Skanska making green waves in the oil and gas capital

Swedish firm's latest Houston project is set to be the greenest office in Texas

Skanska CEO Anders Danielsson and 1550 on the Green (Skanksa)
Skanska CEO Anders Danielsson and 1550 on the Green (Skanksa)

In Houston, the oil and gas capital of America, Skanska USA, the U.S. subsidiary of the Swedish construction company, is looking to make 1550 on the Green the greenest office project in Texas.

The future 370,000-square-foot, 28-story office tower at 1550 on the Green is part of a three-block master plan, all owned by Skanska, according to the Houston Chronicle.

When it comes to reducing carbon emissions, real estate companies have primarily focused on building operations such as recycling, low-flush toilets and fluorescent lighting. With this latest project, Skanska is tackling the high carbon emissions behind construction and renovations.

According to the Swedish company, the amount of carbon that goes into making building materials for a new office tower could also heat, cool and power that office building for 30 years. By using sustainable materials, Skanska aims to reduce these emissions by 60 percent. For example, the foundation is being built with concrete which significantly reduces the use of carbon-intensive cement.

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Buildings account for 39 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction.

“Embodied carbon is turning out to be a huge piece of the pie [for reducing building emissions]. Skanska is a real leader in this, and they’ve been a kind of a pioneer when it comes to reducing embodied carbon of their developments,” said Marta Schantz, senior vice president at the Urban Land Institute.

Skanska isn’t alone. Other real estate firms, including Kilroy Realty, Hudson Pacific Properties, Alexandria Real Estate, Brookfield Properties of New York, are trying to reduce embodied carbon in their projects as more tenants seek buildings with smaller carbon footprints and governments consider embodied carbon standards, Schantz said.

In the case of Texas, however, companies receive little to no government pressure to lower carbon emissions. Thus, Skanska USA’s project is an outlier.

The oil and gas industry’s resistance to climate initiatives is even supported by the Texas state legislature. Back in May, the state legislature advanced two bills shielding the oil and gas industry from environmental trends. One of which prohibits state entities, including pension funds and K-12 school endowment, from doing business with companies that cut ties with or “boycott” fossil fuel companies.

[Houston Chronicle] – Maddy Sperling