Practical Greening: The Bottom Line On Sustainable Property Development, Investment and Financing by LEED AP Molly McCabe (Peppertree Press)
We are living in a unique time, facing unimagined challenges: global economic crisis, peak oil, climate change, social and geopolitical shifts. And these are the high level concerns. At the ground level we are dealing with aging infrastructure, an inadequate energy grid, primary fuel sources in foreign hands, diminishing croplands, a newly regulated playing field and unemployment reaching double digits in some cities. Like a perfect storm, few could have imagined these events arising in concert. But, they have complexity is increasing, changing the world as we've known it.
We need the capacity to evolve, to innovate, be agile and flexible and ultimately, resilient. We need to engage and lead. The imperatives of climate change and resource scarcity will change the way we do business. from the book
Molly McCabe, founder and president of Bridger Commercial Funding, is a research fellow for the Responsible Property Investing Center housed at Harvard University. In Practical Greening asks readers to imagine 30,000 acres of pristine land handsome rolling hills full of wildlife, including eagles, great blue heron, bobcats and threatened kit foxes. 30,000 acres is just shy of 47 square miles. The 30,000 acres is located adjacent to a community where the population has almost doubled in 20 years.
McCabe was part of a team that financed the development of an identical piece of land in the mid 1980s. The area was right on the edge of town; perfect for first-time homebuyers and industrial development. Her team helped facilitate a new metropolis in the foothills of California. Over the next few years, they financed office buildings, hotels, industrial properties, warehouses and residential subdivisions. A small town became a city, and the state itself grew twice as fast as the rest of the nation. Yet not once did the question of sustainability come up.
In 1987, the United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED) defined sustainable development as development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
It's hard to argue with the U.N.'s basic premise. Sustainability helps balance present and future needs, making it an obvious best practice. Sustainability connotes best practice, a strategic imperative how do we sort through the hype, rhetoric and misinformation that plague the subject? How do we find the nexus between profit and green building?
According to Practical Greening, sustainability isn't a property type. If one has an office building that has sustainable features, it's still an office building. One still needs to operate it efficiently and keep tenants happy. Ninety percent of the risks associated with sustainable properties are the same fundamental real estate risks we deal with every day:
When one looks at these factors from a traditional real estate perspective, sustainability becomes the next obvious step; its an evolution in the analysis.
Practical Greening asks, does a sustainable property cost more than a conventional property? Not necessarily. Overall costs depend on the design features and on the skill and experience of the construction team, as well as the time frame under study. One also has to take into account government incentives, tax and utility rebates & credits, tax abatements, expedited permitting and density bonuses.
Do sustainable design features automatically lead to higher rents, faster absorption and lower turnover? While it's still too early to say for sure, a growing body of anecdotal evidence suggests that sustainability has a positive impact on absorption, retention and turnover. And increasingly tenants are asking for sustainable features.
How do sustainable property values hold up over the long term? Once again, there is not enough data to formulate a conclusive answer, but logic suggests that higher net operating incomes (due to lower operating expenses) should produce higher long-term values. And, in any case, risk mitigation against potential regulation and changing consumer demand is worth the effort whether sustainable buildings appreciate at the same rate or, as anticipated, better than traditional buildings.
Readers of Practical Greening should also keep in mind that energy costs will continue to exert pressure on overall pricing and availability. If one lowers their exposure to energy price volatility and resource issues, they can reduce their risks which, in turn, should translate to lower cap and discount rates. It is commonly believed that a green-rated or certified building will be more energy efficient. And the higher the rating, the greater the efficiency. But depending on the overall certification parameters, a project with a stamp of approval might be no more efficient than a conventional property. Conversely, a project can meet all its sustainability objectives without receiving official certification. Still, green certification especially Energy Star and LEED has become a major selling point.
While environmental and social factors are part of the equation, economics drives the focus on sustainability. There is an emerging mass of data that demonstrates a direct link between sustainability and financial performance. Lower operating costs, the potential for increased productivity, a healthier work environment (resulting in easier recruitment and retention of employees and possibly bringing down our health costs) and sustainability's intrinsic marketing advantages are all part of the equation.
On the construction side of the ledger, fundamental changes in the cost structure reflected in significant price increases for electricity, steel, copper, cement and fuel have caused property owners and developers to rethink standard building practices. And even with the potential for deflation, there are concerns that global warming legislation and raw material scarcity may fundamentally change profitability equations in the near term.
As readers of Practical Greening might imagine, demand for sustainable buildings has risen dramatically in the United States over the past two years. This presents a perfect opportunity to capitalize on market realities at the same time we re-brand ourselves as sustainable and green. In many major U.S. cities, it's rare to find a new office building that isn't being built to LEED Silver certification. As one large national developer put it: "LEED Silver is the price of entry for Class A office. If you haven't reached that mark, your building is obsolete. Gold or Platinum gets you bonus points.
Molly McCabe's Practical Greening offers a solid overview of the tools with which investors can incorporate sustainability analysis into their daily practice, and a survey of the vital reasons new regulatory environments, changing consumer demands, more efficient uses of resources why they should. Case studies illustrate tactics and strategies, and clear and pointed toolkits will help investors know the right questions to ask on topics ranging from building certification, to retrofitting, to alternative income streams. On every topic, the focus is on how to make investment decisions sharper and more forward-looking. This is a very useful book. David Wood, Director Initiative for Responsible Investment Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organization Harvard University
If you are looking to introduce yourself to sustainability and commercial real estate, this is the ideal book you need. If you are already on track with what is changing the real estate industry, this book will help your colleagues catch up to you. Written by someone who understands sustainability from a commercial lender's and investor's view point, Molly's real estate finance experience and LEED AP rating allows her to provide a framework to put this trend into a usable context for business use. The examples are clear, current and easy to understand, demonstrating how value is created. Not all components of the industry have embraced the change to looking at commercial real estate via sustainable measures, but this is a very helpful roadmap for those on the journey and those planning the trip. William G. Lashbrook III, Senior Vice President, PNC Real Estate Vice Chair, New Jersey Chapter US Green Building Council
A solid overview of sustainability, Practical Greening offers a framework or map for understanding the issues very useful.
The Power of Positive Deviance: How Unlikely Innovators Solve the
World's Toughest Problems by Richard Pascale, Jerry
Sternin, and Monique Sternin (Harvard Business Press) Think
of the toughest problems in your organization or community. What if
they'd already been solved and you didn't even know it?
In The Power of Positive Deviance, the authors present a counterintuitive new approach to problem-solving. Their advice? Leverage positive deviants--the few individuals in a group who find unique ways to look at, and overcome, seemingly insoluble difficulties. By seeing solutions where others don't, positive deviants spread and sustain needed change.
With vivid, firsthand stories of how positive deviance has alleviated some of the world's toughest problems (malnutrition in Vietnam, staph infections in hospitals), the authors illuminate its core practices, including:
The Positive Deviance concept is based on the observation that in every community or organization, there are a few individuals or groups who have found uncommon practices and behaviors that enable them to achieve better solutions to problems than their neighbors who face the same challenges and barriers.
The Positive Deviance approach is grounded in the assumption that communities have assets or resources they haven't tapped. The Positive Deviance process enables a community or organization to identify and amplify those practices and behaviors, measure outcomes, and share their successful strategies with others. The Positive Deviance approach is used to bring about sustainable behavioral and social change by identifying solutions already existing in the system.
A Positive Deviance individual or group demonstrates special or uncommon behaviors and strategies that enable the person or group to overcome a problem without special resources. However, a person is defined as a Positive Deviant only in the context of a specific problem.
Positive Deviance design or methodology consists of four basic steps (the four D's: define, determine, discover, and design). These comprise an iterative road map for the process.
Positive Deviance inquiry refers to the stage in the process whereby the community seeks to discover demonstrably successful behaviors and strategies among its members.
Positive Deviance process refers to the entire journey encompassing the skillful use of experiential learning methods and skilled facilitation applied to the four steps of the Positive Deviance design. It results in community mobilization and ownership, discovery of existing solutions, and emergence of new solutions as a result of community initiatives.
Chapters have highlighted a number of steps critical to the success of the positive deviance approach. These include:
Basic Field Guide to the Positive Deviance (PD) Approach
Purpose of the Field Guide
This basic guide is intended to orient newcomers to the Positive Deviance approach and provide the essential tools to get started. It includes a brief description of the guiding principles, methodology, and process that have made Positive Deviance projects successful. It is recommended as a resource to enable facilitators and apprentices to quickly initiate the Positive Deviance process using the four basic steps (the four D's: define, determine, discover, and design). These comprise an iterative road map for the process.
Its brevity and simplicity are meant to invite curious and intrepid implementers who face complex problems requiring behavioral and social change. It is suitable for those who seek solutions that exist today in their community and enables the practitioner to leverage those solutions for the benefit of all members of the community.
Positive Deviance is best understood through action and is most effective through practice.
When to Use Positive Deviance
Positive deviance should be considered as a possible approach when a concrete problem meets the following criteria:
Guiding Principles of the Positive Deviance Approach
Positive Deviance emphasizes practice instead of knowledge—the "how" instead of the "what" or "why." The Positive Deviance mantra is: "You are more likely to act your way into a new way of thinking than to think your way into a new way of acting."
Characteristics of the Positive Deviance Process
The Positive Deviance process promotes behavioral and social change because:
Tips for Positive Deviance Facilitators
The Art of Asking Questions
For the most thoughtful and revealing responses, use open-ended questions that ask what, how, why, why now? Here are some examples of what you might ask or say in specific situations to facilitate or refocus discussions.
You can also use the somersault question:
Once the group realizes that Positive Deviances actually exist in their own community, then follow up with some direct questions, such as:
To discover Positive Deviance behaviors and strategies, ask probing questions: You said that you did X; how were you able to do that?
Commitment of Leaders and Sponsors
STEP 1: THE COMMUNITY DEFINES OR REFRAMES THE PROBLEM BY:
TOOLS OR ACTIVITIES FOR DEFINING THE PROBLEM:
STEP 2: THE COMMUNITY DETERMINES COMMON PRACTICES BY:
STEP 3: THE COMMUNITY DISCOVERS THE PRESENCE OF POSITIVE DEVIANTS BY:
TOOLS OR ACTIVITIES TO IDENTIFY AND LEARN ABOUT COMMON BEHAVIORS (STEP 2) AND IDENTIFY BEHAVIORS AND STRATEGIES FROM POSITIVE DEVIANTS (STEP 3):
STEP 4: THE COMMUNITY DESIGNS AND DEVELOPS ACTIVITIES TO EXPAND THE Positive Deviance SOLUTIONS BY:
TOOLS OR ACTIVITIES FOR DESIGNING OPPORTUNITIES FOR COMMUNITY MEMBERS TO PRACTICE THE DISCOVERED BEHAVIORS AND STRATEGIES:
A Guide to Careers in Community Development by Paul C. Brophy and Alice Shabecoff (Island Press) offers a wide range of exciting and rewarding employment options. But until now, there has been no "road map" for professionals, volunteers, students, or anyone wishing to become involved in the field.
A Guide to Careers in Community Development describes the many different kinds of community development jobs available, ranging from community organizing, to financing housing and new businesses, to redeveloping brownfields. It offers advice on how to break into the field along with guidance for career advancement and lateral movement.
Hope Meadows: Real-Life Stories of Healing and Caring from an Inspired Community by Wes Smith (Berkley Publishing Group) At first, Hope Meadows, Illinois looks like any other rural small town neighborhood. But this little village of big miracles is unique. The brainchild of a determined sociologist, Academic activist Brenda Eheart, it is built on an abandoned Air Force base for a single purpose: to create a solution to the problem of revolving-door foster care by developing a multigenerational alternative to the traditional foster care system. Here are children given up by impoverished mothers; children of drug addicts, prisoners, and prostitutes; children who had never been taught the importance of responsibility, school, or the basics of human interaction. Here "unadoptable" children are given the chance to thrive in permanent homes. At Hope Meadows, seniors find a renewed sense of purpose as foster grandparents. In return for adopting up to four special-needs children, parents receive free housing and a salary of $19,000 a year. Senior citizens obtain low rent in exchange for volunteer and mentorship work, and a therapist lives on-site. Seniors spirits are lifted, renewed and enriched as they give unconditional love and commitment to the children they have come to care for deeply.
A collection of profiles of the various and sundry families, this book grew out of the veteran journalist We Smith’s story for the Chicago Tribune in 1996. Chapters brim with testimonials and poignant case studies; selection criteria and placement failures are de-emphasized. A longer-term study of the outcomes of this project would have been useful, but media and political leaders already support this social experiment as a cost-effective approach to profound social problems. Hope Meadows offers an important alternative to the difficult issues of unwanted children and seniors citizens in need of connection
A Dream Unfinished: Theological Reflections on America from the Margins edited by Eleazar S. Fernandez, Fernando F. Segovia From Preface: The last decades of the twentieth century witnessed the explosion of non-Western theological studies‑broadly conceived as Christian Studies‑both outside the West, among the children of the colonized in the Two‑Thirds World, and inside the West, among ethnic and racial minorities in the United States. Outside the West, such studies first developed in Latin America, in the form of liberation theology, and it was not long before the movement had spread in a variety of shapes and forms to Africa, Asia and the Pacific, and the Caribbean. Inside the West, such studies first came to the fore among African Americans, by way of black theology, and later spread to Hispanic Americans as well as Asian Americans.
Yet, collaboration among the different regions and groups has differed considerably. Outside the West, theologians from the various geographical areas of the Two‑Thirds World have, for a long time now, participated in a variety of common projects and endeavors, while continuing to address the particular concerns of each major region. Inside the West, theologians from the various minority groups have kept, for the most part, to their own respective circles and discussions and, as a result, have failed not only to engage one another but also to develop any sense of common agenda or discourse. Thus, while dialogue and collaboration have been quite common in the Two‑Thirds World, atomization and dispersion have prevailed instead among ethnic and racial minorities in the West.
Given the ever‑growing numbers and strength of minorities in theological studies within the United States, however, we believe that the time has come for a fundamental change in this regard. Indeed, we are of the opinion that a sustained and systematic conversation among the various groups has become imperative. Our present fragmentation not only works against our cause, both as a whole and as individual groups, ultimately reinforcing our marginalization in the country, but also makes it easier for the forces of closure‑the forces of racism and discrimination, injustice and oppression, always at work in the land to have their way. The present volume, therefore, is meant as a first attempt at such a conversation. As such, we wanted both project and volume to be broadly inclusive, bringing together a proper balance of theologians from the major groups in question (African Americans, Asian Americans, Hispanic Americans), a proper balance of women and men theologians, and a proper balance of theologians from the Catholic and Protestant traditions. Such is the diversity of our groups, and such must be the diversity of any conversation among us. Our only regret in this regard is that the volume did not turn out to be as diversified as originally intended, due to a number of factors endemic in any project of publication and simply beyond our control.
For a conversation as multicentered and multilingual as the one envisioned, a central issue of interest to all as point of departure proves essential. We opted for the concept of the "American Dream." We thus asked the various contributors to offer theological reflections on the country in general and the American Dream in particular from their respective positions in the margins as members and voices of minority groups.
Such a choice we deemed most appropriate, given both the centrality of this concept in the life of the country and the highly conflicted experience of minorities in this regard. On the one hand, the vision of the Dream is beyond question: a long‑standing and much‑cherished view of the country as an open land of freedom, justice, and opportunity, not only for all of its born citizens but also for all those who enter the country as immigrants. On the other hand, the underside of the Dream is also beyond question. Although some Americans of non‑European descent have "made it" in the country‑have attained a measure of the American Dream‑ethnic and racial minorities have, by and large, remained marginal participants in this dream. Indeed, for many such a dream has become, at best, a deferred vision, and, at worst, a terrible nightmare. Yet, America remains dear to ethnic and racial minorities insofar as they refuse to relinquish the America of their hearts. It was this conflict of promise and experience, therefore‑this sense of "a dream unfinished"‑that we wanted to address in unison, as a theological exercise in common, and so we asked all participants to do so, in whatever way they saw fit, from within the context of their own respective communities in the country. The result proved a success beyond all expectations‑a veritable cornucopia of theological reflections on dream and country alike.
We conclude with a threefold hope. First, that this project prove but a beginning for protracted conversation among minorities in the United States. Second, that such dialogue lead us beyond the fragmentation we have experienced thus far, much to our detriment and that of the country as well as that of theological studies in general. Finally, that this dialogue in and from the margins ultimately lead us beyond marginalization itself, toward a very different conception and practice of theological studies and, most important, toward the eventual fulfillment of our unfinished dream in the country.
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