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  • Writer's pictureRealFacts Editorial Team

The Next Generation of Low-Carbon Design Materials

A tree with a blurred factory in the background

At the recent Urban Land Institute's (ULI) Spring Meeting in New York, thousands of real estate professionals convened to delve into pressing topics shaping the industry's future. From integrating physical risk into investment decisions to prioritizing low-carbon design materials, the conference offered a wealth of insights into the evolving landscape of sustainable real estate development.

A significant focus of discussions centered on addressing the environmental impact of cement, which accounts for roughly 8% of global emissions. Developers and investors recognized the business opportunity in solutions aimed at reducing these emissions. Innovations such as repurposing building deconstruction waste and technologies like CarbonCure showed promise in curbing emissions from concrete production. However, challenges persist, including limited scalability and supply chain complexities.

Dubbed "The Tesla of Commercial Real Estate," mass timber emerged as a key topic, offering a low-carbon alternative to traditional building materials. Cross-laminated timber (CLT), in particular, garnered attention for its sustainability and efficiency. While popularized internationally, mass timber faces hurdles in the U.S., including regulatory constraints and insurance premiums. Despite these challenges, the material's benefits, such as carbon sequestration and streamlined construction processes, underscore its potential in shaping the future of sustainable building design.

a graph of the shortfall of high quality low carbon space

As corporate occupiers increasingly prioritize sustainability, demand for low-carbon office spaces is projected to surge, outpacing supply by 2030. Panelists highlighted the investment potential of low-carbon buildings, citing associated rent premiums and growing demand from tenants with climate commitments. The case of 140 Kendrick Building A, a net-zero carbon office redevelopment in Massachusetts, exemplified the financial viability of green buildings. Through collaboration between developers and tenants, the project demonstrated the feasibility of achieving sustainability goals while delivering a substantial return on investment.

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