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Grosvenor Group vows net-zero carbon emissions by 2030

Grosvenor Group, a property developer and manager with a history that dates back more than 340 ye...

IMAGE: Steve O'Connell is the chief executive of Grosvenor Group Americas. (Courtesy Grosvenor)

Steve O’Connell is the chief executive of Grosvenor Group Americas. (Courtesy Grosvenor)

Grosvenor Group, a property developer and manager with a history that dates back more than 340 years, has promised to achieve net-zero carbon operational emissions at its directly managed buildings around the world by 2030.

The group, which has significant holdings in Vancouver and some in Calgary, is also targeting 2050 to achieve net-zero carbon emissions for its indirectly managed properties.

Grosvenor has commercial and residential properties in 60 countries.

The pledge arrived as Grosvenor signed on to the World Green Building Council’s (WGBC) Commitment, which set the 2030 and 2050 targets. The pledge will help to mitigate climate change in line with the ambitions of the Paris Agreement.

“It’s not really a fundamental change for us because in the past many years now, internally, we’ve been targeting the Paris Accord science-based targets for carbon reduction,” Steve O’Connell, chief executive of Grosvenor Americas, told in an interview.

Pilot projects in Vancouver

The commitment simply brings its targets into public view and underscores Grosvenor’s concerns over human-caused climate heating.

O’Connell, who is from Ontario but now lives in California, said the firm has the tools and technologies to achieve the 2030 goal and is working on various pilot projects, including in Vancouver, to find a path to net zero.

The 2050 goal is another story. “We don’t today have the tools and the technology necessary to get there, particularly as it relates to development,” he said, though it’s expected new solutions will emerge over time.

To hit the first target, Grosvenor will eliminate carbon emissions under its control and sustainably design, construct, operate and invest in net zero-ready buildings.

In the early 1950s, Grosvenor chose the Vancouver region for its first development outside of London, O’Connell said. Since then the company has had a significant presence in the region.

The Pacific to be LEED Gold

It is now building The Pacific, a luxury 39-storey residential tower in downtown Vancouver. The building is expected to complete in 2021.

It’s targeting a measurable reduction in energy and water use through LEED Gold certification. The Pacific’s design includes high-performance triple-glazed windows on the north and south facades, and balconies on the east and west facades that naturally cool the building with shade.

The project also includes an arts and culture building for the City of Vancouver being constructed to Passive House standards. The building is part of the developer’s community amenity contribution.

“That really gives us a chance in real life to get out and test some of the technologies that we want to employ more broadly,” he said.

The Vancouver project will join others in the North American portfolio to serve as test cases for the 2030 target. “We’ll learn from them and be able to employ them more broadly in our portfolio,” he said.

North America lags Europe

O’Connell said Grosvenor is making this commitment in concert with its international companies in the U.K., Europe and Asia.

“We are coordinating with those international companies much more closely as it relates to sustainability so we can learn about what’s happening elsewhere,” he said.

North America is behind the curve of net zero carbon development, especially when compared to Europe, O’Connell said.

“We are one of the first international property companies to sign up for the WGBC Net Zero commitment, and certainly one of the first North American groups to join,” though success will also rely on tenants and business partners.

“I am feeling now a great alignment of interests. I think our tenants and employees are going to really like the idea of … being in our buildings.”

By signing up to the WGBC’s commitment, Grosvenor committed to more than hitting the operational targets by 2030. It will also disclose portfolio energy demand and carbon emissions information while developing a road map of actions and milestones.

Cristina Gamboa, CEO of the WGBC, said it’s delighted to have the commitment by Grosvenor Group.

“Their action, with a particularly diverse and challenging building stock, is a clear sign of leadership in response to the climate challenge we are facing,” Gamboa said in a release. “Our green building councils across the world will be supporting Grosvenor Group to help implement the commitment locally and reach the net-zero targets by 2030.”

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