Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Last Call For Greening For Green

Corporations stuck with lots of commercial real estate and empty offices in the era of the pandemic are finding new ways to get workers back to the office, green perks like treehouses, bird blinds, and beekeeping.
The investment company Nuveen has spent $120 million renovating its office tower at 730 Third Avenue in Midtown Manhattan, overhauling the lobby, devoting the second floor to amenities and refurbishing a 22nd-floor terrace.

And the finishing touch? Two beehives on a seventh-floor terrace.

Following the latest trend in office perks, Nuveen hired a beekeeper to teach tenants about their tiny new neighbors and harvest honey for them to take home.

“In conversations with tenants, I get more questions about that than anything else,” said Brian Wallick, Nuveen’s director of New York office and life science investments.

Office workers who were sent home during pandemic lockdowns often sought refuge in nature, tending to houseplants, setting up bird feeders and sitting outdoors with their laptops. Now, as companies try to coax skittish employees back to the office and building owners compete for tenants when vacancy rates are soaring, many have hit on the idea of making the office world feel more like the natural world.

The effort seeks to give office workers access to fresh air, sunlight and plants, in tune with the concept of biophilia, which says humans have an innate connection with nature. Designs that include nature are shown to promote health and wellness.

Some of the more unusual nature-themed offering include “treehouse” lounges and vegetable plots that let desk workers dig in the dirt. Beekeeping programs — complete with honey tastings and name-your-queen contests — are, ahem, all the buzz. One upcoming project in Texas will include a bird blind, allowing workers to peek out at other winged creatures.

There’s a lot more focus on amenities and how to make an office better than working from your dining room table,” said Richard A. Cook, a founding partner at CookFox Architects.

Some companies say nature-centered amenities have won them over. And some workers find the outdoorsy vibe reassuring.

But it is unclear whether nature will be enough to attract tenants after the success of remote work over the past year and a half. Some companies have already shrunk their office space, and many employees, having ably performed their duties from home, are questioning the need to go into an office at all. The surge in coronavirus cases from the spread of the Delta variant has caused some companies, like Amazon, Apple and Facebook, to postpone their return to the office to next year.

Two weeks ago, office buildings in 10 major metropolitan areas were 32 percent occupied, down slightly from the week before, according to Kastle Systems, a security company.

Incorporating nature in office buildings is not entirely new. Before the pandemic, developers, owners and architects were already adding terraces and rooftop lounges and bringing plants and natural light inside — part of a drive to make offices healthier. Scientific studies show that biophilic spaces are associated with increased cognition and productivity, lower stress levels, fewer sick days and less staff turnover.

But now a connection to nature has gone from being “a nice-to-have to being a risk if you don’t do it,” said Joanna Frank, the president and chief executive of the Center for Active Design, which operates Fitwel, a healthy-building certification program.

Adding natural features to offices can be expensive, but the costs can often be offset with higher rents. Commercial buildings with healthy-building certifications (such as Fitwel and the Well standard, administered by the International Well Building Institute) can fetch rents up to 7.7 percent higher than noncertified buildings, according to a recent study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
It's not a terrible idea, but it's not going to solve the issue either.

Work from home is here to stay, and corporations had better get used to it, and fast. 

Nobody wants to spend two hours in the car per day just to get to a PC they can remote into from home when they spent the last year-plus proving they 100% could do the job from their couch. 

Especially if your job primarily involves PC and phone work and not physical lifting, making, fixing or delivering, you're going to see more and more workers be okay with less pay or fewer office benefits for the benefit of working from home and coming in on a limited schedule...or not at all.

If you want to mess with the office beehive, that's great. But I'm thinking that the majority of us will be working from home well into the future.

The Rent Is Too Damn High, Con't

One thing that America has completely and utterly failed at is the program designed to get rental assistance to millions of Americans facing eviction, and the NY Times has discovered that after seven months, the program has only doled out about 10% of the funds it has gotten because the process is so ridiculously difficult that nobody can handle it.
The $46.5 billion rental aid program created to pay rent accrued during the pandemic continues to disburse money at a slow pace, as the White House braces for a Supreme Court order that could strike down a new national moratorium on evictions.

The Emergency Rental Assistance Program, funded in the two federal pandemic relief packages passed over the last year, sputtered along in July, with just $1.7 billion being distributed by state and local governments, according to the Treasury Department, which oversees the program.

The money meted out was a modest increase from the prior month, bringing the total aid disbursed thus far to about $5.1 billion, figures released early Wednesday showed, or roughly 11 percent of the cash allocated by Congress to avoid an eviction crisis that many housing experts now see as increasingly likely.

“About a million payments have now gone out to families — it is starting to help a meaningful number of families,” said Gene Sperling, who oversees the operation of federal pandemic relief programs for President Biden.

“It’s just not close to enough in an emergency like this to protect all the families who need and deserve to be protected. So there is still way more to do and to do fast,” he added.

The report came as Mr. Biden’s domestic policy staff mapped out policy contingencies if the Supreme Court strikes down the moratorium, which is the administration’s principal safeguard for hundreds of thousands of low income and working class tenants hit hardest by the pandemic. White House lawyers expect a court decision this week.

The moratorium was initially implemented by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last September under President Donald J. Trump. Mr. Biden extended it several times this year, but allowed it to briefly expire earlier this month. He reinstated it, in a slightly modified form, on Aug. 3 under pressure from congressional Democrats.

That final 60-day extension, enacted over the objection of White House lawyers, was intended to buy more time to distribute the emergency rental assistance.

The program is administered by the federal government, but it is up to states to build out a system to deliver aid to struggling renters and landlords, and that has been the main source of its problems.
Here's the problem: states don't want to do this. They want to evict people. The corporate lobbyists for the massive property rental and Wall Street real estate investors want people evicted so they can snap up the rentals and make billions. 

There's been minimum progress, but it's not going to save millions of people from getting evicted in the next few months once the Supreme Court kills the eviction moratorium. Here in KY and Ohio, where the moratorium is already dead thanks to the 6th Circuit court, thousands have already been evicted and thousands more will be soon, right into the heart of the COVID delta spike.

This is a disaster, all the way around, on states, on Trump, on Congress, and on Biden.

Af-Gone-Istan, Bipartisan Stupidity Edition

In a way, I've never seen the pundit class, Democrats, and Republicans so universally in agreement on anything in the last five years but there you are. They all agree that House Reps. Seth Moulton, a Democrat, and Republican Rep. Peter Meijer, are two of the most inanely moronic people on the planet right now.

Two members of Congress made an unauthorized whirlwind trip to Kabul early Tuesday, leaving less than 24 hours later on a flight used for evacuating U.S. citizens, allies and vulnerable Afghans.

The visit by Reps. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) and Peter Meijer (R-Mich.) — which was not approved as part of the normal process for congressional fact-finding trips — served as a distraction for military and civilian staffers attempting to carry out frenzied rescue efforts, according to two people familiar with the trip who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk about the matter.

It is not clear how the lawmakers, both of whom served in Iraq before being elected to Congress, first entered Afghanistan. Moulton’s office did not confirm the trip until the plane evacuating the members of Congress left Afghanistan’s airspace. Meijer’s office did not respond to an email seeking comment.

The cloak-and-dagger trip infuriated some officials at the Pentagon and the State Department, where diplomats, military officers and civil servants are working around-the-clock shifts in Washington and at the Kabul airport to evacuate thousands of people from the country every day.

“It’s as moronic as it is selfish,” said a senior administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to provide a frank assessment of their trip. “They’re taking seats away from Americans and at-risk Afghans — while putting our diplomats and service members at greater risk — so they can have a moment in front of the cameras.”

In a joint statement from Moulton and Meijer emailed to The Washington Post by Moulton spokesman Tim Biba, the two pushed back on the notion that their trip caused a distraction.

“We have been on the other side of this argument while we were serving and it just isn’t accurate,” Moulton and Meijer said. “Trust us: the professionals on the ground are focused on the mission. Many thanked us for coming.”


If that's the best defense these two dirt clods have, then I actually wouldn't feel bad at all if both Nancy Pelosi and Kevin McCarthy kick these clowns off all their committees and leave them grounded for the rest of the 117th Congress where they can share detention with Marjorie Taylor Greene.

There's dumb, performative stunts, and then there's this idiocy. Moulton and Meijer should both be ashamed of themselves, and I hope voters act accordingly.


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