C40 is leading the world to a sustainable future through commercial real estate! The C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group is composed of 97 cities around the world, dedicated to fighting climate change through urban action by planning and developing environmentally conscious Commercial Real Estate projects. They host the C40 Reinventing Cities competition, a global contest for carbon-free urban projects and for 2021, the winner is Chicago's "Assemble Chicago".
While each project is a win for the environment, this year's winner of the prestigious award was "Assemble Chicago". The proposed $102 million, 20-story mixed-use building is intended to be built on a vacant parking lot owned by the city and will be the city's first net-zero, all-affordable high rise. Some of the units are reserved and priced for tenants earning minimum wage. The building is a great example of how fair housing, repurposing and improving public spaces, and climate change can be tackled with one project.
There were a wide range of entrants in the contest with a single goal — building carbon neutral commercial real estate projects.
While contests like C40 are important to sustainability, three essential elements drive net-zero development: pressure from investors, civic ordinances, and vocal tenants.
— Marta Schantz, Senior VP of ULI Greenpoint
Hesitancy from investors toward carbon neutral thinking stems from 2 major objections.
- Inconveniences that place the burden onto the tenants — Investors are concerned that the inevitable inconveniences that arise from data tracking will dissuade tenants from signing up. For Assemble Chicago, such inconveniences include differentiated trash chutes that divert compostable trash away from landfills and water reports that measure a tenant's water usage. Assuming tenants get accustomed to these, Assemble Chicago argues that their high rise will be as convenient as other, traditional high rises.
- Expensive materials and methodology — Investors are generally always worried about cost, especially when certain materials and processes cost a lot more than the alternative. The concern that green materials and methodologies are not cost efficient is valid, particularly up front. For Assemble Chicago, these additional costs are primarily rooted in the low carbon concrete being used. It is more expensive to treat the concrete to be low carbon, but the special concrete will ultimately require less material in the build. The increased availability in green construction materials also lowers the additional cost; it is estimated that the low carbon concrete will cost less than 5% of the total budget.
So what made Assemble Chicago stand out from the other entrants this year?
The project beat out the other 3 net-zero, mixed-use entrants due to its design, commitment to affordability, proposed price, etc.
Some stand out features of the winning building include:
- A water tank on the top of the building that collects rain water to provide water for toilets if there is a power outage.
- Smart load centers that provide occupants with regular reports on their energy and water usage by unit
- Administrators have even proposed possibly giving tenants energy budgets that could potentially translate to discounts on rent or meal vouchers if they stay under the budget
- A structural design that minimizes heat loss and cool air through windows, but provided tenants with enough glass for daylight and stunning city views
A 100% renewable goal by 2035 may be ambitious but with initiatives such as the C40 Reinventing Cities competition, we are certainly on the right track. These net-zero proposals and the continuously rising ESG trend have proven that even the commercial real estate industry can hop on the sustainability plan and capitalize on its benefits.
What do you think about this goal? We want to hear your thoughts!
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