The construction industry is responsible for a huge amount of carbon emitted into the atmosphere. One of the largest development companies in the world now has a senior manager responsible for determining how to reduce these emissions.
Hines, the international real estate company with more than $ 80 billion in assets under management, has created a new role that may soon become mainstream in the industry: Director of Carbon.
“My only target, 100%, is carbon emissions,” says Michael Izzo, who has recently been appointed to inaugurate the post, officially known as Hines vice president of carbon strategy. Former vice president of construction for Hines, Izzo is now developing a company-wide strategy to reduce carbon emissions in his new construction and renovation projects around the world, including towers in New York and Shanghai, and Bangalore, India.
This is a notable decision for a company like Hines and for the property development sector in general, which increasingly accepts the climate impacts of the operation of its buildings and the resources necessary for their construction, known as embodied carbon.
“Real estate accounts for around 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions,” says Izzo. “And if you look at central business districts like New York City, where I’ve done most of my work for the past two decades, building emissions are closer to 70%, both built-in and operational. Reducing those emissions, especially on the operations side, makes sense for a developer like Hines. More efficient buildings are cheaper for owners and more marketable for tenants.
Izzo’s job – probably the first dedicated position of its kind in the real estate industry – is to find ways to improve building operations and energy efficiency, as well as to find less demanding building materials and processes. in resources to construct these buildings. He’s already started working with an in-house team to identify projects that can use low-carbon materials like solid wood and concrete made with alternative cement. Projects now include an inbuilt carbon guide that helps explain how the project measures up and how it has (or has not been able to) reduce its carbon impact.
It also targets the massive amount of energy buildings need and finds ways to reduce emissions from their demands for heating, cooling and electricity. “We should really start with the simple, tangible things we can do in the built environment, like ridding our buildings of fossil fuels whenever possible,” he says.
One project exemplifying these goals is the 270,000 square foot, 16 story Hines office tower south of Greenwich Village in New York City. The building, which will be completed next year, has been designed to run entirely on electricity, eliminating higher-emitting gas from its heating system. The structure is expected to meet New York City’s carbon neutral building target by 2050 and exceed its carbon reduction requirements by more than 50%.
Izzo says this kind of project shows what a company like Hines can do to solve climate change problems while creating marketable products.
“We’re not looking for perfect carbon efficiency or perfect financial efficiency,” he says. “It’s how to marry the two and adopt these two different, sometimes competing measures, in order to make better investment decisions. “
Izzo recognizes that the carbon problem is huge for the real estate and construction industry, and his work is just beginning. He hopes to establish a clear carbon strategy for Hines and then explore how this can be applied to the hundreds of developments the company has underway.
“Real estate tends to be a long game,” says Izzo. “This is why it is imperative to go even faster. Because the buildings that we are building today are going to be there for a very long time.