Sustainable Site Selection for Real Estate Development

Optimizing site selection for a real estate development with the objective of maximizing sustainable values is an enormously complex task with a long list of potential obstacles, competing priorities, and economic and practical limitations.

Sustainable Site Selection Criteria

Sustainable Site Selection Criteria

With few exceptions, real estate development site selection begins with meeting business and financial objectives.  These can be as varied as the sustainability criteria itself.  For example, the business objectives for a chain of organic pizza restaurants could include:

  • Market development objectives: e.g., we’re a chain of organic pizza restaurants and we want to expand and build a new environmentally and sustainably-oriented store in Laguna Beach, California
  • Marketing requirements: e.g., marketing has determined that our new store will have the best chance for success when located in proximity to other like-minded organic restaurants, but not near another similarly themed pizza joint. Other marketing criteria includes traffic counts, neighborhood psychographics and demographics, population growth, and seasonal tourist characteristics and activity.
  • Traffic requirements: Their most successful restaurants are located on a busy, pedestrian-friendly street with high-visibility and room for an outdoor dining patio
  • And the list will go on….

The second step in sustainable site selection is scoring the potential sites against a list of relevant environmental and sustainability attributes.  For our beach-side pizza restaurant, this list of candidate properties could be prioritized against many sustainability attributes. A few of many examples that the restaurant owners consider important may include:

  • Rate the potential of an existing or brownfield property to be repurposed into a pizza joint
  • Rate the orientation potential of the site to capture prevailing sea breezes and sunlight for passive energy management
  • Rate the neighborhood’s current and future recycling, natural resource and wildlife protection, and sustainability practices and achievements
  • Rate the current and potential landscaping and natural features of the subject and surrounding properties that impact the building and its use
  • Rate the site for potential low impact enhancements such as cisterns and vegetative features to capture rainwater runoff
  • Determine the potential impact of future nearby developments on the sites sustainability measures
  • Evaluate local air quality issues that may impact the enjoyment of guests dining on the outdoor patio

Combining both business and sustainability objectives in evaluating site potential for real estate development provides actionable governance and guidance that enhances the quality of choices made.

Dan Stiel

California CRE #01886935

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