The Juxtaposition in Sustainability of the Built Environment

“Out with the new, in with the newer”…there is the juxtaposition occurring in sustainability of the built environment.

There is a shift from new to newer technologies; a migration of leadership within some companies from the corporate real estate professionals to chief sustainability officers; and an evolution of not just to embrace best practices but, advance them and to define the future of sustainability in corporate facilities.

New to Newer Technologies

At a recent Green Best Practices Summit in Boston, New England’s sustainability leaders heard from Jim Gorton of Cape Wind, a company who is developing America’s first offshore wind farm off the coast of Massachusetts with 130 wind turbines that will produce clean, renewable energy. Gorton highlighted that less than a month after the federal government gave approval to start construction, a major coal power plant in Massachusetts announced it would shut down by 2014. Gorton said, “the juxtaposition of these two announcements … illustrates where we are going as an industry, and what we have to do to move toward creating a healthier environment and increasing energy independence.”

Migration of Leadership

There is a juxtaposition occurring in many of today’s corporate cultures where the responsibility to develop sustainability strategies has transitioned beyond the corporate real estate department to manage energy consumption, waste reduction and water conservation and others within a company who address corporate social responsibility. Sustainability has reached “C-Suite” prominence with the emergence of Chief Sustainability Officers to coordinate the convergence between environment, economic and social aspects that will result in top-down leadership and more comprehensive corporate environmental stewardship.

The Horizon of Sustainability

But, the most exciting advancement is that companies aren’t just utilizing the principles of sustainability to meet the objectives of occupancy cost reduction, enhanced enterprise value and overall commitment to environmental preservation. Some of the most innovative companies are redefining what sustainability will be as they push the limits to exploit opportunities and minimize risk of what is on the horizon for sustainability.

With the progression of these and other developments, the juxtaposition of today and tomorrow lies with the question each of us must ask ourselves of, “are you ready?” Will you be poised to take advantage of emerging technology, industry best practices and processes to create sustainability strategies that support your organization’s objectives, appeal to your sense of “doing the right thing” and collaborate as a society in the move to greater sustainability?

Are you ready for the juxtaposition of who you are and who you need to be to play your role and move an industry?

(The author is Larry Simpson, Executive Vice President, Sustainability Roundtable, Inc.  who can be reached at larrysimpson@sustainround.com. Additional posts can be found in SR Inc.’s Forum found at http://www.sustainround.com/forum/ )

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