By Nadene Gallagher, Principal, Lauter + Gallagher, LLC
A Communications + Marketing Firm
ULI’s 2019 FutureBuild conference, a collaboration of ULI Los Angeles and VerdeXchange (produced by Co-Chairs Sara Neff and David Abel), attracted hundreds on January 29, 2019 in downtown Los Angeles. This productive partnership creates one of the most influential events in Los Angeles. This year international leaders in sustainability representing a broad range of stakeholders offered an inspiring and multifaceted vision of “resilient, livable and sustainable solutions for the 21st century.” A dominant theme was a focus on ways to achieve carbon neutrality.
Incoming Chair Kevork Zoryan of Morgan Stanley, Merchant Banking opened FutureBuild on Tuesday and FutureBuild Co-Chair Sara Neff introduced LA City Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson, who launched the conference by welcoming attendees alongside Bill Allen, CEO of the Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation (LAEDC) and Abel. In a keynote address, LA Mayor Eric Garcetti spoke eloquently of the importance of today’s emerging, imaginative solutions, such as those proposed by FutureBuild/VerdeXchange’s distinguished speakers, to achieve the imperative of a carbon-neutral future for the City. “L.A. is stepping up to address climate change and lead the way into the future. We’re the number-one solar city, have thousands of new green jobs, and are making progress on our goal to make our city carbon neutral by 2050,” said Garcetti.
Detailed sessions with thought leaders in urban transformation – including City of Los Angeles officials—addressed the latest ideas and game-changing practices in energy, sustainability, technology and more for an audience of professionals from the design and development industries. A few examples of the day’s wide-ranging workshops:
- “Global Sports Venues: Driving Transportation Innovation,” Exemplified by L.A.’s new Los Angeles Rams Stadium at Hollywood Park in Inglewood, featured Mayor James T. Butts of Inglewood. The future home of NFL’s Los Angeles Rams and site of the 2022 Super Bowl, the stadium’s anticipated massive attendance helped spur an expansion of LA’s Metro rail system to Inglewood that will also be key to the LA Olympics 2028 transportation plan. The speakers addressed a new generation of fans that values ride-sharing and convenience, and new mobility technologies from gondola rides and hyperloops at Dodger Stadium, to Tokyo’s promised Hydrogen Olympics.
- “Opportunity Zones and Value Creation” was a lively discussion of the new Opportunity Zones, part of the federal 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act intended to provide tax incentives for investment in low- and moderate-income communities and to build wealth in areas that need it most. California State Treasurer Fiona Ma addressed the potential for California to lead in project opportunities. She mentioned the California Opportunity Zone Partnership, launched in September, 2018, a joint effort of the Nonprofit Accelerator for America, the State of California, the Energy Foundation, and the Cities of Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose and Los Angeles. Noted Aaron Thomas, Director, Economic Initiatives & Opportunity Zones, Accelerator for America, “Opportunity Zones are private programs with no requirement to have the government at the table for cities to participate, other than for entitlement approval.”
- “Decarbonizing the Built Environment: Smart Building Case Studies” highlighted sobering statistics about the urgent need to reduce the carbon footprint of the built environment. Buildings are the number-one source of climate pollution in the world, and more than half of building pollution comes from gas- and propane-powered appliances.
- Only very recently has California begun to seek ways to address these emissions. According to Panama Bartholomy, Director of the Building Decarbonization Coalition, “The first real attention to decarbonizing buildings began in 2018, and a consensus began to emerge that building electrification is the best path to zero emissions.” In commercial real estate, the conversation about all-electric buildings is just beginning. For example, attendees heard from the innovative Canadian company Subterra Renewables that uses geothermal and water resources to create zero-carbon buildings. “We build low-carbon systems for developments that significantly reduce end user costs,” said Subterra Vice President Jeff Addison. “People say our business model is too good to be true, but it’s working.”
- “Urban On-Demand Retail Distribution Centers: The New Railyards?” reviewed important new ways of addressing emissions from the movement of goods in transportation and infrastructure that were catalyzed by California’s bold Transportation Bond a decade ago. Since then the retail experience has changed dramatically. New retail is not just about the store anymore. Retail sales are driven by place or pace of delivery. How can cities, developers, and retailers work together to design a healthy delivery system within the urban fabric? According to panelist Larry J. Kosmont, CRE®, chairman & CEO of the Kosmont Companies, “Currently, most cities do not have an integrated vision for ‘destination and delivery,’ but a tax strategy that considers both is key for communities’ economic prosperity. Cities must understand that retail is as much about distribution of goods as it is the destination for consumer goods.”
More workshops focused on diverse challenges and new solutions, including Energy Storage 2.0; Alternatives to Batteries; Is Zero Discharge the Future for Recycled Wastewater Treatment?; Lessons Learned & Not Learned from California’s Natural Disasters; and Solar & Green Roof Mandates: Navigating Compliance and Permitting to Deliver ROI.
For the first time, The FutureBuild Sessions@VerdeXchange hosted tours of the newest sustainable developments in Downtown Los Angeles, including the under-construction Lucas Museum, and a Green Roof Tour of DTLA buildings.
Attendees left this enriching conference energized and enthusiastic about the role that every one of them, in any profession and any industry, can play to address climate change and reduce carbon levels, and help lead the way into an exciting and sustainable future.
Nadene Gallagher is Principal, Lauter + Gallagher, LLC, A Communications + Marketing Firm