This summer, the ULI Greenprint Center published its 12th annual performance report, documenting Greenprint members’ progress in decarbonizing their real estate portfolios. The result? Since 2009, these members have collectively reduced year-on-year green house gas intensity by more than 40 percent, putting them on a path to achieve a 50 percent reduction in GHG intensity by 2030.

Several Greenprint members have set even more ambitious decarbonization goals, and four members have already achieved net zero – through a combination of energy efficiency, onsite renewable energy, building electrification, green power through the utility grid, and renewable energy credits and carbon offsets.

With more than 50 members that collectively own over 12,000 buildings across the world, Greenprint members’ progress toward net zero will have a significant impact on the real estate industry’s carbon footprint, but with buildings contributing as much as 40 percent of global CO2 emissions, to achieve net zero by 2050 all building owners will have to achieve similar progress in their buildings.

So, how can every real estate owner get a 50 percent reduction in GHG emissions by 2030, and get to net zero by 2050? Here are four key steps to stay on track.

1Start with energy efficiency

Every building has opportunities to cost-effectively improve its energy efficiency, whether it is in facility management strategies and tenant education, low-cost upgrades like lighting controls, better insulation, and plug load control, or ‘investment-grade’ energy efficiency projects focused on more efficient mechanical systems and the building envelope.
Across the globe, buildings have reduced energy consumption by 50 percent or more in ways that had a positive net present value and an IRR above 15 percent.


Invest in renewable energy, on-site and off-site

Over the past 10 years, the levelized cost of solar energy has decreased by 82 percent, and in many places is now cost-competitive with fossil fuels, or better.

Investment in on-site renewable energy is being accelerated by federal, state and local rebates, investor interest in financing renewable energy, and tenant demands for carbon neutral operations. Many owners are finding the return on investment of on-site solar is better than other competing capital investments, and an increase in the range of financing options makes many of these renewable energy projects cash positive from day one.

Other owners are looking to make renewable energy investments off-site (through virtual/synthetic power purchase agreements) or are working with their utilities to lock in long-term contracts for renewable energy through the grid, often at a cost competitive with their current electric rates, and a guarantee that this cost will not go up over time.



To truly achieve net zero, buildings will have to be all electric. While the up-front cost of electrifying a gas or oil-heated building may be high, the long-term savings in energy costs, maintenance expenses and future-proofing a building against future regulations and tenant demands often justifies the investment – not to mention the health, safety, resilience and grid-interactive benefits that an all-electric building bring.

“To truly achieve net zero, buildings will have to be all electric”

As more municipalities enact ‘gas bans’ for future construction, the business case for both all-electric new construction and electrification retrofits will become even more compelling.

4 Reduce embodied carbon and the GHG impacts of construction

Leading real estate companies are now looking to measure and reduce the GHG impacts of their construction – not just their operations – by using lower-carbon materials, more locally sourced materials, and reusing existing materials and structures to reduce their carbon footprint.

By getting on the path to net-zero carbon, all building owners can cost-effectively achieve results like the ULI Greenprint real estate member companies – and help us get our global economy on the path to climate mitigation.


More information and the full State of Green report can be found at: