A recent study of over 100 clients, all senior-level real estate development or property management executives by construction management firm Structure Tone finds that while much more common than in years past, sustainable building practices are still seen as cost-prohibitive by many building and real estate leaders.
The anonymous survey was intended to take a snapshot of sustainability in practice across the real estate community. Questions centered on participants’ opinions on third-party certification systems like LEED, challenges to building green, and the newer pressures of climate change resilience and wellness in the built environment.
The responses, collected informally and not as a scientific sampling, illuminated several key points:
1. Sustainability is more commonplace but still seen as cost prohibitive: 66% of respondents reported incorporating green features to lower operating costs and 36% are looking to eliminate red-list building materials, but upfront costs are still seen as the #1 hindrance to true sustainability.
2. LEED is still the most prevalent program but others are growing. 8% of respondents plan to do a Living Building Challenge within the next two years.
3. Resiliency is a growing concern. 59% reported they are seeking outside expertise in resilient building.
4. Employee wellness is also a rising factor. 95% consider wellness essential, expected or emerging in the built environment. Leadership (44%) and the millennial generation (40%) are seen as driving this new focus and reported attracting and retaining employees as the #1 reason for the growing interest.
“Now that sustainability is well established in our industry and resilience and wellness are increasingly being included in that conversation, we really wanted to take the real-life pulse of how much these issues affect our clients’ decision making,” says Jennifer Taranto, Director of Sustainability at Structure Tone, in a press release. “While the findings aren’t necessarily surprising, they definitely indicate a shift in priorities when it comes to holistic, sustainable building across the real estate development community.”
The survey will be conducted on an annual basis with the intention of using the results to help detect and analyze trends resulting from changing building practices and contextual circumstances and determine what impact these trends may have on the state of sustainable building.