having announced this vision, successful implementation is essential. It will take everyone working together to achieve this green economy vision by 2050. It is essential that the launch in the very near term gets off to a strong start. Accomplishing the 2032 goals of the CleanEnergy DC omnibus bill in the built environment is no small task. The panel shared tactical information at the building level evidencing how existing buildings can become highly energy efficient.

The panel’s key messages include:

  • Actions must be taken immediately; yesterday is not too soon to achieve DC’s building performance goals in the prescribed timeline. Immediately and until 2032, building owners must focus on the steps they need to take to get their buildings to reduce energy usage and thereby do their part in reducing GHG emissions. The panel believes that Washington DC’s overall energy and sustainability goals are achievable, and will help both the city and the majority of building owners reduce their environmental impact while creating value. At the same time, there are specific components of the city’s Clean Energy Plan that will be a challenge for some BID owners to implement – achieving 100% compliance with the phases of the Building Energy Performance Standard, the 2026 target for net zero new construction, and support of the DC goal of up to 10% local solar.
  • Broad and frequent communication is essential between the DC government, the DowntownDC BID, and building owners. Many building owners and their service providers are far less knowledgeable and will need assistance from others or will struggle mightily to determine the best projects to undertake and the best way to proceed and thus will risk not meeting the sustainability targets. City agencies, industry organizations and the BIDs are well positioned to assist these building owners.
  • Everyone must be engaged, collaborating, and working to achieve solutions that are fair and motivating to everyone. Success is dependent on all stakeholders —city agencies, building owners, BIDs and many others. Everyone must feel and act as they are in this grand initiative together. Everyone must feel that achieving the goals is good for them. Everyone must be prepared to listen to, and truly try to understand, the issues and challenges faced by each stakeholder and be willing to collaborate and work to help and support others to reach the goals in a fair and economically feasible way. The DOEE and the City play a pivotal role in ensuring that every stakeholder in the city is engaged and excited about this opportunity and is working together in a collaborative partnership to achieve benefits for all.

The DowntownDC BID can play an important role in ensuring its members successfully meet DC’s goals. Building owners in the BID Downtown will benefit from strong outreach, education and training. Appreciating that the City, DOEE, SEU and the Hub plan to eventually provide these, the BID Downtown can serve its members well by providing to the District members early, high quality programs customized to its members’ needs. The BID Downtown has often been a leader in the city. Developing these programs to assist members during this enormous new effort and sharing the program formats with other BIDs would provide a tremendous service to the city.

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