Could Hines’ VP of Carbon Strategy Role Set a Trend?

By Published On: January 5, 20223.5 min read

Hines, a real estate firm with over $80 billion in assets under management, recently promoted Michael Izzo to Vice President, Carbon Strategy.

The Sustainability Accounting Standards Board is putting pressure on investors and developers to pay attention to ESG (environmental, social and governance) factors, just as the Paris Agreement goal creeps up on us all (net zero emissions by 2050).

According to the United Nations Environmental Program, the building sector makes up 38% of carbon emissions. To get on track to net-zero carbon building stock by 2050, the International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that direct building CO2 emissions need to fall by 50% by 2030. To get there, the building sector emissions need to fall by roughly 6% per year up until 2030.

This move, as one of the world’s largest development companies, hires an executive to handle lowering carbon emissions. The hope is that others will follow.

Izzo’s focus is on reducing carbon emissions while working on the company’s new construction and renovation projects, everywhere from New York to Shanghai.

“I have been lucky enough to be provided a role to lead the firm on a long-term carbon strategy,” Izzo said.

With real estate accounting for 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions, the case is often higher in densely congested cities like New York, where some buildings contribute to up to 70% of greenhouse gas emissions.

Izzo will work with construction and engineering teams to use low-carbon materials like mass timber and recycled concrete, among other initiatives. Hines also has a carbon guidebook to help educate workers and help make sure that construction teams are reducing their carbon impact.

Before Izzo was promoted to VP of Carbon Strategy, a newly-created position he has held since July, he was the Vice President of Construction, a role he held for two years.

Previously he was a construction engineer at the New York firm BR+A and a facilities engineer at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

Right now Izzo is working with Cookfox Architects on a new Hines building in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village, which will be completed next year. The 16-story office tower will run entirely on electricity, no gas. This low-carbon building at 555 Greenwich Street meets New York City’s 2050 carbon neutral building goal.

At the beginning of December, 2021, Hines told Fast Company, “We’re not looking for the perfect carbon efficiency or the perfect financial efficiency. It’s how we marry the two and adopt these two different, sometimes competing metrics in order to make better investment decisions.

The Greenwich building is on track to achieve carbon emissions reductions 45% lower than New York City’s expected 2030 targets for office buildings. The project is also designed to align with a 1.5 ˚C pathway while meeting the state’s 2050 carbon neutral targets.

Izzo is providing strategic leadership to help reduce carbon emissions onsite and in the long-term goals of the real estate firm. “We believe over time this approach will become the industry standard, driving material suppliers to do better and rewarding those that do,” Izzo said.

This Greenwich Village building is expected to set the bar as one of the most sustainable buildings in New York City and is one of Hines’ pilot projects for carbon reduction.

“By bringing focus to significantly reducing embodied carbon, while continuing to decrease operational carbon, we intend to address the holistic impact buildings have on increasing global temperatures, and partake in the transition to net zero,” Izzo said. “We encourage all in the real estate sector to join this commitment to create a decarbonized built environment, as it is imperative for us all to collaborate to achieve this momentous goal.”

In a statement, Hines Global Head of ESG Peter Epping said Izzo has a wealth of decarbonization strategies that are being implemented with new Hines projects. “We are thrilled that Mike has agreed to lead the carbon strategy for our firm as we embark on creating carbon standards for the built environment,” Epping said.

Next up, Izzo is working on a carbon strategy for Hines and helping implement that for their projects in 2022 and beyond. “It’s imperative that we move quickly because the buildings we’re building today, they’re going to be around for a very long time.”

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