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Starlight hits milestone for 2025 green building certification targets: COO

Certified a third of its residential and commercial properties under green building standards

Glen Hirsh, chief operating officer of Starlight Investments. (Courtesy Starlight Group Property Holdings Inc.)

Starlight Investments is working on meeting its certified green space targets across its residential and commercial portfolio in Canada and the U.S. by 2025, according to Glen Hirsh, chief operating officer of the Toronto-based real estate investor and developer.

The company's goal is to certify 50 per cent of its residential space and 75 per cent of its commercial space under BOMA BEST, LEED, Fitwel and IREM. It has now surpassed certifying a third of its communities under these third-party standards.

Over 200 of its properties met the requirements set by green building organizations, including 160 of its Canadian residential and 22 commercial properties under BOMA BEST, and 15 of its commercial and Canadian residential properties under LEED.

“For this year, we’ve identified the communities that we’re targeting for certification and we’re working with our internal teams and external consultants on this process to ensure that we can achieve our certification goals,” Hirsh said in an interview with Sustainable Biz Canada.

Starlight has a portfolio of 66,000 multiresidential suites and over seven million square feet of commercial space. It maintains a 2050 net-zero target for its portfolio across all greenhouse gas emissions scopes, and reaching net-zero operational emissions for all new developments from 2030 onwards.

Certifying its portfolio

Meeting the green building standards was a group effort with Starlight’s asset managers, third-party property managers and consultants, Hirsh said. The company had to demonstrate its protocols to address environmental matters such as sustainable procurement; green cleaning practices; tracking its carbon emissions, energy use, water consumption and waste management for its existing communities.

BOMA BEST, for example, is designed to analyze existing buildings’ performance on carbon, water and waste, while also tracking climate risk, equity and accessibility.

That program took up the majority of certifications because it allows Starlight to “benchmark our performance against our peers which supports us in identifying areas for improvement and tracking our progress over time,” Hirsh said.

The target applies to Starlight’s entire portfolio.

The endeavour to certify its buildings earned Starlight first place in the Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark (GRESB) ranking for the residential non-listed peer group in 2022 and 2023.

Starlight plans to finalize the communities it is targeting for certification this year to meet its 2025 targets for green-certified space.

Shooting for sustainability

Green activities are “a mindset” to Starlight because of its impact investing mandate and the role the built environment plays in global carbon emissions, Hirsh said.

Low-carbon infrastructure is supported to reduce Starlight’s environmental footprint, materials and amenities are looked at through a sustainability lens, and livability and wellness are supported across its projects, he explained.

For example, Starlight has set goals such as:

  • generating or procuring renewable energy for 50 per cent of its portfolio by 2030;
  • diverting 30 per cent of its waste in its multiresidential portfolio and 60 per cent in its commercial portfolio by 2025;
  • increasing the amount of electric vehicle supply equipment across its residential and commercial portfolios to 50 per cent and 75 per cent, respectively, by 2026; and
  • covering all of its space under ENERGY STAR certification by 2024.

Hirsh said the company is on pace to meeting its targets for renewable energy, ENERGY STAR-certified space and waste diversion.

Specific steps within its buildings to improve sustainability performance include: LED lighting, smart thermostats, efficient HVAC systems, paint with low volatility organic compounds, occupancy sensors and e-waste diversion programs.

Hirsh picked out two U.S. residential communities in Raleigh, N.C. as standout sustainable projects in Starlight’s portfolio. Both won Jackson Controls Sustainability Awards: Summermill at Falls River for carbon emissions reduction; and Lassiter North Hills for water conservation.

Other highlights include the Trillium Executive Centre in Markham, Ont. that achieved BOMA BEST platinum certification in 2019, and its in-development Bella Vista purpose-built community slated for Central Saanich, B.C. that targets a 50 per cent improvement in building performance compared to the average benchmark.

As a result of its efforts, Starlight reduced its like-for-like (adjusted for portfolio changes) carbon emissions intensity per square foot by 12 per cent in 2022 from a 2019 baseline, according to its latest sustainability report. Its absolute Scope 1 and 2 like-for-like emissions across its entire portfolio fell by 3,800 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents from 2021 to 2022.

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