Roundtable Weekly
Biden Administration Officials Hold Summit with CRE Leaders to “Decarbonize” Buildings
May 21, 2021

Better Buildings webcast with Sara Neff speaking

The White House convened a roundtable discussion on Monday with CRE industry leaders and other stakeholders to discuss opportunities and obstacles to “decarbonize” U.S. buildings and create jobs on energy efficient construction and retrofit projects. (“Accelerating Building Decarbonization,” Department of Energy / YouTube video

Government and Industry Dialogue 

  • The event aimed to catalyze cooperation across government, real estate, manufacturing, and union participants as part of President Biden’s American Jobs Plan, which has a goal to build and retrofit two million homes and commercial buildings.

  • According to a White House Fact Sheet, its recommended federal investments in building energy efficiency and electrification “will create new domestic manufacturing opportunities for electric heating and cooling technology, invest in research and development to spur smart building advances, and forge collaborations that will enable buildings to be powered by clean electricity.”
  • White House National Climate Policy Advisor Gina McCarthy led the “Better Buildings Summit,” which also included Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Jennifer Granholm; Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Michael Regan; General Services Administration (GSA) Acting Administrator Katy Kale; and White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair Brenda Mallory. (YouTube video

  • Henry Chamberlain, president and COO of the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) International, participated in the event. The White House also invited five members of The Roundtable’s Sustainability Policy Advisory Committee (SPAC) to participate:   

    • Darien Crimmin, WinnDevelopment

    • Dan Egan, Vornado Realty Trust (SPAC vice-chair)

    • Ben Myers, Boston Properties, Inc.

    • Sara Neff, Kilroy Realty Corp.

    • Dana Schneider, Empire State Realty Trust, Inc.

New Programs 

Better Buildings logo
  • The webinar revealed that GSA will act as a proving ground to adopt carbon neutral strategies in the federal building stock – and develop “performance standards” for federal buildings with metrics and targets to reach their goals for reducing emissions.

  • The White House’s Brenda Mallory announced during the event that a series of "stakeholder roundtables” will be held by the Administration to gain perspectives from industry experts on how to modernize buildings.

  • EPA Administrator Regan also announced new programs affecting CRE, along with several other initiatives impacting the residential sector, including:

Zero-Carbon Building Recognition

EPA is developing criteria for a new zero-carbon commercial building recognition award. This new program aims to encourage early adoption of efficiency, electrification, green power and renewable thermal certificates in buildings, and to complement building performance standards and ENERGY STAR certification for top performing energy efficient buildings. 

Greenhouse Gas Emissions Calculator Tool for Commercial Buildings

EPA will launch a new tool linked to the ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager benchmarking tool used by over 25% of the commercial building space in the country. The new calculator will support scenario-building and estimating the impacts of electrification and renewable energy at the building and portfolio level by enabling the use of customized emissions factors to estimate future emissions associated with building energy use. 

  • Separately, DOE Secretary Granholm testified yesterday before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy on her department’s $46.2 billion 2022 FY budget request. Granholm addressed the Administration’s infrastructure plan and urged Congress to advance clean energy technologies. (Granholm testimony, May 19)

  • President Biden yesterday issued an Executive Order directing his Administration to create a strategy on quantifying climate change risks for both public and private financial assets. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, who leads the multi-agency Financial Stability Oversight Council, will oversee development of the federal report on information sharing requirements of the climate-related financial risk data. (White House Fact Sheet, May 20) 

The Roundtable’s SPAC will focus on the impact of the Biden Administration’s and congressional efforts to reduce carbon emissions in buildings during its June 16 meeting, held in conjunction with the organization’s Annual Meeting (remote).

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