Author: Jeff Perlman
I was planning to write an uplifting piece about the “irreversible momentum of clean energy,” following on what President Obama wrote, just before leaving office, in Science Magazine.
If you want to read that piece, click here.
But given the recent events surrounding the President’s executive order on immigration, I feel compelled to write to you about something else: standing up for what is right.
At Bright Power, we have employees who were born in over a dozen countries. My employees have been coming to me – as I imagine your employees, colleagues, tenants and friends may be coming to you – scared and unsure of the security of their place in this country.
The US has long been a place that the brightest and best from around the globe seek to come, and our companies and communities are the beneficiaries of this global braintrust. This is one of the core strengths of our economy. But how can the foreign nationals in any workplace or apartment complex in America be productive if they are forced to worry if they are the next target? How can companies continue to recruit global talent if they cannot guarantee for prospective employees a safe place here?
As leaders of organizations and in our communities, we must stand up to protect those with less power and less privilege, within our organizations, communities, and beyond. We cannot simply look at this month or this quarter and, if the numbers look good, ignore what is happening in the world around us. This is about what is good for the long-term health of our businesses, but this is also about what is right.
This country – the richest in the world – has been a place of refuge for so many — in my family and probably in yours, too. People who didn’t have the privilege of education or wealth, who were chased from their homes or lucky to escape with their lives, coming here with nothing but the desire to prove they could be a productive part of this open and welcoming society; a place where we judge not by who you are or where you came from, but by what you can do.
Political decisions made haphazardly about immigration, taxation, trade agreements and use of military, to name a few, have dire consequences not just on our ability to conduct business, but on our position in the world and on the lives of people in this country and across the globe.
So I stand with other business leaders, from Google to Goldman Sachs, from Ford to GE, against ugly isolationism and xenophobia, and for the loving, inclusive, and welcoming country that has been a beacon of hope and light to my ancestors, to current immigrants and to so many around the world. And I invite you to stand with me.
President and CEO
Just before leaving office, President Obama wrote in Science magazine, about the “irreversible momentum of clean energy.” Just look at the employment trends: “~2.2 million Americans… currently employed in the design, installation, and manufacture of energy-efficiency products and services… [compared] with the roughly 1.1 million Americans who are employed in the production of fossil fuels and their use for electric power generation.” We’ve seen evidence of this ourselves at Bright Power, where our staff has more than doubled in size since the last election and in 2016 alone our revenue grew over 70% — not a lot of conventional energy companies can say that. Insofar as the 2016 election was a referendum on jobs, President Trump should want to support the largest areas of employment in the energy sector (hint: they’re not coal mines). And equipment costs for renewables and energy efficiency, especially for solar energy and LED lighting, have been on a steady downward trajectory, which means that they are increasingly less dependent upon government subsidy.
All of this is good news for the real estate industry. We have a growing set of tools we can use to deliver more value to you, across your portfolio. Finding opportunities to lower energy usage and costs, fixing buildings to make them more comfortable and more efficient, and following them on an ongoing basis to reduce headaches for you and your maintenance staffs…all of this continues to work for you, no matter who is in office.
While the Clean Power Plan (CPP) itself now seems doomed, the electricity sector has already nearly achieved the 2030 carbon goal today (we’re at 27% carbon savings and the 2030 goal is 32%). So as long as we don’t start forbidding the use of renewables in favor of coal (really, Wyoming?), we should far surpass the CPP goals even without the CPP. And while the recent executive orders in support of oil pipelines mean that they will likely get built at some point in the future, it is a small enough amount of oil and far enough in the future that it’s not likely to have a major impact on prices.
Plus, energy policy has always been made primarily at the state level anyway. Rather than anything resembling unity across the states, support for renewable energy and energy efficiency is likely to become even more of a patchwork with even deeper contrasts – defined state-by-state, municipality-by-municipality. It is more than a full-time job keeping up with the constant policy and program changes, but there’s gold there if you do. Just ask the dozens of properties in California that we’ve helped access funds to pay for 80+% of our energy and water improvements.
Furthermore, despite all of the attempts to confuse the public on the issue, even after November’s election, more than two-thirds of Americans support action on climate change. This means that the President needs only to listen to the people on this one. But even if he doesn’t, we’ll keep moving forward either way.
A Thanksgiving message from our CEO, Jeff Perlman
A few weeks ago, a Bright Power employee attended a tenant meeting at a building that recently completed a heating system upgrade project with us. Tenant meetings can sometimes be like walking into the lions’ den, but in this case, the first thing he received was not a roar but a hug from an elderly lady. “Thank you! My apartment has never been more comfortable – I haven’t had reliable heat in years, until now,” she said.
Moments like this crystalize why we do what we do. Together, we make buildings better, which makes people’s lives better, and, importantly, makes those buildings more valuable and reduces our harmful impacts on the planet. It is a winning proposition all around. And we are thankful that this is the work that we get to do every day.
In this time of Thanksgiving, when we reflect on what is important to us, and especially now, as we try to heal the wounds from a bitter, bruising election season in which facts were often ignored, I want to reaffirm our commitment to some of the basic truths that we live by here at Bright Power.
Climate Change Isn’t Going Anywhere…and Neither Are We
Protecting and preserving our planet has always been and always will be a no-brainer for us. In the last few years, we’ve been fortunate to have strong support from federal and state governments who are committed and connected to our mission of reducing the negative impacts of buildings on the planet. It’s hard to know how the incoming president and his administration will coincide with this mission, and it’s safe to assume that we may encounter some new obstacles. But regardless of what happens at the federal level, states, municipalities and, importantly, the private sector will continue to lead.
We can’t lose sight of the important progress we’ve made. Over the last 8 years, we have largely been able to transform the conversation from “why should we reduce carbon emissions and other negative environmental impacts of our buildings?” to “how can we do better?”
With many major cities, large swaths of people and some of the most valuable property at risk of being submerged (or turned to inhospitable desert) in the coming decades, we need to work hard to prevent the worst outcomes while also planning for the impacts that wilder storms, more severe draughts and more vicious floods will have on business, the economy, humanity and the planet. All of this directly impacts our work and our clients. For example, CBRE has written about how rising sea levels effect real estate developers, Morgan Stanley about how climate change impacts investors, and the head of the Reinsurance Association of America about the climate change impacts on the insurance industry .
Our Work is Good Business
For better or for worse, saving the planet isn’t the sole driver of most decisions. Fortunately, the work we do at Bright Power to save the planet also makes good business sense. Wasting resources like energy and water is bad business and bad for the bottom line – that’s never going to change. And the benefits are more than just saving on operating costs – implementing best energy management practices leads to more comfortable spaces that are easier to lease, longer lasting equipment, and fewer emergencies and unplanned equipment replacements. A building with better indoor air, better light, fewer toxins, on-site clean power generation and lower operating costs is a more desirable building. And a more desirable building is a more valuable building. (In fact, acknowledging and evangelizing the business benefits of our work might just advance our cause with the new president and his administration…)
Resiliency is Key
We talk a lot about resiliency, often in the context of new and exciting backup power technology. But now more than ever, it’s important to talk about resiliency in a broader context. Being resilient means being able to bounce back after a hit, a storm, a change. And times they are a changin’.
Being resilient means being prepared, having a strong foundation, and clear plans and principles to turn to when something unexpected occurs. At Bright Power, we’ve spent the last 12 years building a great track record and a strong network of forward-thinking partners who understand the value of what we do for each other. We are so thankful to get to work with and for you every day. It’s because of our great achievements together that I know we will be able to bounce back from whatever tries to push us off course.
Lastly, I want to put a few things in writing that were always a part of who we are as a company, but seem like they should be made explicit given what we have heard in our national discourse over the past few months.
At Bright Power we celebrate the diversity in our workforce, are proud of our support for working mothers, and aim to create a comfortable and safe working environment for all of our employees regardless of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or country of origin.
We are committed to making this world a better place for everyone: for you, your employees and your residents; for us, our families and our friends; as well as for all the other people and creatures all over the globe whom we may never meet. We believe that this isn’t just the right thing to do – it is the way to build a great, long-lasting and important company.
Regardless of who occupies the Oval Office, and how much support we get from the Federal government, we will continue to find opportunities to deliver solid business value that improves our communities and preserves the planet.
Too much water in Houston, not enough water in California, and bad water in Flint. Water, often so easy to take for granted, has been in the news a lot lately, and the headlines are troubling. Changing climate, aging infrastructure, and rising costs are all driving water to the forefront of many people’s minds.
For those of us with small children, a paranoia can set in. I already filled the bottles and mailed back my free lead testing kit from the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), and am anxiously waiting for the results from my 91-year-old apartment building. A less patient friend with similarly small children bought a lead-testing kit on Amazon and is now puzzling through the seemingly ambiguous results (“It’s like a poorly-designed pregnancy test!” she exclaimed). She’s drinking only bottled water until she can get something more conclusive.
Vital to life, and catastrophic when toxic or scarce, water is a big deal. Plus, the cost keeps going up to cover the costs of fixing and maintaining the infrastructure.
What Can You Do?
Delivering a sufficient supply of clean water to the residents of apartment buildings is one of the critical tasks for every landlord. With such an overwhelming issue at hand, it can feel hard to know what to do. In celebration of Earth Day, and the vital role that clean water plays on our blue-green planet, here are some water tips:
First, test your water. Test kits are inexpensive and the potential impacts of water contaminants are drastic. If your building has old pipes, be sure to test a few locations for lead, in case only some of the pipes are deteriorating.
Then, save water. Flint’s water problems started with a decision to switch the city to a cheaper, lower quality water source. A better way to lower costs is to stick with high quality water and reduce the amount we use.
Low-flow Faucet Aerators and Showerheads
By limiting the amount of water that comes out of your faucet or shower, low-flow faucet aerators and showerheads can save bucket loads of water and money. The best part is that they’re about as simple as it gets when it comes to installation (just unscrew the old and screw on the new).
But don’t just buy the cheapest thing you can find – there’s a big difference between properly “engineered flow” and a simple flow restrictor. And always test out which ones work best at a particularly property before installing them. Resident buy-in is crucial – aerators and showerheads are as easy to screw off as they are to screw on. Using quality devices that look and feel good will ensure that residents view the devices as an improvement and an amenity, and don’t circumvent the savings. Ongoing monitoring, strong communication and resident partnership are key.
High Efficiency Toilets
When it comes to wasting water, our toilets are some of the biggest offenders. Put it this way: when you flush a “regular” toilet, you could be using up to 7 gallons per flush (gpf)! And unfortunately you can’t just believe what is printed on the tank – our engineers have measured toilets marked as “1.6 gpf” with flushes as high as 4 gallons! Today’s toilets can bring that rate down to 1.28 gallons per flush – a great investment in water conservation and cost savings. But maintaining your equipment is critical, too – when valves and flappers wear out, precious fresh water goes straight down the sewer.
Heating System Leaks
It’s normal for steam heating systems to take in some fresh water over time, but when they take in a lot of this “makeup water” it is indicative of a larger problem – often a boiler or piping leak. Excessive makeup water can also drastically shorten the life of a boiler by as much as half. That’ll really sink your sinking fund. Luckily, measuring makeup water levels is simple, cost-effective and insightful, as long as you put a meter on the makeup water line and someone actually reads that meter.
And if a hot water heating system and requires you to add any water, that is a sign of a problem.
Saving irrigation water can take many forms, from planting only native plants that require no irrigation, to better controlling the irrigation you do use. Many properties are guilty of overwatering – most obviously when sprinklers are running during a rainstorm. This can be tackled by hooking a soil moisture sensor into your irrigation system, or, better, using a WaterSense irrigation system that is networked to weather data to adjust the watering cycles.
But whatever you do, you can’t set it and forget it – analyzing water data can give an indication of a problem, like a mis-set irrigation control, a broken pipe or damaged equipment.
Rainwater and Greywater Capture
Rainwater and Greywater Capture are methods of reusing water that has either accumulated due to rain, or has already been used once (kitchen sinks, showers, etc.). Both can significantly contribute to efficient water usage in buildings. The simplest applications of rainwater and greywater are for irrigation. Rainwater can also be used as makeup water, particularly in cooling towers. Greywater – because it requires additional piping – is more commonly used only in new construction projects. Treated greywater can even be used to flush toilets instead of fresh water.