ULI Los Angeles, in partnership with VerdeXchange, recently presented FutureBuild 2017—looking at the massive investment in development and design that is transforming Los Angeles and the world. This annual event features leading change makers of the built environment.
The keynote addresses and multiple panels outlined at least $135 billion in Los Angeles economic activity in the coming decades. This investment will result from: 2024 Olympic plans, new transportation, sports and entertainment venues, parks and museums, urban resiliency, climate adaptation and other transformative projects.
Among the panels was “Innovation & Energy in the Built Environment & Future Communities”, moderated by Gray Real Estate Advisors Principal and Form magazine publisher Ann Gray. The panel balanced engineers focused on energy-efficient buildings with homebuilders targeting consumers with smart homes. Arup Sustainability Leader Russell Fortmeyer noted that “energy costs for renewables are falling quickly—7 percent per year.” The same home that cost $434 annually in energy a few years ago, now runs on just $175, he said.
Energy efficiency is aided by smart-home devices, such as Apple HomeKit, which responds to residents’ habits and commands. Brookfield Residential COO Adrian Foley said these systems would soon be rolled-out on a mass scale in Brookfield communities. And, he called them “a sexy solution to a boring problem,” suggesting that consumers are not as concerned about homes that are cooled at low costs as they are about low costs for a “cool” home—where one product controls all the home’s operations.
Indeed, players such as Apple have made smart homes as cheap as renewable energy. Foley noted that tech-equipped systems for residences “are now down to about $1,500, from about $30,000 just two or three years ago.”
Another builder, Lennar Investments and Distributed Technologies Executive Robyn Beavers, emphasized the planning side of large neighborhoods’ sustainably. She said Lennar is saving customers costs by “bringing solar energy into the planning and building of communities.”
Of course, homes are just one building type. Offices use energy as well. General Services Administration, the largest office landlord in the U.S., is focused on high-performance green building. Chief Sustainability Officer Kevin Kampschroer, from the Obama administration, described how the post-recession Recovery Act pumped billions of dollars into the economy, with the buildings under his purview meeting stringent energy-reduction goals.
So far, the new Trump administration has no new commitment to sustainability, but cities are taking up the slack.
As ULI Los Angeles Executive Director Gail Goldberg told the entire gathering, “The vast investment in Los Angeles demonstrates how cities such as ours are managing their own futures.”—Jack Skelley