GRESB, GBIG, and More at Greenbuild: 10 Lessons Learned

Chris Pyke, PhD

Last week, the extended GRESB and GBIG families came together in Washington, DC for Greenbuild. Before the show, I offered my personal Top 10 List. I wanted to share a few quick things I learned during a great week:

  1. The week started with the GRESB Green Bond Working Group. I knew going in that the Fannie Mae Green Initiative was driving market transformation in the U.S. multifamily market. During this session I learned about the amazing impact of Vasakronan’s Green Bond Framework, including their commitment to GHG mitigation through certified commercial properties and climate change risk assessment and adaptation.
  2. At the GRESB Investor Track networking luncheon Sara Neff from Kilroy Realty schooled us on applications of energy storage for commercial real estate. Sara challenged the audience to think about connections between demand response and energy storage, asking us to think about the circumstances when storage actually reduces total energy demand and when it moves it around in time.
  3. J.P. Flaherty from Tishman Speyer gave the most interesting talk on ESG data management I have ever heard. OK, he had the advantage of a fairly low bar, but it was a great talk nevertheless. He provided a fast-paced overview of Tishman’s global multi-layer, multi-vendor data management infrastructure.
  4. Jeannie Renne-Malone from Prologis described the amazing scope and ambitions of the company’s efforts to use its massive rooftops to generate on-site renewable energy. Jeannie described the challenges and impressive success of Prologis’ long-running effort to deploy PV across its global portfolio.
  5. Geoff Dutaillis from Lendlease talked about the “next big thing” with an introduction to their on-going efforts to create property that actively, intentionally promotes health and wellbeing. Geoff made it clear that Lendlease’s ambition goes deep, seeking to create value by building and operating superior places for people. I love this idea, and it’s great to hear it from a guy with a history in the trenches of energy issues.
  6. I heard Master Speaker Dr. Don Schwarz describe the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s vision for a Culture of Health. Following last year’s presentation by Acting Surgeon General Boris Lushniak, Dr. Schwarz showed us how zip codes can often predict average life expectancy and how changes in the design and operation of built environments can make a big difference.
  7. Later on, I joined Sara Neff, Paul Edwards (Mirvac), and Jorge Chapa (Green Building Council of Australia) for a quick review of the 2015 GRESB results and a spirited discussion about why Australians consistently lead the world in GRESB ratings. A little known fact: While Australians dominate on average, Kilroy Realty was the highest scoring office company in the world this year.
  8. Bright and early on Thursday morning, I joined Dr. Matt Trowbridge, Dr. Doug Jutte, and Kelly Worden to talk about making healthy places investable. I love this crew, and, predictably, I learned a lot. Dr. Trowbridge led off by making the connection between public health and the built environment – he took us back to the beginning with John Snow’s study of the 1854 Broad Street cholera outbreak and all the way up to the present with his research on healthy school design. I know that I want my kids to learn in schools that reflect the design principles Dr. Trowbridge and his colleagues have put together.
  9. Dr. Jutte shared success stories about the power of investing in healthy places with results and outcomes from the Build Healthy Places Network. Of many fascinating lessons, I was particularly taken with the amazing positive impact of the East Lake Meadows project in Atlanta. Dr. Jutte told us about how thoughtful design and strategic investment transformed a “war zone” into a vibrant mixed-income community. In the process, the population grew from 1,400 to 2,100 people, the employment rate rose from 13% to 70%, and violent crime dropped by 90%.
  10. Finally, I enjoyed the industry panel during the Closing Plenary. We heard about new research demonstrating clear connections between indoor environmental conditions and cognitive function. We learned more about Vasakronan’s commitment to a low carbon future. We also heard how Starbucks is connecting the dots between its sustainability efforts and business performance – realizing real benefits with respect to employee retention and workforce engagement.
  11. So much happened during the week, that I need to add number 11 to this Top 10 list. We had great time meeting folks in the GBIG booth. We introduced new features to connect organizations and professionals to great green buildings around the world. These new tools provide new opportunities to communicate about the contributions of products and services to green building achievement and performance. One of my favorites is the new organizational profile created by Dekker/Perich/Sabatini, a design firm with offices in New Mexico, Arizona, and Texas. Check out their profile on

These highlights only scratch the surface of a great week at Greenbuild. I’m already looking forward to Greenbuild in Los Angeles next year.

Chris Pyke, PhD
GRESB, Chief Operating Officer, helping lead a global team using data and transparency to drive positive change in the real estate industry. Learn more on and