Tapping Industry Leaders to Educate the Real Estate Sector on Net Zero

In line with ULI’s deep appreciation of the business case for sustainability, and in alignment with the organization’s net zero mission priority, ULI Learning launched a new course in FY21: “Net Zero Real Estate: Renovating and Building for Profitability.” ULI Learning provides real estate education for students, professionals, and the public. Available online and on demand, ULI Learning’s educational series, courses, certificates, and programs leverage the Institute’s publications, content, and research, as well as the practical and theoretical insights of its member leaders.

Net zero can be an intimidating topic for those unfamiliar with the material. While the number of net zero buildings continues to rise each year, many misconceptions across the industry still result in skepticism—the belief that net zero is too complicated, too expensive, and too “new.”

Kevin Bates is president and owner of Sharp Development Company, a commercial real estate company in the San Francisco area.

ULI addressed these concerns by bringing in a pioneer of the net zero movement, Kevin Bates, to develop and lead the course. Bates is president and owner of Sharp Development Company, a commercial real estate company in the San Francisco area. He specializes in sustainable developments and renovations that achieve net zero energy and carbon neutrality: Sharp Development has completed six net-zero-energy (NZE) projects to date.

This timely course examined how to realize the triple bottom line—exploring how to retrofit existing buildings or develop new ones to be net zero, all the while prioritizing both human health and profitability. “Net-zero-energy building is very exciting and I think broadly of interest to ULI membership,” said one course attendee. “Kevin Bates did a great job.”

In true ULI fashion, the course relied on many industry experts as guest speakers to diversify the perspectives and expertise provided, including Jeremy Attema (non-energy benefits), Andy Bush (development), Alyse Falconer (engineering), Ken Huesby (construction), Rob Hymes (solar/battery), David Kaneda (lighting), and Molly McCabe (finance).

The 77 registrants for the live virtual course learned how to complete a net zero renovation in a way that quantifies its profitability compared with renovation of a building to meet minimum code. It explained how to start a net zero project, the building systems to consider, the construction process, non-energy benefits to value, financial considerations to make the project pencil out, and differences between renovation and new construction. Bates used the pro forma from one of his firm’s net zero redevelopment projects, 435 Indio, in a deep-dive capstone analysis to show the process from beginning to end. The project resulted in 93 percent reuse of demolished material, a $56-per-square foot ($603 per sq m) increase in value, zero power bill.

This five-module course also provided the resources, methods, and materials participants need to apply this methodology to their own projects and taught them how to assess the economic value of driving renovations in this direction. Participants left the course with a thorough understanding of the net zero process and confidence that it can indeed be done in today’s economy.

Said one course participant: “I absolutely loved this class. Kevin was a fantastic instructor, and I learned so much that I have started to apply to my day-to-day work.”

To view a full catalog of ULI Learning courses, visit learning.uli.org/catalog.

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