Santa Monica, CA (March 28, 2023)—Green Econome is proud to announce that it has received the 2023 ENERGY STAR Partner of the Year Award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy.

Marika Erdely, Founder and CEO of Green Econome states, “Receiving this recognition for our partnership with the EPA and ENERGY STAR program is a significant milestone for our organization. Green Econome was founded to meet the demand for ENERGY STAR benchmarking as local and state energy disclosure laws were put into place over a decade ago. Green Econome is celebrating ten years of compliance services, so earning 2023 Partner of the Year is that much sweeter. We have benchmarked nearly 2,000 properties and pride ourselves on being a leader in accurate reporting and industry expertise. We wholeheartedly invest in ENERGY STAR as a trusted platform that we lean into for benchmarking, building certifications, and now GHG emissions metrics, data management for our client’s ESG goals, and driving reduction targets.”

“As we accelerate historic efforts to address climate change, public-private partnerships will be essential to realizing the scale of our ambition,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “I applaud this year’s ENERGY STAR award winners for working with EPA to deliver a clean energy future that saves American consumers and businesses money and creates jobs.”

Each year, the ENERGY STAR program honors a select group of businesses and organizations that have made outstanding contributions to the transition to a clean energy economy. ENERGY STAR award winners lead their industries in the production, sale, and adoption of energy-efficient products, homes, buildings, services, and strategies. These efforts are essential to fighting the climate crisis, protecting public health, and creating a clean energy future for everyone.

Winners are selected from a network of thousands of ENERGY STAR partners. For a complete list of 2023 winners and more information about ENERGY STAR’s awards program, visit energystar.gov/awardwinners.

About Green Econome

Green Econome is a woman-owned, small business providing energy and water efficiency compliance, consulting, and construction services for commercial real estate. Our Los Angeles-based team of licensed and credentialed professionals takes an integrated approach to finding efficiency solutions that positively affect market valuations, reduce environmental impact, meet ESG and sustainability goals, and ensure regulatory compliance.

About ENERGY STAR

ENERGY STAR® is the government-backed symbol for energy efficiency, providing simple, credible, and unbiased information that consumers and businesses rely on to make well-informed decisions. Thousands of industrial, commercial, utility, state, and local organizations rely on their partnership with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to deliver cost-saving energy efficiency solutions. Since 1992, ENERGY STAR and its partners helped American families and businesses avoid more than $500 billion in energy costs and achieve more than 4 billion metric tons of greenhouse gas reductions. More background information about ENERGY STAR’s impacts can be found at www.energystar.gov/impacts.

Media Contact:

Karalyn Honea
karalyn@greeneconome.com

The latest focus in sustainable commercial real estate is on “Environmental, Social, and Governance,” also known as ESG. ESG has received attention from regulators and investors, and, according to a recent report from Deloitte,  “sustainability has become a strategic imperative across industries”. Real estate professionals need to begin focusing on how ESG can impact portfolios and policy. Let's identify:

  1. What is ESG and how will it affect commercial real estate?
  2. How will the Inflation Reduction Act benefit my real estate portfolio?

Here is a simple table identifying some of the elements of ESG:

Setting the Standard: The SEC Proposed Ruling

Soon, public companies will need to report on the three ESG categories, also known as an ESG Strategy, to their investors. The SEC’s proposed Rule on Climate Disclosure gives companies a roadmap for ESG reporting and requires disclosures related to climate-related risks that could have an impact on their businesses, whether it’s their day-to-day operations or a financial impact on their real estate assets.

The SEC proposed reporting will be part of the public corporation's quarterly and annual disclosures and will detail the company’s carbon footprint and include reporting on greenhouse gas emissions from real estate and the climate-related risks to those assets. At NAREIT’s ESG conference I attended this fall, several panelists suggested that insurance companies and banking institutions will be considering climate disclosures in their financial metrics. Additionally, it was mentioned that investors from the European Union would also be looking at ESG disclosures when considering investments in the U.S. Most public companies have been focusing on their ESG strategies, and the process of gathering data for this year’s ESG disclosures is already underway.

Privately-Held Companies and Building Owners Can Benefit

What about private companies, and the private commercial real estate owners that lease to space public companies? Private owners should also focus on having an energy-efficient property and should not ignore the trend toward ESG.

The “E” in the ESG framework stands for “environmental,” which refers in part, to real estate and the efficiency of buildings. All buildings emit carbon emissions, and these emissions (in the forms of kWh and therms) can be broken down into three kinds: Scopes 1, 2, and 3.

  • Scope 1: Direct emissions that stem from sources that are owned, or controlled by the organization, such as company vehicles and the fuel they burn, process emissions from industrial activities, leaks from refrigeration, etc.
  • Scope 2: Indirect emissions that arise from the generation of purchased electricity, heating, cooling, and steam (Any utility bill creates emissions such as electricity or gas used by the building)
  • Scope 3: Other indirect emissions that are directly from the supply chain of goods and services that the public company purchases. (This is the largest scope and most complicated coming from the organization’s operations, purchasing and selling goods, such as leased assets, business travel, and employee commuting)

Initially, Scope 1 and 2 emissions will be required to be disclosed by the SEC. However, public companies will soon be mandated to report Scope 3 emissions as well.

Mandated reporting means that if you have a tenant in one of your buildings that is providing products to a public company, the tenant will soon have to be reporting on their building’s emissions and activities. There will then be an effort to reduce those emissions, even if your building is not operated by a public company.

How Do You Measure Your Property’s Emissions?

As with anything new, standards and protocols are being established, along with a host of innovative technologies to harness data. As a trusted platform, Green Econome utilizes ENERGY STAR® Portfolio Manager, which gives owners data that can be used to calculate the property’s total emissions. The EPA is actively developing the platform further, to better meet the demands of GHG accounting and scope emissions reporting.

Green Econome takes a systematic approach to ESG, along with a team of advisors, we measure, identify opportunities, implement, and analyze results to ensure you are on target to achieve your environmental goals. If building certification is part of your strategy, we can fulfill those as well.

Inflation Reduction Act: Tax Strategies and Incentives for Property Owners

There’s good news! There are many financial benefits from the new Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 (IRA) to commercial property owners and developers.

Personally, I like the investment tax credit (ITC) known as the federal solar tax credit and the fact that it is now back up from 26% to 30% of the total project cost through 2033. Currently, our solar pv projects are benefiting from 58% of the project cost being covered by this tax credit and federal and state depreciation deductions.

Section 179 (a tax deduction) of the IRA provides owners with a dollar amount per square foot if the commercial or residential building meets a certain efficiency standard. Owners can earn $5 per sq. ft. for new construction or retrofitting a building, depending on its resulting energy efficiency. It is a laddered benefit ranging from $2.50 sq. ft. for a 25% reduction in energy usage up to a maximum of $5.00 sq. ft. for 50% or more.

For multifamily landlords, Section 45L (a tax credit) allows up to $5,000 per unit (single-family or apartment) if the building meets certain energy efficiency criteria.

What's In It For Commercial Real Estate?

Energy-efficient buildings will be worth more and will be more attractive for public companies concerned about emissions. Soon, everyone will be thinking about ENERGY STAR Benchmarking —a viable tool to produce data for reporting on your building’s performance.

ENERGY STAR Benchmarking is already widely used for energy and water disclosure laws across the county (and Canada). You can view IMT's national map of programs currently in place.

As an expert in reducing commercial property emissions, I anticipate a big push to move real estate into the world of ESG reporting, which goes a long way toward environmental sustainability. Once the SEC finalizes its ruling, all public companies will be required to focus on the “E” on their buildings like never before. Additionally, I believe that when companies also consider the “S” for Social and “G” for Governance, they will ultimately be better stewards of the planet.

If you need an expert to understand your building’s energy or water efficiency and emissions, please reach out to me at Marika@greeneconome.com. At Green Econome, a team of professionals is ready to help you meet your ESG requirements, save operating costs, and increase the value of your property.

Marika Erdely Headshot

Marika Erdely, MBA, LEED AP+C, Certified Energy Auditor, Fitwel Ambassador
Marika@GreenEconome.com
(818) 681-5750

Marika is an expert in energy and water efficiency and is the Founder and CEO of Green Econome, an energy consulting and construction company located in Santa Monica, CA. Marika has over 30 years of professional financial experience and approaches sustainability through an economic lens.

Discover the opportunity for Commercial Real Estate in corporate accountability.

ESG, or Environmental, Social, and Governance is a set of standards used to evaluate an organization or community’s commitment to sustainable (Environmental), ethical (Social) practices, and outlines how those goals will be measured and achieved (Governance). Driven in large part by the boom of ESG or sustainable investing, it is important to look at the wider implications this has, specifically for commercial real estate.

You don’t have to be courting investors, or publicly traded to implement ESG strategies. The bottom line is this is the direction the world is moving. From our perspective, here are four important reasons to consider real estate ESG:

 

  • Altruism and profitability are not mutually exclusive
    Operating a more environmentally friendly and equitable company/building reduces waste, cuts cost, and increases efficiency, according to 2019 McKinsey & Company Research. As an energy efficiency consulting and construction firm, this is top of the list for Green EconoME when it comes to reasons to invest in ESG.
  • Attract top talent & tenants
    Unless you plan to go the way of the dinosaur, formalizing your corporate values and commitments and applying them to your assets will keep you competitive. Make no mistake, prioritizing ESG is a choice, just like the one your prospective tenant, lender, future employee, or buyer will make when considering you and your properties.
  • Plan ahead: policy and the role of ESG
    Globally and locally, regulation is expanding to meet science-based goals for climate action and social responsibility. While ESG or related benchmark reporting isn’t yet mandatory, just like ENERGY STAR(r) benchmarking, ESG data is becoming a leading performance indicator for real estate, and inevitably will become a standardized source of data for government-based carbon reduction targets or other asset assessments.
  • Data in, reporting easy
    The modalities and data collected for ESG measurement are being integrated into risk assessment, financial reporting, and other annual real estate-related requirements. ESG is proving to be a reliable source for centralized data collection that serves the purpose of many. Think of the ways this can increase the efficiency of your organization.

As much as ESG is seen as a trend, it is so because it is at the tipping point of a new paradigm defining this generation and generations to come. It is a framework to approach this decade of action that we are in. The space between energy efficiency, the main business model for Green EconoME, sustainability, and carbon reduction is growing closer, rapidly. Accounting for the impact of your business on its community and the value of who makes it hum is not only responsibility, it's economic success. If you are ready to start your ESG journey, or if you have more questions about ESG, please reach out to Green EconoME.

With the Senate passing the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, it is apparent that there is a collective vision of redefining and modernizing our built environment. There is a call to action on how we adapt to meet the needs of future generations. We are reeling with the long-term domino effects of urban sprawl. Socioeconomic inequality, poor building design, limited reliable public transportation, and a decline in public health has brought us to a tipping point. We must prepare to revitalize our cities, retrofit our existing buildings with energy-efficient measures, and reconstruct our transportation networks.

Cleaning Up Our Existing Buildings

The existing building sector is responsible for 29% of GHG emissions, with 40% coming from inefficient HVAC systems. If buildings in Los Angeles are expected to reach net-zero carbon by 2050 as a part of the C40 pledge, there needs to be immediate action. Building systems – electrical, lighting, heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning must be retrofitted to the highest energy efficiency standards. Or better yet - break the ceiling on them.

Government subsidies and utility incentive programs need to be more accessible to building owners so they can invest in on-site power generation for their buildings, such as solar PV and batteries. We can then contribute clean energy to our outdated electrical grid and create the demand for green jobs. While we have the innovative technologies that can support such a system, there also needs to be innovative policy reform that will build these self-sufficient power systems to be scaled to the neighborhood level.

Another upgrade that building owners and citizens benefit from is the installation of a cool roof, which reflects sunlight and absorbs less heat than traditional asphalt shingles. Urban heat islands caused by non-reflective material can cause the ambient temperatures to be artificially elevated by more than 10 degrees in our cities. Dense concentrations of pavement from streets, parking lots, and roofs absorb direct heat, thereby increasing the HVAC usage and exacerbating air pollution, contributing to the poor air quality present in high-density urban areas.

Access For All

Cities thrive when they are made of well-connected neighborhoods, with reliable transit, safe bike paths, and sidewalks made for the pedestrian.

In addition to constructing sustainable buildings, we need to construct smart buildings. Buildings integrated into their surrounding streets through mixed-use design, incorporate a balanced mix of institutional uses that stimulate local economies and increase the use of public services.

There needs to be a push for creating smart circulation networks within cities and neighborhoods that incentivizes walking, biking, and public transportation. This can only be accomplished if it is less challenging to alter zoning ordinances, urban growth boundaries, and rate of growth controls. Through smart growth planning, we can adapt to our changing environment and effectively prepare for a growing population. Transportation is a primary culprit in the progression of climate change. It accounts for 29%of all greenhouse gases in the United States, and it is also one of the fastest-growing emission sectors. Leapfrog development patterns make driving even short distances necessary, due to the extensive lengths of blocks, architectural design of shopping centers, and the extensive parking requirements required to support vehicles.

One of the most powerful statements I have heard is “frequency = freedom”. The frequency of a reliable bus, light rail, subway, gives its citizens the freedom to go where they want and at whatever time they need to. It is both unsustainable and unrealistic to expect equality in a city where every citizen needs their own automobile to get to their next destination.

Becoming a Pioneer of Change

It is vital that we construct an equitable environment for all, and create space for opportunity, growth, and city-wide resiliency. It is our responsibility to meet the needs of future generations and be the leaders of innovative strategies that respond to our climate crisis. Buildings are the foundation of cities. They are a place where people work, create, and collaborate to make the impactful decisions that design our future environment. We need existing and future building owners to take responsibility for their building’s carbon footprint and be held accountable to make responsible decisions in their building operations.

How do we galvanize a community to be the pioneers of an environmentally equitable city through decarbonization and smart growth planning? We need to make citizens and building owners aware of how crucial buildings are in reversing climate change, cleaning our air, and the potential economic savings that come from a carbon-neutral building. Cities do this by working directly with building owners, engaging in public outreach, and being educators.

Mandy Reinhart, LEED AP Neighborhood Development, Fitwel Ambassador, has earned her BS in Environmental Sciences with a Minor in Sustainability. She is passionate about urban planning and studying neighborhood design. As Assistant Project Manager at Green EconoME, Mandy can be found working with clients out in the field, moving their efficiency goals forward.

Human activities such as burning coal and fossil fuels have led to increases of roughly 90% in carbon dioxide emissions and 78% in greenhouse gas emissions globally since 1970. As of 2014, the United States is responsible for nearly 15% of that CO2. The five highest polluting sectors are energy production (grid), land-use (deforestation, agriculture), transportation, industrial activities...and buildings.

Across the globe, the above statistics are widely understood. The fact that it is our responsibility to solve and clean up the problem is also widely understood. Local, federal, and international energy policies have aligned with deep decarbonization targets by 2050. In an effort to meet these goals, collaborative programs, coalitions, and think tanks are energized, creating coordinated solutions across the private sectors. 

These coordinated efforts along with meaningful change, are fundamental to adopting a paradigm shift. In this article, we hope to offer a clear understanding of what decarbonization is, and a strong business case for why becoming part of the solution works, no matter where you place the value.

Defining Decarbonization

Decarbonization is the process of removing carbon. The act of decarbonization, or to decarbonize is to reduce or eliminate greenhouse gas emissions in order to address atmospheric pollution and meet climate goals. This is the basis of the decarbonized economy.

The Decarbonized Economy

Mobilized by climate policy, a decarbonized or low-carbon economy uses clean power sources and practices to lower greenhouse gases, specifically carbon dioxide output into the atmosphere. The need to deploy clean energy strategies with speed and to scale, stimulates research, innovation, job creation, and economic growth. Additionally, a decarbonized economy prioritizes ecosystem resilience, including not only biodiversity but humanitarian issues. 

What are the benefits of a decarbonized US economy, specifically? The World Resource Institute compiled data that shows clear economic benefits to decarbonization.

  1. It’s cheaper to save the planet than it is to ruin it. Low-carbon technologies have become more efficient and affordable compared to fossil fuels. 
  2. US clean energy investment and deployment are creating approximately twice as many jobs as those in fossil fuels. 
  3. Net-zero means net-savings for the US. Despite the trillions in spending projected for 2050 emissions targets, energy revenues are greater. Morgan Stanley Research released data on how decarbonization will strengthen the economy, as well as listed their 5 recommended investment strategies.

Strategies for Decarbonization

So how are we going to do this? The strategies to achieve deep decarbonization nationally and globally are wide and well, deep. For example reforestation, carbon capture, family planning are all ways to offset and reduce emissions. For our purposes, let’s focus on our business: strategies for decarbonizing buildings. 

Building decarbonization is segmented into embodied carbon, which in simple terms are the cumulative emissions from construction and operational carbon which are the emissions from the use of a building. The primary strategies in operational decarbonization are:

  1. Decarbonize the grid. The grid is the biggest culprit of GHG emissions. Our blog about SCE rate increases spotlights how our aging infrastructure is sparking hazardous weather events, and how utilities are depending on their customers to help upgrade and electrify the grid with clean, renewable energy. 
  2. Electrification of buildings. Switching from fossil fuels (burning natural gas) to electric is another key component to moving the needle. So much so that new building codes are being implemented in certain cities, like Berkeley, CA, banning the installation of natural gas lines. Fuel switching incentives, coming in 2021 for multi-family and single family homes, will be another tool, enabling customers to move from carbon-emitting gas appliances to cleaner electric ones.
  3. Self-generation. Solar, battery storage, and other scalable renewables can move you to net-zero the moment it goes live. 
  4. Retrofit to cleaner, next-gen units. The implementation of green technology is pivotal to the progress that needs to be made. One household, one building at a time truly does make the difference.

These strategies are mainly focused on operational decarbonization; however, it’s important to be embodied and operational inclusive. Even with retrofits to existing buildings, coordinating design, new technologies, methods, and deeper savings through synergistic measures will increase the value and efficacy of the project.

Climate Transition: Environmental Effects of Decarbonization

Globally, if we can accomplish this mid-century deep decarbonization we will make strides in restoring our vital ecosystems for a millennium. If as a nation we can overcome the barriers we face to take action, we can, year by year reverse the climate crisis we already experience through increased and costly events such as wildfires, flooding, hurricanes, pandemics, and heat waves. Climate change is interconnected with human development as well. Stabilizing temperatures stabilize our crops and food supply chain. Energy efficiency benefits everyone, but especially low-income families. Making cleaner, low-cost energy available in poorer communities ensures energy security and access to healthier environments inside homes and neighborhoods. 

Your Path to Decarbonization

Green EconoME founder and CEO, Marika Erdely is invested in getting customers to their decarbonization goals and inspired by getting to net-zero. “The ability to eliminate gas in a building, replace it with electrical equipment, add solar PV, and a storage battery and then go off the grid while also reducing ongoing operating costs is exciting. Electrical costs will continue to rise, but if we are able to add the generation and storage factor to the building, we will be able to offset these increases in costs. To get to a net-zero carbon building would be fantastic!” Marika speaks in detail on this topic on the Building the Future podcast. Multi-family residential is one good example of a property type where we see opportunity for deep savings and impact on the community. Paired with the SoCalREN incentive program, decarbonization of the building and providing low-cost energy to each tenant is achievable. 

Marika is also Co-Chair of the New and Existing Building Committee of the USGBC, LA Chapter, Decarb Committee. A collaboration of Los Angeles’ energy leaders, their mission is to transform the way buildings and communities are designed, built, and operated. Schedule a personal Q&A to explore and get started on becoming part of the solution.

Resilience, public health, mental health, collaboration between the public and private sectors, science-based strategies, equity, and trust. Are we talking about the current pandemic or the Fitwel Certification System? We are talking about both. The groundswell around health and wellness at the workplace had taken hold before COVID. Now, a clear set of standards and protocols to keep people healthy is required to open doors again.

Fitwel® is the World's Leading Certification System Committed to Building Health for All™. Using evidence-based scientific research, the Fitwel system is a series of standards and strategies developed to optimize building design and operations, in support of the health and well-being of its occupants. The program is run by the Center for Active Design (CfAD), in close collaboration with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA).

Why Fitwel certification matters

As we reopen, occupant trust and safety are paramount. Fitwel certification makes transparent the strategies used to maximize their well-being. For property stakeholders, Fitwel has recently introduced the Fitwel Viral Response Module, an annual certification of policies and protocols informed by the latest public health research on mitigating the spread of infectious diseases. It offers a comprehensive methodology critical to ongoing response. 

Global pandemic aside, wellness is an important differentiator to top companies and those they employ. Talent is attracted to healthy and inspired spaces. When you provide an environment with a sense of place, amenities that cater to a healthier lifestyle, and a building with sustainable design, there are far-reaching effects. Inside, you have thriving tenants who stick. Outside, you create a positive impact on the overall wellbeing of people and the environment. When people can bike to work, emissions are reduced. When there is access to healthy food onsite, people do not get in their cars for lunch. When outdoor spaces are available, both physical and mental health improve. 

This is not conceptual. Research used by the Fitwel system shows a direct correlation between workplace design and occupant productivity and health. Temperature, air quality, lighting, and noise conditions are all factors toward performance and employee well-being. With an estimated 90% of a company's capital being its people, productivity and absenteeism matter. Additionally, disease prevention and good health can result in a positive return on healthcare spending. When a company occupies a building designed with the same goals in mind, their healthcare dollars go exponentially further.

What’s in it for me?

Investing in wellness is a sound long-term play for owners. The rising workforce is vested. According to a 2018 Global Wellness Institute report, global wellness is a $4.5 trillion economy, with a 6.4% annual growth. Workplace Wellness is a key sector, projected to grow to $66 billion in 2022. Conversely, 2018 research from the Integrated Benefits Institute (IBI), shows that illness-related lost productivity costs U.S. employers $530 billion per year. 

Used in tandem with efficiency and sustainability certifications like ENERGY STAR®, LEED, and BREEAM, you are investing in the full spectrum of building health and sustainability. FItwel extends beyond the building, to the people. It also extends beyond the commercial site, to community development. Whatever your discipline, Green EconoME can manage and deliver the full spectrum of certifications for your project.

To learn more about Fitwel for your property or community, contact us at  info@greeneconome.com or (424) 422–9696.