Pushing for Collective Change
In this Industry Dialogue, LB President Eric Rupe (ER) elaborates on the company’s sustainability initiatives and anticipated growth with your author (KW).
KW: How has the increased focus on sustainability globally affected Lerch Bates? Have you seen customers increasingly request environmentally friendly products and services?
ER: Yes — our customers are increasingly asking us what we can do to help them (in the case of architectural design) to contribute to the end client’s desired sustainability goals for new-build and/or renovation projects. Additionally, our clients involved in building operations and management are keenly interested in sustainable solutions that either contribute to the sustainability of building systems or lower operating costs by reducing energy usage or waste. For example, clients wishing for Net Zero impact new-build facilities are turning to LB for VT, materials-movement and pedestrian-flow solutions that capture regenerated power, use less power from efficient design, minimize the square footage needed for hoistways and/or machinery, reduce heat and electrical load (which must be accounted for in [mechanical, electrical and plumbing engineering] systems), reduce energy losses associated with pedestrian and material flow openings into structures and — in the case of our Enclosure Design and Consulting Group — ensure that the building’s enclosure meets or exceeds all relevant energy codes.
For existing building clients, the issues are similar, but approaches can differ. LB strives to provide clients with solutions that consider not only initial, or first, cost and operating cost, but also environmental and sustainable impacts. For example, the lowest first cost and schedule impact for an escalator replacement may be to tear out a unit and replace it with an all-new escalator — likely manufactured on the other side of the planet. The embodied carbon in that option is tremendous, and significantly above the embodied carbon cost of an in-truss modernization, which might have a higher, purely economic first cost.
By providing these options to our clients, we help them align all their objectives to drive the right solution for them. For example, a stated desire of a Fortune 500 company to be Net Zero by 2030 may drive their real estate professionals to look at not only first cost, but also at the real carbon cost of a given solution, prior to making a decision. Our expertise in this area is proving vital to our client’s decision-making process, whether it is related to service or modernization.
KW: How has the company itself become more environmentally conscious/sustainable?
ER: Sustainability is so intertwined with LB’s business practices that we often fail to communicate it as a standalone or specific tactic. Across our suite of consulting services, so much of what we do directly affects the sustainability of our client/partner’s real estate assets.
As an industry, buildings (defined as industrial, commercial, institutional and multifamily residential) consume 72% of U.S. electricity use and 36% of U.S. natural gas. Of that, 40% of electricity usage and nearly 100% of gas usage is related to environmental control. We consider these figures as we discuss the value proposition of all solutions in terms of our client’s real estate construction and operational challenges, whether it is for VT, building logistics, pedestrian flow, enclosure design, consulting or testing. Internally, we consider all of our practices as part of a broader corporate ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) initiative. We are continuously examining our business practices to determine where we can improve “walking the walk.”
KW: Does LB anticipate hiring in 2022? If so, in which roles?
ER: Yes — LB is on track to grow revenue organically by at least 15% in 2022, thus have opportunities for many new employee-owner team members. We have planned increases in consulting, engineering, business development, leadership and support totaling more than 50 positions.
KW: LB has nearly 40 offices across the U.S. Are additional offices/locations planned in 2022?
ER: As part of our growth and expansion plans, LB will be adding representation and offices in Richmond, Virginia; Louisville, Kentucky/Indianapolis, Indiana; St. Louis; Port Charlotte/Punta Gorda and Jacksonville, Florida; San Diego; Dublin, Ireland; and Plymouth, U.K.