There are many environmental concerns affecting urban areas, including water, waste-water and storm-water management, air quality, land use planning, and transportation. The built environment plays a role in these complex, and often interrelated issues, which creates an opportunity and obligation for Bentall Kennedy as one of the largest real estate managers in North America.
On this page, we discuss a few of these issues, and the opportunities we see to reduce environmental impacts, work together with our tenants, and manage risks for our clients.
climate change mitigation and adaptation
Our fiduciary duty to our clients includes considering climate change risk management in our long-term strategy. This has two parts: mitigation of GHG emissions and adaptation for regional climate impacts such as desertification, sea level rise and the increased likelihood of volatile weather events.
Climate change adaptation strategies are new and raise questions on both the management of real estate assets in the face of extreme weather events and the impact of climatic shifts on operating costs and building performance.
In 2013, we commissioned a research study conducted by leading experts at the University of Waterloo entitled Climate Change Risk and Adaptation. This study found that many large North American cities are vulnerable, with significant physical infrastructure risks and some fiduciary risks. A three-step adaptation process was recommended to increase awareness, assess vulnerability and manage risks. In 2015, we began working with our clients to establish a framework to evaluate potential for portfolio-level impacts.
transit-oriented development and walkability
Urbanization is increasing – over 80% of North Americans now live in cities. Buildings located near a transit hub or with a higher walkability score reduce market risk by ensuring that the location remains relevant. In part, this is because the pool of tenants interested in leasing is kept broad.
In our acquisitions and developments, we carefully consider transit-oriented and central business district (CBD) real estate. For example, our strategy in recent years across our U.S. office portfolio has been to shift away from suburban locations in favour of downtown centres in cities such as Boston and New York. In 2014, 72.8% of our MEPT/Edgemoor office portfolio in the U.S. and 84% of our Bentall Kennedy Prime Canadian office portfolio were transit-oriented or CBD.
Our own experience indicates that tenants value access to transit and walkability. Broadway Tech Centre, a recent development in Vancouver, is a great example of this. Access to light rail transit has been critical for expansion of the property. Construction of the light rail began after several large leases were signed, and large tenants indicated that proximity to transit was a key factor in their decision to locate there.
Via 6, a multi-family development in Seattle, caters to individuals looking for an urban lifestyle where owning a car is unnecessary. An important piece of the marketing for the project has been focused on walkability and transit scores of 100, and the access to amenities. For Via 6, the leasing has been much faster than anticipated.
urban heat islands
Micro climates can be created in urban areas by the surfaces of the built environment, including buildings and roads. Where buildings and roads are clustered, these collective micro climates contribute to an urban heat island. The hard and often dark surfaces absorb the sun’s radiation during the day, and then release it at night as they cool, keeping the urban environment warmer than rural areas. This increased heat load increases the cooling requirements and energy use in our buildings.
One way to reduce our summer cooling loads and the urban heat islands is by using white roofing materials to reflect the sun’s heat. The high reflectivity reduces the cooling load for a building and the degradation of the roof from ultraviolet radiation. Green roofs and landscaping at grade also combat urban heat island effects, while serving to increase oxygen in the air. As we plan capital replacements of roofing across our buildings, we look at opportunities to minimize the heat island effect in addition to considering life-cycle costs.