We assembled a panel of industry experts to tackle this month’s question.
Here’s what they had to say:
Stephen Fauer, president, ESA Environmental Consultants (Middlesex)
New Jersey’s Environmental Justice Act, signed into law in September 2020, addresses ‘the disproportionate environmental and public health impacts of pollution on overburdened communities.’ The state has identified 3,168 overburdened communities throughout New Jersey. The new law protects residents in these communities from specific types of new development projects. Permit renewals on existing facilities that meet the law’s criteria will face scrutiny as well; nothing is grandfathered. As we await publication of regulations, there are some steps property owners can take now. First, use NJDEP’s online Environmental Justice Mapping Tool to determine if your active or planned project lies within an overburdened community. If it does, speak with an environmental attorney to develop a compliance strategy. Also ensure that your environmental consultant is involved from the beginning. The key is to stay ahead of this law in order to ensure compliance and minimize costs.
Chris Kline, global senior principal for sustainability and ESG, Cardno
Property owners should be aware of changes to FEMA’s flood insurance rates in 2022.
Flood damage isn’t covered by standard home insurance policies. If you’re in the market for flood insurance, you get it from either the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) or purchase a private policy through an insurance company. A majority of homeowners buy their policy from the NFIP, but the program hasn’t changed much since it was created over 50 years ago — when the impacts of climate change on coastal communities, like those hit hardest by Hurricane Sandy, were far less severe — and, as climate change accelerates, property owners in flood-prone zones will likely experience higher rates in order to cover the growing costs of disaster relief each year. In New Jersey, property owners may expect rate increases between 5 and 18 percent annually.
David J. Minno, principal, Minno & Wasko Architects & Planners (Lambertville)
Going all electric — no gas cooking, heating or use of fossil fuels: This is a specific goal of New Jersey’s Energy Master Plan, in which New Jersey is striving for 100 percent clean energy by 2050. This will be a major change for developers and their subcontractors.
Indoor air quality: COVID has highlighted the need for good air quality. Currently there are no baseline requirements for indoor air, even though we spend 90 percent of our time indoors. We will need to develop the means to measure and monitor indoor air quality.
Increasing energy costs will demand that we design more energy-efficient buildings. Certifications will move toward super-insulated buildings vs. legacy programs like LEED.
Zero-energy projects: We will offset energy use with renewables or the purchase of Renewable Energy Credits.
Jenn Taranto, director of sustainability, global services, STO Building Group
Carbon is the concern for real estate in 2022 and beyond. As companies lean into their zero-carbon emission targets, the focus is directly on their real estate. 39 percent of global emissions come from building operations, building materials and construction. Real estate’s gains in energy efficiency only tells half the story about a building’s emissions. Operational carbon is 51 percent of a building’s lifecycle emissions while 49 percent comes from embodied carbon.
As New Jersey works to address climate change through legislation, the private sector will see pressure from prospective building tenants and residents who want the places they work and live to be built responsibly. People want a built environment where they and the planet can thrive, buildings that tell a story. The work to lower emissions to meet our clients’ goals has already started, but the question remains if the real estate industry can respond fast enough.
Jeffrey B. Wagenbach, co-chair, environmental group, Riker Danzig (Morristown)
‘New’ will be the watchword in the 2022 environmental world for property owners, operators and developers, with a number of New Jersey environmental initiatives that may impact planned development and even ongoing operations. Newly identified emerging contaminants (think PFAS) are now regulated at the parts per trillion level and are being found in groundwater throughout the state. A challenge for remediation of legacy sites, regulation of these compounds also falls on drinking water suppliers and waste water dischargers, impacting the operation of new, expanded and even some preexisting property uses. 2022 will also see the rollout of regulatory programs to affirmatively address climate change concerns. Proposed rules under the state’s Protect Against Climate Threats program are anticipated, and it is apparent that the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection will be promoting a forward-thinking program to proactively address current and expected conditions, requiring a more rigorous planning process. Similarly, proposed Environmental Justice rules will meaningfully impact key industrial facilities in areas deemed to be subject to disproportionate historic impacts.
Gregg Woodruff, senior associate / sustainability leader, Langan (Parsippany)
We are in a unique situation coming out of the pandemic, as the world adjusts to a new normal with how people travel and interact. This will continue to affect the way we design our built environment, specifically in urban areas. Prior to the pandemic, people were already adjusting the ways they traveled, including an increased use of nontraditional modes of transportation. However, modified workplace situations have accelerated these trends.
In addition to a growing focus on reimagining public right-of-ways is the demand for outdoor recreation and dining space. As a result, while designers and developers work to meet the demands of potential tenants and users, the public is also looking for ways to make cities more sustainable and livable.
Langan has always supported this transition and we’re playing a valuable role in developing solutions to these challenges for various projects throughout New Jersey.