Category Archives: Cities

Mandatory disclosure programs (and why they work)

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As cities expand and multiply, their citizens and infrastructure are greatly affected by the environmental risks and associated costs of climate change. For this reason, many cities and some states are requiring that the energy performance and/or carbon emissions of buildings be disclosed. These mandatory disclosure programs have been so successful in reducing carbon emissions that a growing number of states, counties and cities are now adopting them.

How mandatory disclosure programs operate

Typically, these programs require annual disclosure for commercial and sometimes multi-residential buildings over a certain size. In New York City, for example, the policy applies to buildings over 50,000 square feet. These buildings constitute only 2 percent of New York City’s buildings, but account for 50 percent of the total floor area of commercial buildings. The relatively small number of buildings makes the program manageable, while the large floor area that they represent can make a significant impact. Many U.S. cities have set ambitious goals. Portland, Ore. set a goal of cutting carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050. Atlanta projects that its ordinance will drive a 20-percent reduction in energy consumption by 2030.… Read More

Better design thinking to battle floods

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While the devastation brought by Hurricane Harvey grabbed international attention, other U.S. cities began to feel the pangs of nervousness as many of them are becoming more vulnerable to fiercer storms. In fact, New York City is already reviewing its plans for a massive rainstorm as the existing infrastructure cannot handle more than 1.75 inches of rainfall per hour.

High and fast water rising in Bayou River with downtown Houston in background under cloud blue sky. Heavy rains from Hurricane Harvey caused many flooded areas in greater Houston area.

In the U.S., the National Climate Assessment has observed above-average rainfall since 1991 with the greatest increase in the Northeast, Midwest and upper Great Plains regions, which have seen a rise of over 30 percent compared to pre-1960 levels.

Going by recent reports, floods cause greater property damage and more deaths than tornadoes or hurricanes. And Houston’s flood was truly a disaster of proportions: the sky unloaded nine trillion gallons of water on the city within two days!

With cities continuing to grow upwards and outwards, the effects of heavy rainfall been compounded. “The more impermeable surfaces you have, the more you obstruct natural runoff,” says Franz Jenowein, JLL’s Director of Global Sustainability Research. “This translates to greater potential for excess water to negatively affect cities.”

It is equally a design problem as much as it is climate change. In the face of such natural calamities, better urban planning and city design can come to the rescue.

Build to suit?

Urbanization has been blamed for many modern day environmental disasters. However, there can be an exception. “Urbanization can be a problem—but it can also offer solutions,” says Jenowein, citing Singapore as a case in point.… Read More

Car-free zones, vertical forests lead Europe’s ‘clean air’ revolution

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Air pollution is a key environmental issue that is not only restricted to densely populated cities like Beijing or Delhi but is spreading its wings into many European nations as well, like Germany, France, Spain, Italy and the UK. The issue has posed multiple challenges in terms of management and mitigation of harmful pollutants.

Studies found that 85 percent of people living in urban areas are exposed to fine particulate matter at harmful levels. According to the recent air quality report from the European Environment Agency, air pollution causes 467,000 premature deaths across the continent annually. In addition, studies have shown that air pollution increases the incidence of a wide range of diseases (e.g. respiratory and cardiovascular diseases and cancer), with both short- and long-term health effects.

To deal with this problem, European cities have undertaken a variety of initiatives. EU air pollution legislation has followed a twin-track approach of implementing both air quality standards, including an exposure reduction target for particulate matter, and emission mitigation controls.

Franz Jenowein, JLL’s Director of Global Sustainability Research, believes each city is different with its own constellation of geographic, meteorological and industrial conditions, and solutions are similarly varied.

Putting the brakes on vehicular pollution

“We’re seeing schemes such as car-free zones, preferential treatment for electric vehicles, and pruning high-emitting vehicles from the road,” Jenowein said.

London, for example, is planning the world’s first Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ), which will initially cover the existing congestion charge zone. Slated for roll-out in 2019, the ULEZ will apply to petrol cars below Euro 4 standards and diesel vehicles below Euro 6 standards, with a daily fee starting at £12.50 for cars and going up to £100 for buses and HGVs.

Though difficult to implement, measures to curb vehicular pollution can yield unexpected benefits. … Read More

Real estate’s role in developing smart cities

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Cities are expanding at an unprecedented rate and so is their complexity. By 2050 the world will be populated by an estimated nine-billion people. Seventy percent of people will live in urban areas, many of them in new towns and mega-cities.

In order to be competitive, cities will need to be sustainable, have good transportation systems, and have high-density, mixed-use and efficient infrastructure with low carbon emissions. To support their vast urban populations, cities will increasingly rely on smart infrastructure to efficiently deliver vital services, such as power, water, public transit, distribution of goods and services, waste management and security.

The Smart Cities Council defines smart cities as those that have “digital technology embedded across all city functions,” while the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers describes them as “bringing together technology, government and society” across the economy, mobility, environment, people, living and governance.

There are several reasons that smart cities should be of interest to developers, long-term investors and corporate real estate professionals. Perhaps the most obvious is that smart, sustainable cities command higher land and property values, which attract large-scale investors.

However, the real estate industry needs to understand that the buildings sector plays a huge role in helping to make cities smart. That is because the key to smart cities is data analytics – an important element of which relates to the millions of buildings and the huge masses of population that they accommodate. To gain maximum value from owning or managing assets in a smart city, the real estate itself should also be ‘smart’. Smart buildings and smart cities both generate and require big data.… Read More

With renewable energy pledge, U.S. cities think big

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19880707 - green and office buildingsOn May 1, Atlanta’s City Council pledged to power the city of nearly one-half million completely through renewable energy by 2035. While this may seem like a lofty goal, Atlanta is actually the 27th city in the U.S. to make such a pledge, according to the Sierra Club. San Francisco has pledged to do so by 2030, San Diego by 2035 and Salt Lake City by 2032. Six cities, including Aspen, Colo., Burlington, Vt. and Columbia, Md., have already achieved it. In addition to these population centers, 29 U.S. states have been active in adopting Renewable Portfolio Standards and targets as well.

About 70 percent of the world’s population is estimated to live in cities by 2050, the year the Sierra Club sets as the target for cities to achieve energy independence. Reducing cities’ reliance on fossil fuels by 2050 would drastically curb our impact on global warming. But the impact is on more than just the environment. Atlanta City Councilman Kwanza Hall, who introduced the city’s renewable energy pledge, touts it as an important tool for job creation and a cost-savings measure for residents’ utility bills, in addition to having cleaner air and water.

Kyle Goehring, Vice President and National Director of JLL’s Clean Energy, which is a specialty in the firm’s Energy Sustainability Services, points out that the cities—and states—who have these goals will often turn to corporate America to follow suit.… Read More