Extreme Heat and Real Estate

Calendar 29 August 2019
Time 4.00 pm – 5.30 pm. Registration from 3.30pm, seated by 4.00pm 
Location MND Auditorium, MND Annex A, 5 Maxwell Road Singapore 069110
cpd 1 SILA CPD Pts, 2 BOA-SIA CPD Pts, 2 SIP CPD Pts

Seats are available on a first come, first served basis. Please be seated 10 minutes before lecture begins, after which we will open the venue to walk-in guests.


Lecture Poster (PDF: 890 KB)

Lecture Video and Photos



Rising temperatures and heat waves – influenced by climate change and urban development patterns - are an increasingly urgent problem affecting cities and communities across the world, even those with historically cooler climates. Climate projections demonstrate that temperatures are rising, especially in urban areas that experience the urban heat island effect, putting real estate assets, infrastructure, public health, and economies at risk.

Real estate developers and policymakers increasingly acknowledge the consequences of extreme heat and are seeking solutions to make communities more adaptable to environmental conditions and comfortable for occupants. At the same time, local governments are responding to the issue with land use and building regulations, social services, urban greening programs, and by using new technologies to better understand urban heat dynamics and act accordingly.

In this public lecture, Billy Grayson will share ULI’s new research report SCORCHED – Extreme Heat and Real Estate that explains the science and impacts of extreme heat, discusses implications and opportunities for the real estate sector, and explores the emerging policy landscape that regulates this hazard. Through a series of real estate development and land use policy case studies, he will highlight innovative strategies for the public and private sector that mitigate extreme heat. The lecture will also celebrate innovative strategies that countries like Singapore are already adopting to help cool down buildings and communities, and to learn from evolving international best practices.

Lecture Report

“[G]reen buildings have lower vacancy rates, they are charging higher rents, and they have lower operating expenses, which is like the three-legged stool of real estate value. So obviously they are going to command a higher asset value because of those three factors.”


With extreme heat comes rising economic and social costs, which must be tackled sooner rather than later, said Billy Grayson, the executive director of the Urban Land Institute’s Center for Sustainability and Economic Performance, at his recent CLC Lecture.


The frequency of extremely hot days—generally taken to mean temperatures of above 34 degrees Celsius and humidity of more than 90% in Singapore—is increasing as is the severity of their impacts. Last year, it was estimated that extreme heat led to nearly S$1 billion of economic losses in Singapore. Today, economic ratings agencies such as Moody’s and Standard and Poor’s also factor in readiness for extreme heat when issuing ratings for cities and countries.


Beyond the economy, there is also a cost to public health. Each year, the United States sees 65,000 hospitalisations and 650 deaths from the heat. “Extreme heat is a killer, and as importantly, it’s a ‘hospitaliser’,” said Grayson.


Instead of incurring such tremendous costs, cities could instead invest in solutions to combat the extreme heat which would reduce the number of emergency hospital visits. This also helps build social cohesion, particularly as the impacts of extreme heat fall disproportionately on vulnerable and at-risk communities, such as youth, seniors, those with health issues and the economically disadvantaged.


“When I am comfortable outside, I meet my neighbours and I build relationships. I get more engaged civically, which is good for all of us and it’s good for our community,” he explained.


Grayson also set out an economic case for developers to invest in mitigation strategies for their buildings as they would reduce energy costs and operating expenses while increasing net present value over time.


“If (tenants) go out of business because (the lack of heat mitigation) hurts their productivity, or they can’t sell because it’s too hot to shop on the street, eventually I’m going to lose my tenant or going to get less in rent,” he said.


Rather than wait to retrofit their buildings at a higher cost, developers should future-proof their buildings by designing them with extreme heat in mind. This includes using heat-tolerant building materials; installing green roofs, walls, public spaces and energy-efficient solutions; as well as being mindful of building layouts. Some examples Grayson pointed to included the NEX Tower in Manila, which uses ultra-efficient windows and variable refrigerant cooling systems, and Singapore’s Marina Barrage, which is designed with community spaces and green areas.


According to Grayson, the main drivers of extreme heat today are heat waves, climate change and the urban heat island (UHI) effect. UHI is relevant to developers as it is mainly caused by urban density, the venting of heat from buildings and cars, air pollution trapping heat, as well as the proximity of buildings and the blocking of natural ventilation patterns. Its impact can be huge: in San Francisco, UHI accounted for a 25-degree Celsius variation between its urban and rural areas.


To counter this effect in New York City, its urban planners have opened up avenues and introduced a succession of steps for buildings as they move further from major corridors. This allows for prevailing winds, and natural ventilation to cool down the city.


Given Singapore’s land constraints and high density, Grayson believes heat mitigation must be undertaken by both the private and public sectors.


“There are certain things the private sector can’t do to mitigate extreme heat, because of the scale and government control over infrastructure,” he said.


“But the combination of a private and public partnership, the private sector looking at ways to provide shading, the public sector putting in benches, trees, cool pavements (and urban zoning and layouts) can maximise the ability of (ventilation) corridors to reduce heat impacts.”


This lecture report first appeared in Better Cities October 2019.


About the Speakers


billy grayson

Billy Grayson

Executive Director, Center for Sustainability and Economic Performance
Urban Land Institute

Billy Grayson is the executive director for the ULI’s Center for Sustainability and Economic Performance, managing a team leading programmes on climate risk and resilience, health and wellness, and building energy and environmental performance. He has over a decade of experience leading energy and sustainability initiatives in real estate, distribution, and supply chain operations. As sustainability director at Liberty Property Trust, he led a 700-building initiative that included green building construction, energy efficiency retrofits, and sustainability-focused property management strategies and tenant engagement. Grayson holds an MBA and a master’s of public policy from the University of Maryland, and a bachelor’s degree in environment, economics, and politics from Claremont McKenna College. He is a LEED AP and former board member of the Delaware Green Building Council and NAREIT Sustainability Advisory Committee.


esther an

Esther An
Chief Sustainability Officer
City Developments Limited

Ms Esther An joined CDL in 1995 to establish the Company’s Corporate Communications department and subsequently CDL’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) portfolio. She has been instrumental in building up CDL’s leadership in sustainability. A forerunner in CSR and a member of the management committee of Global Compact Network Singapore since 2005, she also sits on board the Corporate Advisory Board of World Green Building Council. A founding member of the Singapore Business Council for Sustainable Development, she is a signatory of the UN Caring for Climate initiative and a member of the Urban Land Institute Women’s Leadership Initiative Singapore Steering Committee. Her latest appointment includes the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Finance Initiative Investor Work Group.


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