Roundtable Policy Advisory Committees Drill Into Sustainability and Security Issues at 2024 SOI Meeting

The Roundtable’s Sustainability Policy Advisory Committee (SPAC) meeting at the 2024 State of the Industry meeting

National policies and agency actions related to climate, environmental, and energy issues were among the many topics on The Roundtable’s Sustainability Policy Advisory Committee (SPAC) agenda at the SOI meeting. Additionally, The Roundtable’s Homeland Security Task Force (HSTF) and Risk Management Working Group (RMWG) met to discuss evolving security threats impacting CRE.

Special Roundtable SPAC workshop on EPA’s ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager benchmarking tool.
  • SPAC members also attended a special session with EPA staff where Roundtable members provided detailed industry feedback about the first major enhancements in a decade that are under consideration for EPA’s ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager benchmarking tool.
The Roundtable’s Homeland Security Task Force (HSTF) and Risk Management Working Group (RMWG)
  • The Roundtable’s HSTF and RMWG joint meeting on Jan. 24 addressed China’s espionage efforts impacting American corporations; the emerging use of Artificial Intelligence as a new risk vector; and the current dynamic in pricing and coverage in commercial insurance markets. (HSTF & RMWG joint agenda | Roundtable 2024 Homeland Security Priorities)

Next on The Roundtable’s 2024 meeting calendar is the Spring Meeting on April 15-16. This upcoming meeting is restricted to Roundtable-level members only

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Biden Administration Requests Comments on Draft Definition for “Zero Emissions Buildings”

The Biden administration on Wednesday issued a draft definition for the term “Zero Emissions Buildings.” The voluntary guideline would apply to non-federal, existing buildings and new construction. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) requested comments by Feb. 5 from industry and other stakeholders about Part 1 of the draft “ZEB” language, which is focused on “zero operating emissions.” (DOE announcement | National Definition Draft Criteria | Comments Form)

Draft Criteria

  • An eventual, final ZEB definition would be the first federal government guideline providing voluntary criteria for buildings that aspire to zero emissions status. DOE’s proposed draft defines a zero emissions building through three (3) criteria:
    1. Highly energy efficient
    2. Free of on-site emissions from energy use, and
    3. Powered solely from clean energy
  • DOE will hold two public listening sessions on the draft definition. Registration is capped at the first 100 attendees:
    1. Thursday, January 11, 2024 @ 10 a.m. ET – Register
    2. Tuesday, January 30, 2024 @ 10:30 a.m. ET – Register

National ZEB Definition

  • RER plans to submit comments about the draft proposal. A federal definition for ZEB could bring much-needed consistency to help CRE owners and investors establish long-term emissions goals for buildings. (Roundtable Weekly, Sept. 29, 2023)
  • The Roundtable and a coalition of real estate organizations sent a Sept. 14 letter to US-EPA supporting development of standard methods and metrics for buildings and tenants to quantify their emissions.
  • Federal standards, definitions, and tools “are the North Star though which local governments can inform their law-making, and this helps bring some sense and order to the otherwise conflicting patchwork of climate laws and frameworks developed by states, cities, and NGOs,” said The Roundtable’s Sustainability Policy Advisory Committee (SPAC) Chair Tony Malkin (Chairman, President, and CEO, Empire State Realty Trust). (Roundtable Weekly, Sept. 15)
  • Roundtable Senior VP and Counsel Duane Desiderio was quoted on Sept. 28 in the Washington Post about how CRE companies may welcome the idea of a single federal standard. “A workable, usable federal definition of zero-emission buildings can bring some desperately needed uniformity and consistency to a chaotic regulatory landscape,” Desiderio said. (Roundtable Weekly, Sept. 15)

Executive branch officials from the White House, federal agencies, and leading non-governmental organizations will discuss the national ZEB definition on Jan. 24 during sessions on sustainability issues at The Roundtable’s all-member 2024 State of the Industry Meeting.

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Roundtable Comments on EPA’s Proposed Voluntary Label for Low-Carbon Buildings

EPA NextGen logo

The Real Estate Roundtable submitted comments to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) yesterday on the agency’s proposed voluntary label for low-carbon buildings. (Roundtable letter, March 2)

Voluntary Building Label

  • EPA’s NextGen building label would expand upon the agency’s successful ENERGY STAR program for assets that attain high levels of energy efficiency.
  • The NextGen label would allow companies to highlight buildings that go beyond top efficiency performance—and further rely on renewable energy use and reduce their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. (EPA’s proposal and Roundtable Weekly, Jan. 27)
  • NextGen recognition has great potential for widespread market acceptance, The Roundtable stated in its comments.
  • EPA’s proposed program could create a uniform, voluntary federal guideline to simplify the confusing patchwork of city and state climate-related building mandates that exists across the country. (EPA Policy Brief, Jan. 19; Roundtable Weekly, Jan. 20)
  • EPA staff discussed its NextGen proposal with The Roundtable’s Sustainability Policy Advisory Committee (SPAC) at the “State of the Industry” meeting in January. (SPAC slide presentation)

Roundtable Recommendations

SPAC Chair Tony Malkin and Vice Chair Ben Myers

  • The Roundtable’s SPAC, chaired by Tony Malkin, above left, (Empire State Realty Trust Chairman President and CEO) and vice-chaired by Ben Myers, right, (BXP Senior Vice President, Sustainability), convened a working group to develop the comments submitted to EPA.
  • The Roundtable stated that NextGen recognition criteria “must be grounded in financial performance that offer building owners reasonable returns on their investments.”
  • The Roundtable’s comments suggested refinements to improve EPA’s proposed components, including:
      

    • Efficiency:
      Significant and demonstrated reductions in a building’s energy use should be eligible for the NextGen label (as an alternate, additional criterion to EPA’s proposal that only ENERGY STAR certified buildings could qualify).
    • Renewable Energy:
      The NextGen proposal would require that 30% of a building’s energy use must derive from renewables. The Roundtable recommends that the level should start at 20% and adjust over time to reflect the changing status of the electric grid as it decarbonizes through increased reliance on solar, wind, and other clean power sources.
    • GHG Reductions: 
      The Roundtable supports EPA’s proposal for a GHG “intensity target” that reflects a building’s unique weather conditions by a factor known as heating degree days (HDD). The Roundtable worked closely with EPA in the pre-pandemic era to consider HDD as a key variable in the underlying ENERGY STAR building score process. (Roundtable Weekly, July 19, 2019)
    • Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs):
      The Roundtable explained that voluntary NextGen recognition can provide much-needed guidance on corporate accounting for REC purchases and enhance credible claims on the environmental benefits from offsite clean power procurement.  

The Roundtable further advised EPA that it should conduct a pilot of the low-carbon label with private and public building owners before broad release to U.S. real estate markets. EPA intends to make the NextGen label available in 2024.

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