Quantcast

How Green Infrastructure Adds Value for Property Owners and Tenants

Business

By Larry Levine

“Green infrastructure” in urban and suburban areas—that is, techniques like green roofs, tree plantings, rain gardens, and permeable pavement, which absorb rainwater near where it falls—is proven to help solve major water pollution problems. These water management practices store rainwater for use, evaporate it back to the atmosphere, or let it filter into the ground, where it can benefit vegetation and replenish groundwater supplies.

Many communities around the U.S. are now relying on green infrastructure as a cost-effective solution to stormwater infrastructure problems. What’s more, these communities reap the added benefits of beautifying neighborhoods, cooling and cleansing the air, reducing asthma and heat-related illnesses, reducing energy demand for heating and cooling, and creating “green-collar” jobs.

Less well-known—but vitally important—is that green infrastructure on private property can provide a wide range of benefits to commercial property owners and their tenants.

A green roof on the offices of YouTube in San Bruno, CA. Photo credit: Natural Resources Defense Council

A new NRDC report released today, "The Green Edge: How Commercial Property Investment in Green Infrastructure Creates Value," details the following benefits, which help to build the business case for commercial real estate owners to invest in green infrastructure:

  • Increased rents and property values
  • Increased retail sales
  • Energy savings
  • Local financial incentives (such as tax credits, rebates, and stormwater fee credits)
  • Reduced infrastructure costs
  • Reduced flood damage
  • Reduced water bills
  • Increased health and job satisfaction for office employees
  • Reduced crime

Real dollar values can be put on many of these benefits. For a teaser of what’s in the full report, click on the graphic below:

Graphic credit: Natural Resources Defense Council

On any given property, these benefits can add up to big money over the long-run. Our report includes three examples that show the potential cumulative value of a suite of green infrastructure retrofits to the owners and tenants of medium-sized office buildings, mid-rise apartment buildings and retail centers. In both the office building and apartment building examples, the total present value of benefits approaches $2 million over 40 years; for the retail center, benefits exceed $24 million, including nearly $23 million of increased retail sales for tenants.

This commercial office building in Washington DC incorporates a green roof, a cistern, plantings that maximize the “curb appeal” of the façade, and reuse of captured rainwater for landscape irrigation—achieving zero stormwater runoff from a 2-year storm or less. More information is available here. Photo credit: Timmons Group, Richmond, VA

The report shows why it’s essential for players in the commercial real estate industry to consider the full range of green infrastructure benefits, in order to make wise investment decisions. This is true both for new construction projects – to take full advantage of opportunities to integrate green design features – and at existing developed sites – where investments in retrofits can improve older properties and create value.

Notably, in some cities, compliance with local stormwater regulations may require the use of green infrastructure practices for new development. In many other places, these same practices, though not required, provide an allowable pathway to compliance. Recognizing the true benefits of green infrastructure can help developers maximize their return on investment when determining how best to comply with – or even exceed – such local rules.

The report’s findings also have important implications for national policy. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is long-overdue to update to its stormwater rules, which, if done right, would significantly expand and accelerate the deployment of green infrastructure nationwide. Today’s report shows that, besides achieving cleaner water and healthier communities, federal leadership on this front can help create value in the commercial real estate market.

Ultimately, green infrastructure is a win-win for both the private and public sector. As Howard Neukrug, Commissioner of the Philadelphia Water Department put it to me: “When private property owners construct green infrastructure and manage their on-site stormwater, not only can they benefit financially, they are also helping to transform pockets of our city into Greened Acres. This is public/private partnership in its truest sense.”

This piece originally appeared on the NRDC's Switchboard blog.

Visit EcoWatch’s GREEN BUILDING page for more related news on this topic.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A volcano erupts on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island on Dec. 9, 2019. Michael Schade / Twitter

A powerful volcano on Monday rocked an uninhabited island frequented by tourists about 30 miles off New Zealand's coast. Authorities have confirmed that five people died. They expect that number to rise as some are missing and police officials issued a statement that flights around the islands revealed "no signs of life had been seen at any point,", as The Guardian reported.

"Based on the information we have, we do not believe there are any survivors on the island," the police said in their official statement. "Police is working urgently to confirm the exact number of those who have died, further to the five confirmed deceased already."

The eruption happened on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island, an islet jutting out of the Bay of Plenty, off the country's North Island. The island is privately owned and is typically visited for day-trips by thousands of tourists every year, according to The New York Times.

Michael Schade / Twitter

At the time of the eruption on Monday, about 50 passengers from the Ovation of Seas were on the island, including more than 30 who were part of a Royal Caribbean cruise trip, according to CNN. Twenty-three people, including the five dead, were evacuated from the island.

The eruption occurred at 2:11 pm local time on Monday, as footage from a crater camera owned and operated by GeoNet, New Zealand's geological hazards agency, shows. The camera also shows dozens of people walking near the rim as white smoke billows just before the eruption, according to Reuters.

Police were unable to reach the island because searing white ash posed imminent danger to rescue workers, said John Tims, New Zealand's deputy police commissioner, as he stood next to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in a press conference, as The New York Times reported. Tims said rescue workers would assess the safety of approaching the island on Tuesday morning. "We know the urgency to go back to the island," he told reporters.

"The physical environment is unsafe for us to return to the island," Tims added, as CNN reported. "It's important that we consider the health and safety of rescuers, so we're taking advice from experts going forward."

Authorities have had no communication with anyone on the island. They are frantically working to identify how many people remain and who they are, according to CNN.

Geologists said the eruption is not unexpected and some questioned why the island is open to tourism.

"The volcano has been restless for a few weeks, resulting in the raising of the alert level, so that this eruption is not really a surprise," said Bill McGuire, emeritus professor of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London, as The Guardian reported.

"White Island has been a disaster waiting to happen for many years," said Raymond Cas, emeritus professor at Monash University's school of earth, atmosphere and environment, as The Guardian reported. "Having visited it twice, I have always felt that it was too dangerous to allow the daily tour groups that visit the uninhabited island volcano by boat and helicopter."

The prime minister arrived Monday night in Whakatane, the town closest to the eruption, where day boats visiting the island are docked. Whakatane has a large Maori population.

Ardern met with local council leaders on Monday. She is scheduled to meet with search and rescue teams and will speak to the media at 7 a.m. local time (1 p.m. EST), after drones survey the island, as CNN reported.

Guardians of the Forest monitor passersby entering Juracal Village in Araribóia Indigenous Reserve, Maranhão, Brazil on Aug. 8, 2015. Bonnie Jo Mount / The Washington Post via Getty Images

Two indigenous leaders were killed in a drive-by shooting in Northeast Brazil Saturday, and two others were injured.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Larger fish like tuna are especially threatened by lowering ocean oxygen levels. TheAnimalDay.org / CC BY 2.0

Human activity is smothering the ocean, the largest study of its kind has found, and it poses a major threat to marine life.

Read More Show Less
Pexels

By Adda Bjarnadottir, MS, LN

Up to 20% of people may have a food addiction or exhibit addictive-like eating behavior.

Read More Show Less
Spiced hot chocolate. Lilechka75 / iStock / Getty Images

By Katey Davidson, MScFN, RD

Food is the cornerstone of the holiday season. It brings friends and family together to share memories, cultural traditions, and great flavors.

Read More Show Less