SPEAKER: This is a production of Cornell University.
MONICA TOUESNARD: I'm Monica Touesnard. I'm with the Center for Sustainable Global Enterprise at the Johnson School. And today, we have four panelists with us today. Two are faculty members and two are from industry. So we're really pleased to have you here. I'd like to welcome you.
My understanding that this session is about what are green buildings-- how will developers, builders, and local governments interact to minimize the negative environmental impact of structures and infrastructures? And I think we've got a diversity of perspectives here. I'm going to give a brief introduction to each of them. And then each one will come up and give a brief presentation-- five, 10 minutes-- and then we'll open it up for questions.
So our first speaker today will be Paul Morris. And Paul's on the end here. And he's the Vice President of Sustainable Planning and Development at Cherokee, a private equity real estate investment firm that partners with communities across North America, Western Europe, and Asia, to return contaminated properties to clean, safe, and productive use. And he is a LEED accredited professional.
Following Paul, we will have Michael Dean, who is Vice President and Chief Sustainability officer at Turner Construction Company. And he is also the LEED accredited professional.
Following Michael, Dick Booth, who is a lawyer by training and specializes in land use, environmental law, critical area preservation, environmental policies, and regional land use planning. He will speak. He's a professor here at Cornell in the City and Regional Planning Department.
And finally, we will wrap it up with Jack Elliot, who's an associate professor in the Design and Environmental Analysis Department here at Cornell. He specializes in industrial design, interiors, and architecture. And his research focuses on green design theory and practice. He's also a LEED accredited professional.
So that's a brief introduction to each of them. I'll have them each do a little bit more detail about their backgrounds and their perceptions and opinions here on green buildings and how they define it. So first, we will start with Paul.
PAUL MORRIS: OK. Good afternoon, everyone. I'm going to try and do the two piece juggle act here. So I apologize if you suddenly watch me using the slide clicker as my microphone.
As Monica said, I am Vice President of Sustainable Planning and Development at Cherokee Investment Partners. I live in Raleigh, North Carolina, although that is not my home. And I spend much of my time on airplanes, which is not exactly the least carbon footprint option for transportation, going around to projects that we have invested in across North America and around the world.
And I want to preface my comments about what I'm going to discuss by perhaps alliterating a little bit more on what my background is. And I come to this not as an investment banker, certainly not with an MBA, but as a landscape architect and urban planner, an unlikely marriage, you might think. And having spent 28 years as a consultant to local governments, state federal agencies, and the private sector, and only about two years ago left and went over to the dark side, where I now serve as, some would call it, the conscience of Cherokee to help us think about how we can more effectively invest our capital in ways that return contaminated real estate, brownfield properties, to productive use with an eye toward capturing the value inherently embedded in sustainable practices.
So that sounds like a lot to accomplish, but what I can tell you is, as we look at it, there are several principles we try to employ and that I've brought from my own experience over the last several years to the conversation. First of all, and Roger kind of alluded to this, which is everybody thinks about sustainability with their own personal experience and background and definition, therefore. And so I think it's helpful, perhaps more than anything, just to manage some expectations, for you all to appreciate where Cherokee is coming from on this subject.
And the first thing is to tell you that as far as we are concerned, sustainability does require that there be advances in any investment we make, in any project we do, at an economic, environmental, and social equity perspective. OK. All three have to be advanced. No one can be done at the expense of the other. And while Roger spent the bulk of his time talking about environmental leg of the stool or, as some people call it, that part of the triple bottom line, what I'm here to discuss perhaps is shifting a little bit more of the weight to the other leg of the stool around the economy, and as well try to understand some of the interrelationships as it relates to social equity and communities.
The second thing I want to share with you as a principle is as far as we're concerned at Cherokee, and with all of the work that we do, if we do not see sustainability, and advances in sustainability, as proving advances in our equitability-- meaning our economic advances, actual profits to our investors-- then we believe that that is, by nature, inherently unsustainable. So those two concepts, the triple bottom line and economic performance, go hand-in-hand, OK? We believe that if in the process of achieving environmental gains, you fail economically, that that is inherently unsustainable. Difficult to achieve, but necessary in order for the environment to be protected and for the economy to be stable.
The next thing I want to share with you is a principle we believe in. And that is that as a result of these two major principles being potentially in conflict and so challenging, that means that sustainability cannot be a formula. It is a menu. And we can talk a lot about what US Green Building Council has done with the LEED certification process. Michael will probably get into that in more detail than I'm going to allude to or talk about.
But more importantly, if you're thinking seriously about achieving sustainability in the construct of the economy, the environment, and equity, then wherever you go, you have to be able to do it differently, because you're inherently dealing with different variables, different contexts, different considerations. And that requires that you customize your solution to that locale. It also means that-- within the construct of that menu versus formula approach, it means figuring out as many different menu items as you can to make it work.
And the final thing-- and I just kind of signaled that this was coming-- is that sustainability is local, right? What we do in New York City, versus what we do Beijing, versus what we do in San Francisco or Houston, is arguably going to be different. How we advance our practices in sustainability toward a more successful project or a more profitable investment has to be different. And it has to reflect the social context. It has to reflect the environmental context. It has to reflect the economic context of each of these projects.
And then the final principle that we have to employ is the realization that while everyone believes sustainability can come with time, and there's things like lifecycle cost analysis that look at sustainability and how we perform in it, in our lexicon, sustainability has to happen real time. We have to capture aspirational goals today and deploy them in a pragmatic, practical way with each act we make, each step we take. And that changes the whole conversation.
If at the outset, I said our guiding principle is that sustainability must be profitable, that inherently says at the end of the game, sustainability must make money. It is no longer for us a conversation where we need to do it even if it costs more, because we actually believe that the concept of sustainability costing more is a broken definition. And our practices are all about finding ways to capture the value, recognizing that it requires a holistic analysis and discussion, that you can't think about the notion of just saying, well, we're going to use compact fluorescent light bulbs instead of incandescent. And oh, yeah, that will cost more.
The problem with that equation is that you've now segmented a part of the sustainability conversation into one discrete component that is inextricably linked to all the other aspects of the entire project that you're doing. And it's impossible in practice to segment, so why would we do it in analysis? Does that make sense?
We do not live in a laboratory. I know some people think we do. But the reality is that we live in a very complex world, where everything we do is a transfer of energy. And we're all part of this organism called Planet Earth. And everything we do-- everything we invest in-- translates into some impact on some other component.
Well, sustainability, as a result, has to be thought about holistically, and has to be modeled and pro forma'd in an economic world, understanding the interconnections across all of those things, from the very conception of a project in the planning and entitlement that might go on, all the way through the vertical construction, green building, and ultimate operation of those buildings, and the impact and relationship it has on the local economy and the local politics and community. How do you do that? You have to create value across those equations.
So that's the context in which we think about the work that we do. It is a very sophisticated and difficult challenge. It is actually easier, often, to say when it gets hard to give up than it is to grow up. And growing up means working harder to figure out how to make it better, rather than to compromise and give up our advances.
Cherokee-- you need to understand for the purposes of today's conversation-- we live in the front end of investments in real estate and sustainability, meaning we come in; we acquire broken land; we work through the process of cleaning it up; getting it re-entitled with planning approvals, permits, and financing; and then we partner with those who would build on the land, or we ultimately sell it to those who would build on the land. And that is our part of the conversation.
So you might ask yourself, well, why then are you going through this whole process of thinking about sustainability if you're not involved in the actual building process? And the reason is that we don't believe it makes sense from an economic or a philosophical standpoint to come in and take what is broken, what is contaminated, make it better, and then give it to somebody who's going to go in and screw it up again. And so if we really believe in the value equation, we recognize that a lot of the value we're creating is not necessarily accrued to us on the front end-- it's owned by somebody else on the back end-- then we have to have a role in facilitating how they do their work.
And so contractually, through guidelines and standards, and ultimately even through regulatory controls, we institute rules that make sure that they execute properly. To do that requires that we become more of a thought leader in the process. We work with the communities. And we ultimately set models for how others would behave.
One of the ways that we've done that that extends beyond our investments into our company is through a whole series of projects that we've termed our Green Seeds Initiative, where we-- if you want to use metaphorically-- plant seeds towards a more green future, whether it's with our employees, with those we work with, or ultimately with our own acts. And because we're often working in urban infill redevelopment locations-- and we can talk about why that is from a sustainability standpoint if there are questions-- we have to demonstrate that it can be done. People will not believe the theory. They won't even believe the quantifiable statistics. They need to see it firsthand.
And so we have taken the liberty, through our corporate headquarters, to actually move into and completely renovate two of the oldest buildings in Raleigh, North Carolina, and convert them into what is now one of only half a dozen LEED Platinum certified historic buildings in the world. And we did that in a way that actually translated at a platinum level, for those of you familiar with LEED, which the highest, to a 7% premium on what we would have paid to move into another building in downtown Raleigh and have it fit for us. That's at a platinum level.
What that means is, for what we ultimately did, we were at a net cost reduction to get LEED certified. We were actually saving money on the project. Many of our projects involve historic buildings, involve historic cities. And we don't want people coming to us and saying-- whether it's our development partner, the local community, government agencies, or even the ultimate builders-- well, this whole green building and sustainability stuff, we don't do it because it costs more. And I ask them often, well, why did it cost you more? And they say, well, it's the system, it doesn't work. The technology isn't there.
The problem that we have found is, in fact, that's not the case. In most cases, what's the problem is it the people doing it don't know how to do it. And that's what costs more. The reality is that where you have good architects, good developers, good engineers, good planners, and good politicians and regulators at the table--
MICHAEL DEAN: [CLEARS THROAT]
PAUL MORRIS: --they can collectively turn up-- oh yeah-- people who build-- contractors. That was a hint. Two minutes.
Then you end up with projects that actually are achievable. And they are cost effective. They actually save money. And in this particular case, we wanted to set the tone. We wanted to be on the leading edge. But we weren't willing to compromise the benefits and turn it into a cost venture.
We also have partnered more broadly with the homebuilding industry. And we built the first LEED Platinum single family residence in the country in partnership with the National Association of Homebuilders. This project was designed to turn into what for us became kind of a petting zoo of green technology. And it was really a demonstration project to show what was out there, to encourage manufacturers, and to really start to think about the whole pipeline of products that are necessary to get out onto the market to make this work.
And this project ultimately really became a standard bearer for how you think about sustainability, while it itself may not be replicated. The most important thing, as you think about this project is it's not a geodesic dome. It's a conventional residence. And for the most part, those who live in this house, those who visit this house, cannot find anything to point to that says it's sustainable or it's green. So we're really trying to break the myth that it costs more, that it looks funky, and then it really defies the values that people have.
At the end of the day-- and this is the slide I'll leave with-- we look at everything we do. We don't just rely on the experience of others. As a company, we have taken the initiative, through our investments, and through our own initiatives, to really try to push the envelope and press for where the thought leadership needs to be through demonstration, and then to convey that to our partners, and in only doing things that actually translate into the value proposition or the value equation. Whether it's on the environmental side, the economic side, or even on the social equity side, we will apply it in a project if it links and it helps the other two, and that we can attach to it an actual economic return to us or our partners or the communities. So that's the snapshot from Cherokee.
MONICA TOUESNARD: Thank you, Paul. I'll now ask Michael to give his perspective. And he is with Turner Construction Company.
MICHAEL DEAN: Hi. Good afternoon. I'm done doing this without benefit of PowerPoint slides, so I'll either be really short or I'll run on at the mouth endlessly and I'll have to be [INAUDIBLE] off. OK.
I am the Chief Sustainability Officer of Turner Construction. I've been at Turner for about four years. I came to work for Turner from another large construction management company who did not see the future of green building as core to what they were doing.
I've been in the business about 20 years. And I got involved with sustainability about eight years ago when we were engaged to build a building that was going to be a LEED building, a green building. And I was assigned to be the green building project manager.
And my boss said to me, you better find out what that is, because we didn't know. And I didn't know. And so my education was kind of following my nose through the internet, and talking to everybody I could, and reading stuff. And as I say, this company did not see-- they saw it as a fad, or they saw it as fringe behavior.
And I found out through a mutual friend-- a friend of mine-- that Turner, on the other hand, had done some research. And Turner had decided that sustainability was a growing market, and that people thought that sustainable buildings were better buildings than non-green buildings. And Turner, in 2004, made a public and specific commitment to greening their processes, and building green buildings, and doing research and educating themselves and their clients. And I heard about this and I actually called up the guy who until recently was my boss, and I talked myself into a job.
And I think what that shows about Turner is that they are smart. And they're a leading builder with their ideas as well as with the volume of their work. Turner is the largest general builder in the US. Last year, we were about a $9 and 1/2 billion company. We do a lot of commercial office buildings. We do a lot of health care. We do a lot of education, both k-12 and higher ed.
And in the last two years-- three years now-- green building has been 17%, 20%, 22%, of our total work in place. Last year-- just recently, we were named the top green contractor in the country by Engineering News-Record because we put in place $1.8 billion worth of work that will eventually be LEED certified. That's a lot of work. That's not a fringe activity. And as I say, that represented about 20% of our overall business that year.
But I think what's more important is that some of our competitors-- some of our regional competitors-- have their percentage of work exceed 50%. The number two builder last year had almost 80% of their total volume be LEED. And the reason for that is because more and more, in different parts of the country, LEED is mandated by law. So you simply have to build to this new standard. And that's a good thing.
For our part, Turner has 78-- the last time I checked-- LEED certified projects and another 120 projects that are in the process of getting LEED certified. Those two together are going to total about $12 billion worth of work. It covers every sector of work that we do. And it is going to become increasingly important to us as a company as we go forward.
In terms of how the market has changed, LEED is definitely the new definition of class A. If you're a commercial builder, and you're building a building that is not seeking LEED certification, you've doomed yourself to being a second class property the day you open. If you are a health care facility, there are studies that show better patient outcomes in buildings that have sustainable attributes, including a connection to nature and better light and air. So why wouldn't you do that?
The thing that really changed the market about two years ago-- I agree with Roger, who spoke before. Roger? Roger-- that about a year and a half ago, something changed. Something remarkable happened.
And I think, germane to this discussion today, can developers be green? You know, that's not an oxymoron. What the developers always said was when the market demands green buildings, then we'll build it. Well, guess what happened about a year and a half ago? Some combination of Al Gore and An Inconvenient Truth, and the growth of LEED, and the growth of awareness of the environmental impact of how we live and the kind of buildings we live in-- all of that came together and the demand side said, we want green buildings. Big commercial tenants we're saying, we want our people to be in LEED spaces, because they're going to be more productive. They're going to be healthier. Our buildings are going to have lower operating costs.
And that huge barrier, the broker community, which was only concerned about what's your net lease, what's the money deal about, were overcome by the demands of the tenants to live in a building that both made them feel better physically, made them more productive, made them feel better psychologically and emotionally for doing the right thing, because that too is a driver. And everything changed. It was really game over at that point.
I think what's happening next-- the next big thing, and Turner is an example of that-- is changing, in our case, from being a company that builds green buildings to being a green company. I think all of us-- corporate America is paying a lot of attention to the notion of corporate social responsibility. Do we walk the talk? Do we practice what we preach? Do we give our employees a safe and healthy place to work and good work to do, work that's worth doing?
The construction industry has always been concerned with safety, because it's a dangerous profession. People get hurt. People die. And that social equity piece of the triple bottom line is something that we're paying increasing attention to. And while we have gotten good at building green buildings, we still use some of the same old not-so-green processes to get us there. So my kind of parallel goals for the next three to five years are improve the environmental performance of fundamental construction processes and make Turner a green company.
We're an EPA climate leader. We volunteered to join the EPA [INAUDIBLE]. We have already looked at our own carbon footprint. We have announced an emissions reduction goal. We're going to lower our carbon footprint a absolute reduction of 5% between now and 2011. So we're trying to walk the talk. When we renovate any of our own offices, we do it to a LEED standard.
But the next big nod, and maybe the last thing I'll talk about here before I sit down, is not only taking responsibility for what we do in our own shop, in our own house, if you will, but we can have a huge environmental impact depending on the procurement choices we make up the supply chain. So not only do I look at my own environmental footprint, but if I'm looking at either a subcontractor who's going to do work for me, or a materials supplier, or an equipment manufacturer, I look at their environmental performance the same way that Walmart does. And I say, can I make an environmentally-based choice that will have a far greater impact on the environmental footprint globally than I can just on my own?
Now, I'm constrained because, as a builder, we're a service provider. We work for owners. And beyond a certain point, beyond-- there's this thing that I call stealth green, which is what can I do that the owner doesn't even have to know about that I can get away with? And sometimes, I can do it in concert with the architect. We can say, let's get together and we'll do this. And the owner doesn't even have to know, because if it doesn't have any impact on the bottom line, they don't really care.
But the point is, we're going to drive up and down the supply chain to become better performers. And that's going to really shift the game.
Last point I'll make about LEED-- and I will say that I'm on the board of the USGBC, and I'm LEED-centric. So there's my full disclosure.
LEED has truly become, as Paul said yesterday, the Good Housekeeping seal of approval for green buildings. And people do make decisions based on that thing. So the minimal cost of achieving a LEED certified building, I think, is well worth it in the payback period. And with that, I think I'll just hand over the microphone.
MONICA TOUESNARD: Thank you, Michael. So next, we'll have Dick Booth, who is a faculty member here in City and Regional Planning.
DICK BOOTH: Thank you. This has been optimistic. My view may be more in the trenches, because that's kind of where I come from. As you heard earlier, and you've probably been here longer than I have today, sustainability isn't just about buildings and land use, but that is our topic. It's obviously a much wider range of issues, certainly including energy.
I'm not a developer. Never been a developer. My role is primarily in watching a lot of development over a long time and working-- as a professor, watching it for a long time-- and working in a variety of government positions. I served for a long time on city council here in Ithaca, wrote a number of the land use ordinances that now exist; worked for two different state agencies, the Adirondack Park Agency and the New York State Department Environmental Conservation as a lawyer; and was involved in writing many of the important land use regulations that exist in New York State; and actually served for four years on the New York State Low-Level Radioactive Waste Siting Commission appointed by Governor Cuomo, a commission designed to encourage everybody to hate you as much as possible-- an issue that got so unpopular that New York State decided not to deal with low-level radioactive waste, sends them all to South Carolina with a very large check instead of trying to deal with them here.
And today, I am a commissioner on the Adirondack Park Agency. I was appointed about a year ago by Governor Spitzer and reappointed by Governor. Paterson and for those of you who might not know, the Adirondacks is six million acre park in the northern part of New York. The state plan adopted in the 1970s is the most aggressive regional environmental land use plan adopted in the United States. And the land use protections on state lands and in the Adirondacks are the strongest legal protections in American law, because they're protected lands. They're protected as forever wild lands by the state constitution.
So I've been an observer and a regulator for a long time. While I was in law school, I did work for the National Association of Homebuilders. I wrote a draft of a book on land use law, which they told me was a draft. They then published it verbatim. But I got to learn a lot from that perspective.
If you ask me, which is kind of the title of the session, are developers environmentalists-- or the title stated something like that-- I would say the answer is probably not very many of them are. But I'll tell you what the real answer is. They're going to have to become so. And we're going to need to have them become so, because most things that are built are going to require private money and private initiative. And developers are at the forefront of that game. And they will be.
Government's role, I think, properly framed, is to both regulate and provide incentives to try to move the private sector in ways that are environmentally responsible. Now, government obviously builds a lot of things itself. And there, it has much more control.
But when we look at the built environment-- commercial, residential, industrial-- overwhelmingly, in this country at least, that involves private initiative. And developers need to become environmentalists. And I think part of government's role is to try to encourage that to happen.
Now, a caveat, near the beginning, at least, the definition of what is sustainable development is a huge topic in itself. Don't assume there's an answer to that. We're going forward discussing this. But bear in mind, is this particular building technology sustainable, or more sustainable, less sustainable? Is this particularly kind of site plan more sustainable, less sustainable? Those are big issues at the micro level.
If you look at the macro level, think about the question, are significant urbanized areas sustainable? I would argue they clearly are. But there are many people that argue major urbanized areas are not sustainable, because you have to import so many things into them-- water, electricity, et cetera-- in order for them to work. But my sense is that, ultimately, they are part of the answer to what is sustainable.
I was on the county legislature for a number of years and served on the board of TCAT, the buses that you see around here. We have a number of hybrid buses now in Ithaca. They cost about a quarter of a million dollars more each than a regular bus. They get about 30% to 40% better gasoline mileage. That seems sustainable. But a regular bus gets about three to four miles a gallon. So you've got to realize we have a lot of ways to go in terms of sustainable issues.
If we ask the question institutionally, does government have the legal authority to push this society in the direction of sustainability-- development technologies, land use patterns, use of energy, et cetera-- the answer is very clearly yes. At the federal level, the basic governmental power that affects our lives every day is Congress has power over interstate commerce. Most of us don't think of that too much. But for example, OSHA regulates the details of toilet seats in the workplace under the Interstate Commerce Clause. If the government can regulate the details of toilet seats, my guess is they can regulate a lot of other things as well.
But most land use decision making is at the state and local level in this country. And what state governments have is what's known as the police power, the power of the sovereign, to do whatever is necessary to protect the public health, moral safety, and general welfare. It's a vast power, constantly changing to meet society's needs.
All of our zoning controls, building controls, parking controls, traffic controls, those are all exercised with the police power. There are building code requirements that apply in this room, ingress and egress requirements that apply in this room. Those are all the police power. Government has plenty of power to make this happen if we choose to make it happen socially, politically, economically.
If we ask the question, are we in a position now to move forward aggressively-- you've heard some examples of where certain individual companies and in certain places we are moving quite well-- I think the answer is no. I think the answer down in the trenches is more discouraging. The opportunity is there, but the mountain that needs to be climbed is a very big one.
Why? Well, first of all, basically, dealing with land use choices and how land is utilized, the federal government basically abdicated the area years ago. They, by and large, don't want to get involved in the business of how land is used. There are some exceptions to that. For example, under the Clean Water Act, the feds are now regulating wetland development. But by and large, they leave almost all of this arena to state and local governments.
State governments have ample authority. Most of them don't use most of the authority they have. Most of them delegate most of the land use authority to local governments. In New York State, that's cities, towns, and villages. In other states, the local government arrangements are somewhat different.
And most state governments find it very difficult, politically and socially, to intrude very much on local choice in the land use area. Now, being a member of the Adirondack Park Agency, obviously the state of New York has done that in a big way in the Adirondacks. But that hasn't happened in very, very many places. In fact, I was part of an effort 35 years ago to create a regional effort in the Catskills, which one could make a very strong argument is very important, because that's where most of New York City's water comes from. That disappeared in the midst of a governor's decision back in about 1976 and has not resurrected itself in the 30 plus years since then.
Some years ago, I was asked to do a report on groundwater management. I went around and interviewed a bunch of people, told them we wouldn't quote their names, but we quoted them-- we quoted their comments, but not their names. Most of them were officials.
The basic message was if the state of New York was going to be serious about protecting groundwater, it has to be serious about protecting the land on which recharges the groundwater. And basically, talking about land use controls. We wrote this report up. It was deliberate the Department of Health and the Department of Environmental Conservation in Albany.
It caused a great deal of consternation. There was a meeting of people at the level below the commissioners. And at that meeting, there was agreement with this statement-- land use is solely a matter for local government. It is not a matter for the state government of New York.
Now, in fact, that's not true. The state government locates every major road. It locates all the transmission lines, the power plants, the landfills. But nevertheless, the ethic very strongly in many places is, leave local governments alone. And so in this arena, a huge amount of the decision-making authority is left to local officials. Some exercise it reasonably and progressively. Many have chosen not to do so.
Why? Well, usually, local governments can choose not to act. Now, some state governments actually require their local governments to act in the land use arena, but we're sitting in a state where local governments have huge land use authority and they are not required to exercise it at all. We could walk out of this room. We could walk 10 miles. We're in Tompkins County, which has voted Democratic, very progressive, for decades, all right? And you can find a number of jurisdictions in this county with no land use controls whatsoever.
25 years ago, I was asked to speak out in the town of Newfield about planning issues. And I was told, Professor Booth, if you mention zoning, say that word at a whisper, because we don't want to talk about that. Well, it's now 25 years later. Newfield has no land use controls and probably isn't going to have any in the foreseeable future.
So local governments, in many cases, simply choose not to act. Many do try to act, but the level of expertise required to undertake sophisticated land use controls, much less the building technology controls that we're talking about-- fairly limited.
I was talking to a plumbing professional just the other day. I said, what if somebody is outside in rural Tompkins County, what kind of approval does somebody need to do plumbing? He said, none whatsoever, no license, no certification, nothing. You think you know how to put plumbing in, you put plumbing in. If that's the reality in upstate New York, think how that reality plays in lots of places regarding things like building codes and the more sophisticated techniques that we're talking about. Two minutes.
The politics of land use controls are likely to remain very difficult in most places. The answer in the long run, I think, skipping forward, is, we need to combine regulations with incentives. There's been a long debate in this country whether environmental land use controls should be primarily regulatory, which many of them are. Zoning controls are essentially regulatory. The Clean Air Act is, for the most part, regulatory.
Others have argued, no, we should use the market more. It creates more flexible, workable kinds of arrangements for industry and commerce to respond to. My guess is the answer is a combination of both. The best tools we have in the future, from a governmental perspective, will be tools that combine both regulations and incentives.
We had voluntary recycling here in progressive Ithaca for a number of years. We had about 3% participation. When I was on city council, we wrote a mandatory recycling law and participation we went to about, I don't know, 12%, 15%.
We then combined mandatory recycling with a garbage can. When you put your garbage out, you got to put a tag on it, which you have to pay for. Recycling went through the roof, all right? Combination of regulation and an economic mechanism.
In the end, I think there's reason to be skeptically optimistic in this area. I don't think the attitudes about land use controls and telling me what to do with my property are going to respond-- are going to change much very quickly. It takes education and discussion.
I think most people, most of the time-- and we see this in the Adirondacks all the time-- are willing to say, my neighbor sure as heck needs to be regulated, because he's an SOB, but don't you dare tell me what to do, because it's my property and I'll do with it what I want. I'll stop there. Thank you.
MONICA TOUESNARD: Thank you, Dick. Finally, we'd like to ask Jack Elliot to say a few words. And Jack is with the Cornell, the Environmental Design professor. Thank you.
JACK ELLIOT: I choose to sit, save energy.
Thank you very much for inviting me here today. How many people here were involved the student organization that helped put this on? Not many. Well, it shows you what a few people can do. And I think it's important that we have these kinds of forums.
First, I guess, the first thought that came to me when I was asked to come here and speak was, why me? You know, I'm not a lawyer. So here I am in a law school. I'm not a business leader, as some of my colleagues here sitting with me are. I'm not really considered a major authority. I haven't written policy, or written many accounts, or done research on specific mechanisms of sustainability.
So this big-- stirred my curiosity. And I figured, well, maybe it's because of some of the things I do. Like, for the last 10 years, I've been at Cornell I walk to work every day. Maybe it's because I buy carbon offsets whenever I fly somewhere. Maybe it's because I wear organic clothing. Maybe it's because I try to buy local food and support local industry wherever possible. But I don't think too many people knew that that's what I'd do, so I had to write that off.
Possibly, it's because I'm a LEED accredited professional. I'm the only tenured faculty member at Cornell that has that designation. I got that about five years ago. So there's been lots of time for people to join the fray. Unfortunately, that doesn't seem to have happened.
Maybe it's because I'm the only academic who's ever been the design professional of record on a LEED certified project. With my class-- I have a class called ecological literacy. We actually participated in getting a project for the Grand Canyon LEED certified. It was the National Park Service's first green building, LEED accredited building, that they themselves owned.
Perhaps it's because I am a designer. And as a designer, I'm interested in how I can lessen the negative environmental impacts of my profession. And it's becoming more and more clear that the design and construction and disassembly of the built environment involves about 50% of world's energy and resources. So we are major players in this problem that we're all facing, this biophysical degradation that surrounds us all.
So perhaps some of my work with the Solar Decathlon, or being on Ithaca's City Council, Conservation Advisory Council, might have been something that played into this. But I think the real reason-- I'm hoping the reason I was asked to come here today is because I see myself as a provocateur, as somebody who, because of this privileged position of being here at Cornell, and being able to reflect on practice, I can maybe make some suggestions that are unusual, or stimulate debate. And so maybe that's where I'll start for this little introduction.
For example, here we are in a room, and we're concerned about environmental issues. And you probably realize that all our electrical power-- most of it, 98% of it-- comes from coal-fired plants. So if we're really concerned about it, I would like to see the lights turned off and the shades lifted, so we get natural light into this room. And then perhaps we could start really walking the walk. Wouldn't that be a little different?
Maybe we should turn off the heat and just put on a few more layers, so that we could regulate our own micro temperatures rather than the temperature 20 feet above us, which really doesn't affect us at all.
Is it possible to turn off lights and open the shades? It would be in the spirit of the session. See what happens. It'll make this probably more visible.
All right. Well, while that's unfolding, as I said before, I teach a class on ecological literacy. And I have students from across campus, from architecture-- it's crosslisted with architecture-- from design and environmental analysis, landscape architecture, fiber science.
We should coordinate. We should coordinate this. Maybe these haven't been raised in a long time. Maybe the motors are for-- oh, here we go. Wow, natural light.
So right now, we've reduced the amount of demand for coal that's being excavated in Pennsylvania and shipped by train here-- or truck-- and dumped into the hoppers up at the plant, the PTC plant. And you know, now, we can start feeling better about reducing our ecological footprint. Don't you think that's a good thing? Yes. Well, I do. And thanks for playing along.
So when I saw what we'd be talking, I thought the first thing we should really do to address this issue as developers, as environmentalists, is perhaps think about the word development. What does that mean? And whenever I face that kind of question, the first thing I do is look at the etymology of the word and find out where it came from and how it was derived. Because for me, that often shows a lot of insight into contemporary meanings that we associate with that word.
And it turns out, as most of our English words, it has a Latin root. And it comes from a word [LATIN], which means to enfold. So to develop is-- the D-E is actually the negation of infolding. It's unfolding.
So this issue of development is-- first of all, it's kind of a negative concept in the sense it's a negated verb-- to unfold, to reveal. And so when you start looking at these different historical meanings of the word, it starts to become clear what it is that development has become in our minds and our collective consciousness. Often, it is associated with this concept of revealing or moving towards the final state. And this final state is not just any state, but it's an ennobled state, a self-actualized state.
And I think that's great. I think that's maybe what development really should be thought of, as this movement towards unfolding, revealing, the best sort of arrangement we can put together. It's an intentional act. It's not a spontaneous act. It's human-driven.
But I think therein lies the little trick of the matter. Up to this point, we've evaluated whether something is a development often by how it affects our survivability and how it affects our survivability directly. So does that mean I have more food on the table? Does that mean I can have more children? Does that mean I have more disposable income? Does that mean I can live in a more comfortable environment? Does that mean I have to expend less physical effort?
We have a situation of food scarcity in the world and the highest obesity rates in this country that we've ever seen. We have a country here that's consuming more per capita than any country in the world except the United Emirates. And that's because they have to use fossil fuels just to make water.
So other than the United Emirates, we consume more per capita. We have the highest ecological footprint per person. It's rated at 9.7 global hectares per person, the highest in the world. And we also have the lowest amount of ecological reserve, meaning we're exceeding our carrying capacity, our local carrying capacity, more than any other country.
Now, those things are a problem. Those kinds of understandings and realizations are problematic and generate a lot of concern. In the case of development, I think what's happened-- you can find various models-- the triple bottom line. You can find various metrics, whether it be BREEAM or LEED.
But what I think has to happen fundamentally is that we have to go beyond an anthropocentric understanding of development. Right now, when we're talking about this unfolding and this actualisation, what it has to mean is this kind of place where both natural ecosystems and artificial ecosystems-- the one we generate-- work in concert together. And so that means-- it's almost like the golden rule, that if you want to succeed, you do unto others as you'd have them do to you. So if you want to survive on this planet the way we have in the past, we have to make sure that our living systems are healthy. We make sure that they're healthy, we will be healthy.
MONICA TOUESNARD: Two minutes.
JACK ELLIOT: Two minutes. OK. I can't believe it goes so fast.
So this idea of extending our sort of orbit of ethical concern beyond us, this more biocentric orbit, I think, is critical to really getting a true handle on how we're going to deal with these issues. We can't solve them just by satisfying ourselves. In this world of-- we're now 6.7 billion and rising-- that's the number one problem associated with sustainability is these new people.
And you may want to ask yourself, why do we need these people? That's a fundamental question that nobody asks. They think it's just a given right to procreate as much as you are able to support. And unfortunately, we're doing that on the backs of the rest of the world. And not just the human world, the entire biophysical world.
You ask any biologist-- all they're studying now is biological collapse, no matter what domain, whether it's the marine environment, terrestrial, polar, equatorial. And it's because of the impact we have. We have to start changing the way we do things.
And one of the ways we make a big impact is through the way we build our environments. This is where the idea of development I think has to go beyond just the built environment. And we have to start thinking about rebuilding a whole world, not just as professionals, but as people. That's it. Thank you.
MONICA TOUESNARD: Thank you.
Is this on? OK. Great.
Well, I'd like to thank our panelists. We're going to take just a few more minutes to do some questions. I know-- my understanding, Michael, you might have a flight to catch.
MICHAEL DEAN: I probably missed it. [INAUDIBLE] US Air. Don't worry about it.
MONICA TOUESNARD: OK. If you need to slip out, please feel free to go ahead. Well, we'll take just a couple of questions, because I know right now, we're between a break. We're heading to a break. So we'll take a couple of questions.
SPEAKER: Any student questions first.
MONICA TOUESNARD: Student questions first. And if you could actually just say which school you're from, and speak loudly so everybody in the back can hear.
AUDIENCE: Yeah, I'm from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. And my major is science of natural and environmental systems. My name is Clay.
SPEAKER: Speak up.
MONICA TOUESNARD: Do you want the microphone? There we go.
AUDIENCE: So I'm from the College of Agriculture and Life Science. My major science of natural and environmental systems. And my name is Clay. My question is for I guess both Michael and Paul. The houses you build-- at the end of the day, they are homes, right? Are they residential?
PAUL MORRIS: It varies.
MICHAEL DEAN: We do not build single family residential. We build some high-rise residential, but our CEO has an aversion to the residential high-rise condo market, thank god.
But I live in a home.
PAUL MORRIS: It varies on the location of our projects. The majority of our projects are urban infill redevelopment projects. Often those don't involve single family housing.
AUDIENCE: OK. So I guess my question is, who lives in these homes? If you're in a urban area where the economy is not doing that well, how do you ensure that the people within that area are living in those homes? Is there a salary cap process or application process like that?
PAUL MORRIS: Let me try to get your question. And you can correct me if I'm wrong. It sounds like what you're asking is, if we're creating more sustainable living environments, are we ensuring that they are available to those who have limited financial means? That's where you're going? OK.
The question of affordability goes on all the time. In our world, where we live, being a private equity fund and relying on public employee institutional investors-- and all of the employees who work for a university contribute through either direct contribution or through the university to public employee pension funds, whether it's at the university level or at the government level. And that money then goes into investments, which is where we get our capital. And we have rules that require us to invest that capital, improve the value of the real estate that we invested in, sell that real estate, and then return that capital back to those pension funds with a profit, so that people actually have money to retire on, something that's become increasingly difficult.
What that means, then, is we have to think very carefully, to your question, about what we do on any given site-- how we make it possible for that property that often is contaminated to be reclaimed, restored, and then redeveloped in a manner that is conducive to what the needs are of that local community. So a lot of people characterize that as market analysis, understanding what the local market needs are. We would argue that it dive more deeply into understanding the demographics of that community, what it's housing or employment, retail, or institutional needs are, and providing the appropriate infrastructure and constructed opportunities that meet that portion of those needs that are appropriate within our locale.
The question of affordability-- what you're getting to-- always comes up, because it's one thing to say, we're going to build a project that is price constrained. It's another thing to be able to afford to do that. And whether it's us doing it, or those who purchase the property from us being able to do it. And then to do that in an environment where we're actually taking broken land and going through a relatively expensive process of restoring it, repairing it, and having to have the capital to justify to do that, and then turning around and building those homes and making it possible.
So if your goal is to create great development that is more sustainable, that's more viable, that's more organically contextual, and then add to that the need to create an affordable environment, then it can't be done by us alone. It requires everybody being involved. And so we work with local governments, we work with local other institutions, we work with residents themselves on projects where they become prospective tenants or prospective owners, to find ways for them to contribute to their own living, as opposed to it being kind of artificially constrained by our decisions.
And at the end of the day, all we get to do is create the opportunity. And ultimately, individuals have to make the choices. That's an American tradition that we don't get to play with.
MICHAEL DEAN: I'd like to add to that briefly. Affordable housing, whether it's sustainable or not, is a huge issue. And I think it's a moral issue. I think it's a political issue, as well as being an economic issue.
And I think a law school is a good place to recommend to future lawyers that I'm personally a believer in what I call benevolent despotism. I think combination of carrots and sticks are probably what's going to get us there, but I don't mind using the stick. I've seen lots of good change where building codes and building standards have been mandated, including standards of affordability and standards of building performance. And I would encourage that.
So I put it to you all to consider that triple bottom line and that triple imperative. And I guess, kind of following what you said, ask yourselves, what kind of world you want to live in, and is it sustainable? And are the communities we build and live in sustainable for all of us-- for all of us, no matter what our economic means are.
MONICA TOUESNARD: We'll take one more student question. Up in the back.
AUDIENCE: Hi, I'm Alexis. I'm from the law school. It seems like we've seen growth in the business level of ad hoc development of green building standards or sustainability in the big companies and a willingness within government-- federal, state, and local-- to work with regulation and incentives. So kind of at this juncture, as we're seeing an increase in a desire for sustainability, what would you want-- what approach would you want government to take, whether federal, state, or local, to kind of help businesses reach their goal of sustainability and kind of help guide them through this process?
MICHAEL DEAN: Could you repeat that please?
AUDIENCE: On Michael and Paul, I guess.
MICHAEL DEAN: Could you repeat that? I'm sorry. Just the last part. You got it.
AUDIENCE: How would you want to see government, especially the federal government, help you and companies like yours develop sustainability and aid you in what you're doing?
PAUL MORRIS: Do you want to start?
MICHAEL DEAN: Yeah. Most strides that we've seen on the legislative side have been at the state and local level for the last few years, because the Bush administration was kind of not home. I think we need-- I think we need federal standards for energy performance. I think we need to see-- and these things are happening, by the way.
I think we need to see not only legislation that says, thou shall comply with LEED or with some other green building standard, I think we need to see performance standards written into the building codes. I think we need government support for technologies that are not economically viable yet. And to people who ask, if we can do that, and if it will work, I'll say give us $700 billion and maybe we can do something with it, OK?
PAUL MORRIS: I'm not sure I would say that. I completely agree with most of what Michael said, but I think, Alexis, you brought up a really important consideration that we deal with and struggle with wherever we go. Cherokee, because of what we do in the brownfield urban redevelopment arena, have a pretty difficult task every time we do a project. And then to add to that a commitment to being a leader, right-- a thought leader and a practice leader-- in advanced sustainability in our projects that make money, adds a certain added-- a certain increased dimension to the difficulty.
At the end of the day, our greatest challenge-- and it's fascinating. I have to just make a general comment that listening to my colleagues on the panel and then reflecting back on what I said, I don't know if any of you felt this way, but I felt a little bit like the private sector were the optimists and the academy was the pessimist. Did I get that wrong? That's--
JACK ELLIOT: That's because we have a more realistic view of the world.
PAUL MORRIS: Perhaps, certainly a different one. And that's-- I only bring that up, because that's a rather remarkable juxtaposition in an environment where it's arguably perceived as often the opposite, where the pessimists are the private sector and the optimists or the public sector, or the institution, the academy at large.
And I bring that up, because, to your point, what it means is that there really has to be a collective to do this kind of stuff. It cannot be done by government, as Professor Booth suggested. And it can certainly not be done on its own by the private sector. It may have happened that way in part over time, but it cannot anymore.
And while developers are perceived as the ones really building our cities, local town councils, city governments, county commission, and states are really the developers. And the developers are the implementers. They define the rules, they set the parameters. And while there are some sick communities that are increasingly limited, that, quote, unquote, "don't have any rules," the vast majority of them today do require and have highly-controlled regulatory systems.
What's missing from it is common agreement about what the goals are. Incentives, where they are appropriate, to incite the development community to go where communities want them to, to do the right thing-- it's incredibly difficult to do urban redevelopment in this country, whether it's in Ithaca or whether it's in a small township, or whether it's in New York City. It's incredibly difficult to do it for all kinds of reasons. And there have historically been very few incentives made possible to do it.
What's even more interesting about it is that there is no level playing field for it to happen. The vast majority of public investment and decision making was flooded to the suburbs in a city at the expense of the urban area. And so it only compounded the difficulty to reclaim, restore, and regenerate urban areas. So what we look for is clear direction, common consent among all of the public and private sector parties, a level playing field, and appropriate incentives to work with the private sector to do things where they can be done and where they want them to be done.
DICK BOOTH: I think national standards on buildings may eventually arise, although not quickly. But even if they do, unless someone pays a great deal of attention to the capacity of local government to implement codes, they'll simply be federal standards that aren't implemented. There's been a state building code in this state for decades. And the variability among New York State governments in implementing that code is vast.
City of Ithaca is known as an entity that enforces it. That's because lots of local governments in New York State don't largely enforce them. All right.
And so it's absolutely true. This is eventually a partnership between the private sector and the public sector. But a big part of the public sector question is capacity to deal with these evolving, highly technical questions, which, by and large, does not-- it exists in New York City. It exists in Chicago. It doesn't exist in most local governments in America.
PAUL MORRIS: And if I could just add one other comment along Professor Booth's statement, and that is, in many jurisdictions, what we're talking about doing right now is against the law. The vast majority of American cities-- creating sustainable urban mixed use redevelopment is actually illegal. So there's an unfortunate starting point.
JACK ELLIOT: I'd like to compliment Paul on his company's efforts, because we've been talking a lot about sustainability. And if you look at that word, it just means keeping things the way they are, so that they don't get worse. It's doing less bad.
But I think when you start looking at brownfield redevelopment and sort of trying to bring the urban fabric back together, that's going a step beyond. And that's what I would term regenerative design and regenerative construction. And those are the kinds of efforts we have to be engaged in, those kinds of efforts that, through our development, we actually heal things. We make them better. We do good, not less bad. And I think that's something that's unique to his business. And it's a good model for us to look for in all of our own dealings.
MONICA TOUESNARD: Unfortunately, we're going to have to close here, but I feel like we're just getting to the beginning of the conversation. But hopefully that raises some questions in your minds, helps you think about the issues. I'd like to thank our panelists for spending the time with us this afternoon. Thank you very much.
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What are green buildings? How will developers, builders and local governments interact to minimize the negative environmental impact of structures and infrastructures?
The panelists were:
Paul Morris, vice president of sustainable planning and development, Cherokee Michael Dean, vice president and chief sustainability officer, Turner Construction Company Dick Booth, professor, city and regional planning department, Cornell University Jack Elliot, association professor, design and environmental analysis department, Cornell University
The panel was part of the Defining Sustainable Development: Land Use, Climate Change, and Water Resources conference on Nov. 7, 2008 in the Mancuso Amphitheater.