A new analysis released Thursday by the Urban Land Institute’s Greenpoint Center for Building Performance reported that the commercial real estate industry made significant strides in environmental sustainability between 2016 and 2017.

Tracking nearly 8,000 properties worldwide, Greenprint found a 3.4% reduction in carbon emissions, along with a 3.3% reduction in energy use and 2.9% reduction in water use last year.

Those reductions can have a tremendous impact—buildings are responsible for more than a third of global carbon emissions. A recent report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) painted a bleak picture on progress towards rectifying climate change, but significant reductions in CRE emissions offer hope.

Greenprint was formed in 2009 when leading CRE owners agreed to a set of shared goals of waste and energy reduction. This year’s results put the building owners ahead of schedule for their long-term goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2030. This reduction is in line with the IPCC’s goals and were ratified by the Paris Climate Accord in 2016.

 

Office garden in New York

The offices of COOKFOX Architects in Manhattan include a terrace garden as part of their efforts at environmental sustainability.

 

“Greenprint demonstrates how owners and developers can efficiently conserve water and energy and be part of the solution to climate change,” said ULI Global Chief Executive Officer W. Edward Walter. “The results that the Greenprint members achieve are inspiring a broader movement within the real estate sector to improve building performance.”

ULI attributes the success primarily to heavy investment in high-efficiency equipment and appliances, like HVAC systems and lighting. In one highly successful example, property owner Tishman Speyer achieved a 60% reduction in energy consumption for building cooling through the installation of high-efficiency systems at 45 and 50 Rockefeller Center.

The reductions in emissions equaled that of 1.5 million trees planted, 12,577 cars taken off the road for one year, and 135,979 barrels of oil not consumed.

One potential area of future growth that did not receive high level of investments last year—smart building technology.