Kilroy Realty was founded more than 70 years ago, and serves as a publicly traded real estate investment trust that develops, acquires, and manages office, mixed-use, and life science technology real estate assets on the West Coast, Seattle, WA, and San Francisco, CA. They have multiple locations in San Diego— including right here in Del Mar. But what sets them apart from other companies is their devotion to sustainability in commercial real estate.

“There’s a large overlap between eco-friendliness and value,” says Sara Ness, Kilroy Realty’s Senior Vice President of Sustainability. Kilroy’s commitment to sustainable energy and water efficient buildings means lower operating expenses, making the overall financial value a good business decision for tenants. “Tenants increasingly have a workforce that really cares about the environment and say it’s important to them,” says Ness.

real estate contributes to 40% of carbon emission, and transportation makes up 23%. She says that in order to meet environmental goals, energy consumption issues in buildings must be solved. “Buildings have to be part of the conversation,” says Ness. “It’s really hard to get buildings into the conversation just because the nature of our industry, so we’re trying to provide leadership around that to get the technologies into real estate that is really going to help us as an industry achieve our goals.”

Their sustainability program involves making existing buildings more eco-friendly and ensuring new developments are sustainable. They consider the design
changes they can make to reduce a building’s carbon footprint, make it more energy and water efficient, figure out how to incorporate biodiversity, and install solar panels and efficient batteries.

“Buildings impact not just the environment, but also very much the health of the people who work inside them,” says Ness. For this reason, they’ve built programs within buildings, considering amenities like gyms, snacks, and stairwells, to testing the air quality.

“This is really sincere for us,” says Ness. “We take sustainability really, really seriously here.” The Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark (GRESB) ranked them number one in sustainability in North America for four years in a row, and the National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts (NAREIT) has awarded them the “Leader in the Light” award for multiple years in a row now. “That speaks to a level of overall excellence I’m very proud of, and that’s a major team effort,” says Ness.

Because sustainability is at the core of Kilroy, property managers are empowered to see the best sustainability practices in a building. When Kilroy’s team assesses a space, they first benchmark its current performance. Ness says Del Mar typically has a lot of landscaping, and one of the first things they do is major irrigation retrofits. “We keep doing that as irrigation gets better to reduce our water consumption,” says Ness, who adds that charging stations are also growing in popularity locally. Then they ensure they have good mechanical systems and control packages, making sure engineers have insight into what they’re using.

Last November, Kilroy launched the Kilroy Innovation Lab, where they work with high-profile partners to pilot new technologies. Ness says new projects that emerge from this program will go into San Diego this year. And there’s constantly new projects on the horizon in San Diego. They just held a ribbon cutting last November for multiple local solar projects. Ness says the solar array they put in the parking garage in their San Diego headquarters is one of the largest on a commercial property in the city.

Some of the other local projects involve installing solar and platinum, incorporating pollinators in landscapes and reducing water use both inside and outside. At their Del Mar location, a lot of existing buildings don’t have LEED certification, so her team is working on changing that. They’ll also be working with new eco-friendly materials, implementing a refrigerant system, and transforming parking spaces into outdoor tables for eating. “There’s just a lot of really fun stuff happening in San Diego,” says Ness.