A Transformational Conference in NYC, Part 2

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Posted By:
Lauralee Martin
Global Chief Financial Officer

In my previous post, I talked about “Sustainable City Finance,” an event hosted by the New York Academy of Sciences and UrbanAge (and sponsored by Jones Lang LaSalle) on January 7.  For this follow-up, I saved a couple of interesting case studies that struck me as having parallels to our work in building sustainability.

A speaker from the Michael Singer Studio described how his organization has overcome financing and NIMBY challenges for neighborhood projects like recycling or treatment centers. Developing such a site with multiples uses, such as a park or an education center, not only helps overcome resistance from neighbors but enables the combination of funds from several groups – like public works, parks department, and private capital — to get the job complete. 

Similarly, a building sustainability initiative may require more than one reason to justify the cost. While some energy efficiency measures are quickly paid back by the operational cost savings, bigger-ticket initiatives benefit from having an additional rationale, such as a corporation’s desire to enhance its reputation with employees and customers, or a building owner’s ability to attract tenants. 

For example, our analysis of the Empire State Building showed that a multi-million energy retrofit would pay for itself within a few years on energy savings alone, but the initiative has also helped attract tenants that place a high value on sustainability. In that way, New York’s most famous building has something in common with the city’s overall sustainability efforts.

Mayor Bloomberg did not set out to make NYC a sustainable city; he articulated a goal to be a city that would succeed, and soon found that energy and sustainability efforts represented a great way to achieve success. At the conference, Albert Appleton, former Chief of NYC Department of Environmental Protection, discussed the impacts that come when the environment is viewed not as a cost center but a profit center.

Much more of the conference, i.e. Power Points, is promised to be available on the website.

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