• Wed. Jun 19th, 2024

Climate Change ‘Freight Train’ About to Hit Real Estate Industry, Global Conference Told


May 17, 2023
From left to right: Peter Ballon, of the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, Diane Hoskins of Gensler, Ron Pressman CEO of ULI. (CoStar)


The global real estate head of Canada’s largest pension fund told an international audience that a “freight train” is approaching the real estate industry regarding climate change.

Peter Ballon, the outgoing global chair of the Urban Land Institute, who presides over a CA$50 billion (US$37 billion) real estate portfolio at the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, which had CA$536 billion in assets at year-end, warned there is no way to avoid sustainability issues.

“I appreciate in a large audience, there will be different views on the urgency of the topic,” said Ballon, speaking to climate change initiatives at the spring session in Toronto for the non-profit group, which drew 4,500 people, a majority from outside the city. “I can share with you from capital markets that this freight train, even if you don’t think the issue is imminent, there are enough players, with government regulations, with investors or tenants, that it matters. It will impact you.”

As chair of ULI, Ballon was part of the leadership group that made sustainability and the environment a goal for the organization.

“These are not the board’s priorities. They were made with discussions with ULI members,” said the CPPIB executive who was handing the reigns as chair of ULI to Diane Hoskins, co-chief executive of global architecture, design, and planning firm Gensler.

He added: “We just represent all of you who are members, but we identified what where the three priorities. It was very obvious, decarbonization, housing affordability and educating a diverse workforce.”

ULI Global Chief Executive Ron Pressman introduced the pair to the audience. He noted the world is in what he called the “century of the city” driven by urban growth.

“The global trend is creating significant challenges such as a strain on infrastructure and perhaps barriers to subjects like sustainability,” said Pressman, adding that cities have been forced to reinvent themselves because of changes brought by the pandemic.

Hoskins, who as co-CEO of Gensler provides over a firm with more than 53 international locations, said she is a product of the city she grew up in, Chicago.

“I wanted to be part of creating places that help shape people’s lives and helped families and communities,” said Hoskins, an architect who has worked in real estate development. ‘We have created a firm where designers think holistically but not just about the outside but also the inside and the communities we create and the lives we impact. I think that is what ULI is all about. It is a big tent.”

Ballon has lived in Toronto for 25 years and has witnessed explosive growth in Canada’s largest city. “It’s an incredible boost to this city that we have this vibrant downtown,” he said. “Toronto has been blessed with an incredible influx of population, and immigration has been very liberal. It is then on the responsibility of the supply side, and that’s a combination of the combination of the public and private sector to do it right.”

As Hoskins takes over, she warned the industry has to get ahead of issues like climate change.

“If we don’t get ahead of them, there will be a real challenge to our overall industry,” she said. “Climate change means different things in different parts of the world. We all now that, and that’s the great part of being part of a global entity.”

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