Overview: Important Invoice Analysis Features Available to Users: Portfolio analytics Cost ($) Graph Summary Chart Property Analytics View Asset and building characteristics and supply contracts Review invoices with audits After automatic or manual invoice acquisition, WatchWire provides unique functionality to…Read full post
Deep Dive into Sustainability Management: Key Takeaways from an Expert Panel Discussion
In April, WatchWire hosted the first annual INTEGRATE User Conference at Virgin Hotels New York City. The conference emphasized the importance of integrating energy and sustainability in a data-driven and action-oriented approach, a vital perspective in today’s climate of increased environmental awareness and policy changes.
The event served as a platform for a multitude of enlightening discussions on energy security, the renewable energy transition, and the role of sustainability in these areas. The conference also featured two panel discussions, one focusing on sustainability management and the other on peak load management and demand response.
The first panel of the day, “Sustainability Management: Issues and Opportunities.”, featured key figures from commercial real estate companies, financial services, and the energy sector. They offered rich insights and thought-provoking discussion points about the complexities and future of energy and sustainability management. The following summarizes the key points discussed during the panel.
4/27 – 10:45am to 11:45am – Sustainability Management: Issues and Opportunities
- Andy Anderson, CEO, WatchWire
- Alex Gulagaci, Director of Engineering, RXR
- Lauren Moss, Chief Sustainability Officer, Vornado
- John Forester, Vice President Real Estate Services, Energy and Sustainability RMR Group
- Michael Daschle, Senior Vice President, Sustainability, Brookfield Properties
- Ari Frankel, ESG Principal, Climate KKR Capstone
Big Ideas from the Panel:
Reporting: Evolving Motivations and Challenges
The panel began by addressing the role of reporting in sustainability. While acknowledging the complexities associated with various reporting schemas like GRESB, CDP, SASB, and GRI, the panel emphasized the essential role of data in sustainability management. It was noted that reporting can highlight opportunities and areas of improvement, acting as an essential communication tool for potential investors and prospective tenants. One of the underappreciated aspects of reporting is what you find out in the process- bringing valuable internal insights to light that you normally would not have seen without all the data capture.
The panelists discussed the balance between data-driven reporting and actual progress. They agreed that measuring progress requires a focus on near-term goals and robust capital planning. It’s about reducing data silos and ensuring the right people, such as chief engineers, are involved to understand and work towards the set objectives and company goals
They further highlighted the importance of technology in this journey, both from a software and hardware perspective. Technological tools can facilitate the collection, analysis, and communication of data, thereby improving transparency and enabling informed decision-making.
Sustainability: An Integral Part of Real Estate Business Operations
One of the key themes that emerged from the discussion is that sustainability has ceased to be an isolated division within real estate companies. Instead, it is an essential element that interweaves with every aspect of business operations. Real estate companies are not just expected to embed sustainability measures into their operations for the PR benefits, but are also discovering that these measures can lead to significant cost savings and operational efficiency.
One of the panelists, representing a real estate company, shed light on their unique approach to sustainability. They have leveraged New York’s Local Law 97, which mandates buildings over 25,000 square feet to adhere to specific greenhouse gas emission limits, to stimulate discussions with tenants about their energy usage. This strategy has enabled them to compare energy allowances with actual energy usage, fostering more effective and efficient energy management. The process involves meticulous tracking of energy usage and costs, which has been made possible due to New York’s 95% metering of individual tenants – a practice that is relatively unique to this city. The panelist discussed how this model could potentially be replicated in other markets, despite the existing challenges related to managing the hardware and data involved in such a system.
The Imperative of Measurement and Benchmarking for Impact
A common thread that ran through the panel discussion was the importance of measuring and benchmarking energy costs. Without a clear understanding and quantification of energy consumption patterns and costs, it’s challenging to gauge the impact of sustainability initiatives accurately. This understanding gained through diligent measurement and benchmarking, enables more informed decision-making and results in more effective energy and sustainability management strategies.
One panelist emphasized the danger of confusing action with impact. They noted that simply implementing sustainability measures doesn’t necessarily translate to meaningful impact. To ensure that actions are indeed leading to intended outcomes, it’s crucial to measure and track progress over time.
Navigating the Complex Tenant-Landlord Relationship
The discussion also highlighted the unique dynamic that exists between tenants and landlords when it comes to energy usage and sustainability measures. This relationship can sometimes present challenges, particularly when determining who should bear the cost of implementing energy efficiency measures.
An anecdote from a panelist who worked with utilities illuminated this issue. They shared their experience of how tenants, despite having long-term leases, were often reluctant to invest in energy-saving measures like LED lighting, instead expecting the landlord to bear the cost. Conversely, landlords are sometimes hesitant to invest in energy-efficient infrastructure without assurance that the tenants are on board.
This push-pull dynamic points to the importance of open and transparent communication between tenants and landlords. One way to navigate this is through lease negotiation, where tenants can express their desire for improved building efficiency, and landlords can factor this into lease terms.
The panel also tackled the complex issue of Scope 3 emissions and the pressures from stakeholders to address this area. They explored different approaches to carbon accounting, from focusing on certain categories to addressing all “material” categories. For the real estate industry in particular, some panelists recommended waiting for the SEC to help provide an understanding of what they want in terms of integrating scope 3 emissions tracking before making any drastic changes and undertaking a full understanding of embodied carbon and the supply chain of materials in construction.
The Evolving Future of Energy and Sustainability Management
Looking forward, the panelists shared their thoughts on the evolving landscape of energy and sustainability management. They foresee a future where the integration of hourly grid emissions data, building performance, and occupancy levels becomes the norm. This integration could offer a comprehensive view of a building’s energy footprint, leading to more informed and impactful decision-making.
Standardized reporting is another development expected to gain momentum in the future. This would make it easier to compare energy efficiency across different buildings and regions, thereby enhancing benchmarking efforts and driving improvements industry-wide.
In conclusion, the panel discussion underscored the necessity of viewing sustainability not as a cost but as an indispensable part of business operations capable of driving efficiency, cost savings, and resilience.
By diligently measuring and benchmarking energy usage, fostering a productive dialogue with tenants, and keeping an eye on future trends, companies can navigate the complexities of energy and sustainability management effectively. The panelists emphasized the importance of reducing data silos, working closely with chief engineers, using a more integrated approach to energy and sustainability, and focusing on near-term and capital planning to achieve sustainability goals. As we move forward, the knowledge gleaned from these industry experts can serve as a valuable guide in our collective pursuit of a more sustainable world.
To those that attended INTEGRATE ‘23, thank you! We are so pleased with the turnout and the engagement from our clients. We cannot wait for next year’s INTEGRATE ‘24! Learn more about WatchWire’s use cases and capabilities, plus stay up to date on upcoming events, by going to http://www.watchwire.ai or following us on LinkedIn.
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