Greenest way to scale, not what you think

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Perhaps you’re waiting for others to understand you. Perhaps the population is waiting for the scientists to finalize fission. Waiting is not our answer. Patience is different than waiting. In patience there is action and learning. Waiting requires no action nor learning.

In order to scale any effort, patience and learning are key. Businesses try to scale to reach more customers. For example, Tesla is just a few years away from offering a less expensive version of itself. Educators of all sorts scale to reach more learners. For example, online dance classes have become very popular. Environmentalists scale to increase protection of a cleaner planet. For example, the greenest buildings in the modern world are being guided into development by the International Living Future Institute, Living Building Challenge certifier, through large investments and new models []. 

No matter your craft, if you wish to scale, you’ll need to teach others the way they know how to learn. The dance teachers are using the web. The environmentalists are using industry. Don’t wait for the others to come to you.

Designers are important people. But like most people, we learn our trade and then stop. Then we expect others to just get it–a default in our brains thinking others know what we know. I’m guilty too. The greenest modern buildings in the world are designed by architects, scientists, experimental manufacturers, and designers. But there’s someone huge missing from this table! The people who actually develop, buy, and sell buildings–real estate professionals. This group of people includes developers, investors, public REITs, mortgage bankers, appraisers, contractors, brokers, and many more. A fact from the Harvard Business Review starts to show us why we all need to get educated in real estate: “In the United States, the construction and operation of residential, commercial, and industrial buildings produce nearly 40% of all carbon emissions that contribute to global warming. Unchecked, the materials and designs used in buildings can harm the environment and employees’ health.” [] By 1) learning about real estate and 2) engaging the real estate communities using their tools and language, not only will we all benefit, not only is it vital for urban resilience to changes in weather and environmental stress, it will allow scaling of the greenest designs to become accessible, understandable, profitable, and therefore a reality.

To scale the greenest buildings in the world, the greenest certifiers and designers must learn real estate. No more waiting! Below is a start.

  • Speak their language
    • Use terminology developers are familiar with so you can engage more of them
  • Use their tools
    • Create pro formas and case studies that they can use to feel comfortable with when incorporating ultra high efficiency design
  • Tailor case studies
    • Show risks, opportunities, successes, challenges, pro formas (including sources and uses), methods, loan terms, investors, etc.
  • Know their world
    • Know what they have to go through to develop


How to engage the developer community

In order to educate real estate professionals and further investigate all of the above, some of the most influential players are listed below with suggestions for how to engage them.

Where to get in front of the major players:

1. Real Estate Professionals (engage at key conferences such as the ULI Fall Meeting)

  • Let them know green is the future of development and can empower owners.
  • Show proof of project success to help them educate others.
  • Explain the pro formas behind a green building and possibly let them know you are engaging the lending professionals.

2. Mortgage/Lending Professionals (engage at events such as The Five Star Conference and NAMB National)

  • Give basic knowledge of high performance buildings and relay why they should have confidence in lending to a green building.
  • Highlight case studies that focus on lenders and their investment profiles (i.e., the terms of the loans). Show them how green buildings can be re/sold.
  • Explain the pro formas behind a green building.

3.Appraisers (engage at events such as the National Appraisal Congress and the International Appraisers Conference)

  • Give basic knowledge of a green building and show them how they could value such a building.
  • Explain a case study and walk through the building’s appraisal using a traditional appraisal approach and a modified appraisal approach (e.g., one using cost approach and another using a more holistic method of valuing a building).
  • Discuss what real estate investors are thinking about when engaging in purchase interests of a green building. Given that an appraiser’s job is to value a building as closely as possible to a typical investor in the current market, it is essential that designers help green projects be valued in the market in the way the certifiers believe they should be valued.

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