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How A New York City CRE Firm Pushes Sustainability To The Forefront To Help It Evolve For Another 40 Years


Sustainability has become a top priority for many real estate developers as 40% of global carbon emissions are from buildings. In New York City alone, buildings account for two-thirds of the city’s emissions.

With the urgency growing for developers and investors to create more sustainably responsible buildings in NYC before Local Law 97’s decarbonization deadline next year, more companies are re-evaluating their sustainability practices and hiring a team to help them avoid hefty fines.

The Moinian Group has been developing commercial real estate in NYC for 40 years and is now implementing a stronger sustainability plan in its daily operations after hiring Adin Meir as the company’s new director of sustainability eight months ago.

Meir said that the move couldn’t have come at a better time, as the company is making the shift to more sustainability-focused initiatives to help secure its future in CRE.

“I strongly believe that if real estate portfolios such as Moinian cannot design and implement a successful sustainability program, all the carbon reduction goals that have been set as a city and state will be for naught,” Meir said.

Bisnow spoke with Meir about his role at Moinian, some of the sustainability challenges in CRE and the strategies that the company has in motion to be here for another 40 years. 

Bisnow: What brought you to The Moinian Group? 

Meir: I had been working for over a decade as an energy-efficiency and sustainability consultant to real estate companies. I started my career in energy modeling and retrofitting buildings in NYC and spent the last six years of my career as president of a rapidly growing sustainability consultancy. 

When I spoke with members of the Moinian family about the new role they had created after 40 years in business, the opportunity was clear. Not only was this a family-owned 20M SF portfolio of real estate based in NYC, but they are prolific developers and rarely dispose of their properties.

Bisnow: How did your past professional experiences help prepare you for your role as director of sustainability?

Meir: The real estate industry does not yet understand the intrinsic value of an experienced head of sustainability. The position is new to the market, and most companies are hiring passionate professionals with little  practical experience to check a box. 

In contrast, my peers that have a decade or more of experience in the field bring a totally different set of skills and value to the role. I built a career first as a technical practitioner of building science and later working with clients and building a sustainability-focused business. All this experience paid dividends in my first eight months with Moinian. 

Bisnow: What are some of the challenges facing sustainability in CRE? 

Meir: CRE is experiencing a crisis brought on by Covid and made worse by remote work and economic factors. All those realities make working within CRE hugely challenging. 

Within sustainability, there are projects that may have been approved under different market conditions but are now on the back burner. There are jobs that are sitting unfilled that would have been otherwise filled.

Daily, however, I do not focus on these challenges, because there are so many sustainability-specific opportunities for companies like Moinian to benefit from. There has never been a better time for a skilled sustainability practitioner to bring ideas and technologies to real estate that are designed to reduce operating expenses and increase NOI. 

Bisnow: What is the company’s approach to solving these challenges?

Meir: Moinian is a company that prides itself on finding creative solutions. Our founder and CEO, Joe Moinian, lives and breathes real estate and has been the biggest backer of this project. My approach with Joe, and with the larger executive committee, has been to present our strategy and approach as most successful when it is fully integrated into the business, and not siloed. This approach is both more effective and faster to produce tangible results, which leads to more projects and greater impact.  

This is a for-profit enterprise in an industry that is experiencing deep challenges, and those factors make it more important that every recommendation is researched, backed by data and able to stand up to questioning. I keep a post-it at my desk given to me by one of our executives after a big project was approved. The post-it simply reads, "Make sure this works." I relish the opportunity to make sure it works. 

Bisnow: You mentioned that Moinian is celebrating its 40th anniversary. What do you see for the next several years?

Meir: I view the creation of this position as a significant signal to the next generation of Moinian. Hiring for and investing in this role required advocacy, foresight and an understanding that every business needs to evolve. Moinian is leading by example, and they are doing so not only because they understand the value that sustainability can bring to their company over time, but because they understand that they can do good and do well at the same time. 

Bisnow: What are some of your greatest achievements with the company thus far and what do you have planned?

Meir: We have made a lot of progress in a short amount of time, including: centralizing and verifying energy data, subscribing our entire electricity load to a local community solar project, achieving Energy Star labels in 12 of our buildings, installing boiler controls in 14 of our buildings and installing EV chargers in four of our garages. 

We completed a boiler and control overhaul in one of our largest residential rental buildings, which has already reduced daily gas consumption by 65% and is projected to reduce that building's GHG emissions by over 2,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year.

For the future, we are developing scalable retrofits for our portfolios, designing electrification plans for all our buildings and implementing policies for tenant fit-outs and new construction. An effective sustainability program requires time and resources to successfully implement. The same can be said for a company such as Moinian. Moving into the next 40 years of business, we have lots of reasons to be optimistic for the future of the company and for the city we care so deeply about. 

This article was produced in collaboration between Studio B and The Moinian Group. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.

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